We parted ways on 9th Street, and I only lasted two more blocks alone. Traffic was stopped at a light. I took off my hat, anxious.
I remembered all the times I was told I "looked like a boy" or was "so much cuter" in a dress with heels than this; a flannel, a backwards hat, boots and earrings. I did not want attention for presenting as anything that was difficult to understand, or different. I didn’t want heavy or heart-pounding. And this wasn't a political or social statement.
I just wanted to wear my hat down the street.
But I've witnessed the revolution that a pixie cut and baseball cap represent; looks that last an extra few seconds; eyes that ask a million questions—or just widen and turn quickly. I stick out by stepping outside of certain social lines; my femininity or female validity is based on clothing choice, or hairstyle.
I am not easily digestible. When you look at me, my categories expand and do not encapsulate; there is always something slightly different—or something deeply engrained in skin and culture that you cannot categorize based on skin or eye color; my “different” cannot always be named. Some have tried; “white”, “girl”, “boy?”, “gay or?”.
Also, can we say; femininity or masculinity are not always tied to the way a person physically presents themselves. (I must remind myself of this often, too.) I know that these are lofty concepts and may seem far reaching, but try to feel the air up here with me.
I am a woman because I define myself as a woman. I am not feminine or female based on the breasts or unmentionables underneath my dresses—or my flannels and boots and bowties. We are female or otherwise, because that is what is tied to our brain strings when we step out on the street; when we look at our eyes in the mirror; when we laugh with friends or sit quietly alone.
[Social] Gender definitions cannot be so quickly defined by physical presentations. We must challenge ourselves more. (Also, if I had long hair, this wouldn't be a discussion; all would suffice to call me a somewhat-feminine tomboy—and the fact that hair is a huge factor in social gender distinction or definition is interesting, and frustrating.)
The thing is this:
If you fit outside the boxes that society has deemed important, you are—without choice in the matter—deemed as a walking rebellion, or outright revolution. When traffic is stopped, it notices you; and this is not always negative, but it is a reality. For many, this phenomena is a socially-imposed oppression, without one person or organization to polarize or demonize. It is in the structures, in the televisions, in our children’s books, our action movies, and our blood.
But, again, here's the thing; it should not be revolutionary to have diverse clothing choices or hair styles, and still define oneself as female, male, or otherwise. It should not be revolutionary to choose a soul-partner in life based on soul-ties and not gender-type. It should not be revolutionary for women to be president, or for men to unashamedly cry. Character and personality traits are not gender-based; because though majorities may veer towards certain things, these enjoyed activities and traits are not "male" or "female" in their foundation.
And yet, we live within social institutions that say this is true.
We live within social institutions that ask for revolutions—from all of us. They try to box us, when no human can be boxed. For example: If you are white, you are only white. If you are black, this too. If you are white, you have no culture—and must be “American”. If you are black, your culture is overwhelming, or too uncomfortable. If you are a Christian, you are a bigot--or give money to Westboro Baptist. If you are Muslim--or wear a turban--you are a terrorist.
Social institutions are built on boxes.
And yet—in theory—the building of boxes does not (at least initially) stem from bad intentions. How's that? Well. Because (I think, initially), we build boxes so that we can understand someone else in relation to ourself. [If you are not white like me, then you are black like them. If you are not straight like them, then you are gay/bi/etc like me. If you are not using your degree 40 hours/week, then you are not successful. If you are an illegal immigrant, you must not care about gaining US citizenship; or working hard; or have "our" values.]
These tiny social boxes can be swallowed easily—human beings, however, cannot. The issue with boxes is that while they seek to define, they [in the end] dividing. We seek to understand, but in our attempts, we create more separations than unifications. We forget that after gay, straight, cisgender, transgender, white, black, asian, latino, poor, wealthy, etc; there are better boxes to serve as our points of reference.
Love or hate? Risk or comfort? Sacrifice or withholding? Unity or division? Heavy knowledge, or soothing ignorance? Offering hands, or turning heads?
These are better boxes for us to stand in, and define ourselves by. And in fact, these concepts—in their very nature—always expand beyond boxes, or fences, or easily definable walls. These are the human call; it is the ever expansive shout for joy that pops up through concrete sidewalks like a small, green sprout of hope.
These are the human call; sprouting joy and humanity across cold cities that suddenly light up when walls are broken down, lines are crossed, and people exchange in the beauty of knowing one another—messily and all at once, or slowly and quietly, or like a swimming-pool cannonball at a second grade birthday party. These are the human call.
Gatherings where humanity and joy is the basis of connection; and divinely inspired and uninhibited beauty is the result. These are the human call.
We are the bridges we’ve been waiting for. The institutions are falling each time we take those separate pieces of ourselves, and bring them together as one. The walls are crumbling and the people are shouting “JOY” and “LOVE” on the streets with brightly colored balloons ready for anyone who’s listening.
These are the human call; the moment when we decide that though the socially-imposed burden of revolution can be heavy, it is also the price of an authentically true and hungry life. These are the human call; when the walls come down, and the arms embrace, and the strangers meet strangers who become friends then and later, and who all learn to sit together and watch the sunset go to bed.
These are the human call; walking down 14th street with a pixie cut and backwards hat with my friend—until she leaves.
You see, I wasn’t quite brave enough to last the remaining blocks alone (with my hat on). I know it sounds silly as such a simple thing, but I am still learning to brave. I am still learning to call my pixie cut and backwards hat—and bowties and boots and dresses and heels—all a part of me, and all beautiful enough to walk around proudly.
I am still learning. And though this revolution is imposed, and heavy, I will learn to call myself a soldier in a battle I am unexpectedly fighting; I will learn that though I didn’t know it would feel this heavy, I also didn’t know I could—ever—see quite this much beauty.
Maybe next time, I’ll be braver. I think my eyes are getting surer. I think my shoulders are learning to roll back and stand proudly, like the ocean waves.
Maybe next time, I’ll make it all the way home.
[And if not, maybe next time you can walk with me.]