Friday, January 31, 2014


I accomplished a major personal goal this week and as silly as it is, I'm incredibly proud and happy about it.  Accomplished?  I don't know if that is actually the right word.  Maybe completed?  Finished?  Survived?  I'm not sure...

Six months ago I tore a tendon in my foot and missed six weeks of work.  This was my third major injury to my left foot in four years.  I was completely devastated because I was convinced I'd have to quit the job I love.  I did tons of research looking into other careers and even took a few seminars at Illinois Central College about changing careers, writing resumes and cover letters and an hours-long aptitude test.  I talked to countless people and got countless ideas, but the bottom line was that I wanted to remain a zoo keeper.  I find my job to be incredibly fulfilling and meaningful and I can't imagine anything else being as personally satisfying.  I not only love the animals, but I also love the work itself and especially finding solutions to the constant challenges that arise in working with the unpredictable and always changing animals and situations.  I love working outside and am usually not bothered by the weather (though this winter of extreme cold and never ending snow is getting on my last nerve.)  Anyway, I eventually decided that I will work as a zoo keeper until I absolutely can't do it anymore.  I don't know if that will be 2 weeks or 20 years, but I'm going to make the most of whatever time I have left and more importantly, enjoy it.  I will constantly keep my eyes and ears open for my Plan B, but I'm not going to actively seek another job until I have to.

My first major goal was to make it to my anniversary date of January 30th.  This was an important goal if only because this was the year my retirement became fully vested.  It was also a big deal because I was out of sick time and low on vacation time so I couldn't miss more work.  Over time, this deadline somehow became more and more important.  I had a scary setback in late October and November when an entrapped nerve in the same foot required me to have a series of weekly alcohol injections that became increasingly painful to the point I was terrible to be around.  Not only was I in agony, I was also terrified I wasn't going to make my goal.  I finished the injections and the pain slowly subsided.  By late November, I was doing a daily countdown.  I knew exactly the day I could make it to my anniversary date with full pay if I had to miss work again.  I mentally crossed off every day, rejoiced when January finally came and then groaned as it dragged on and on.

I guess it seems kind of dumb and not like much of an actual accomplishment, but my happiness at the arrival of January 30th was comparable to it finally being the day of a major event.  I'm not usually much of a celebratory person- I couldn't care less about making a big deal of my birthday- but I actually took treats to work.  Almost no one knew what they were for and no one but me could have understood how significant the day was, but I was so happy and relieved.  I made it!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Gender Indentity?

We live in a weird, weird world!  I just finished reading a long thread on a forum about gender identity in children.  I learned that according to psychologists I am gender variant.  This term is very new to me, but its discovery did not give me an "aha" moment with peace, relief and clarity.  It just made me feel labeled and like there is something wrong with me.  To this I say "Bullshit!"  I am who I am and I like who I am and do not label me as defective because I am different from the perceived norm! 

As a child I liked to play outside.  I liked to have adventures and get dirty and play with animals and tromp through the creek.  I owned a little case with one fake Barbie and a bunch of clothes.  I played with her when I was forced to play with some girl who lived around the corner from my grandma or one of my female cousins.  I was never embarrassed that my Barbie was fake or gave it any thought because I didn't care about it at all.  I hated dressing up because dress clothes were itchy and uncomfortable and wearing a dress meant I couldn't get dirty or play like I wanted.  I never cared about "looking pretty" because for whatever reason it just didn't interest me.  Maybe you don't care at all about the stock market or football or knitting.  That is how I have always felt about clothes, makeup and jewelry.  I have zero interest.  I almost never think about these things unless I am forced.  I really don't think I have ever suffered low self-esteem or anything similar due to my appearance because it almost never occurs to me to think about it.

As I grew into a preschooler, I started to realize that wearing a dress meant I was expected to act "ladylike" and sit quietly and not crawl around on the floor playing kitty or vrooming cars.  I noticed the boys wore pants and it was completely acceptable for them to act wild and get dirty.  Dresses equaled boring torture, pants equaled fun.  Girls equaled sitting quietly and sewing and sipping tea. Boys equaled having fun and playing outside and getting dirty.  As a person with no interest in appearances, I identified with the boys.  I questioned the women and when I got "because you're a girl" as a response, I couldn't accept such a shallow answer and I rebelled.  I began to equate dresses with not getting to be who I was.  Dresses were evil.  I still hate them.

In junior high I went through a short phase where I was peer-pressured enough to slightly care about my clothes.  Actually, I didn't care at all about the clothes, just the brands.  As long as my clothes were certain brands, they were acceptable and I could get away with wearing t-shirts or polos and jeans with my Reebok high tops.  I still never wore makeup or cared a hoot about my hair or appearance.  I remember being absolutely shocked to find out that nearly all of my female friends tried out for cheerleading.  That was something that never even entered my mind and I was completely confused when girls who were so obviously not meant to be cheerleaders were extremely disappointed about not making the team.  To me, being a cheerleader meant caring deeply about all of the things I had no interest in.  I wasn't jealous or envious because it meant nothing to me.

In high school I had a tight group of friends.  We were all misfits and most of us were completely okay with that.  I remember a few people trying to bully me for being different, but it confused me far more than hurt me and I guess I didn't give the proper reaction because it never lasted more than a couple of verbal insults and never led to anything physical.  Again, I never felt hugely different or out of place because I rarely thought about it.  As I entered adulthood, I still remained who I always was.  I still don't think about appearance and don't wear makeup and have had the same hair style for nearly 30 years.  It usually takes something like getting something in my eye and flipping down the car visor mirror in the bright sun for me to notice whoa! I have a lot of gray and should probably color my hair soon.  Even then, I don't dwell on it and might forget for another month.  At age 41 I remain uninterested in clothes, jewelry and makeup.  I think I have plenty of good friends, a great husband of 20 years, two wonderful children, a job and hobbies I love and enjoy.  My life is pretty good and fulfilling without being stereotypically feminine.

Back to childhood gender roles...  I was a tomboy for sure, but it was more out of wanting to do what I wanted to do and be who I was and then practically being forced to rebel against stereotypic gender roles to prove my point.  I have never been any more interested in boy fashion than girl fashion.  As a young child I possibly wished I was a boy, but only because it was so unfair that it was completely acceptable for boys to be doing what I wanted to do.  I never identified as a boy or wished I had a penis or grew up feeling I was in the wrong body.  Any discomfort I've ever had as a female resulted from not matching outside expectations of who I should be.  And it never lasted long because that is not something I ever think about or dwell on.  Despite the fact that I don't pretty myself up like a "normal" woman, I have done the most stereotypically female things- I got pregnant, grew two babies inside my uterus, gave birth twice and then breastfed each child for nearly a year.  I love that my body is capable of doing these things!  I don't want to be a man.

Another thing that has been occasionally (or maybe often and I have been oblivious) assumed about me based on my appearance is that I am a lesbian.  This is not something I have ever found offensive or taken as an insult, so again, anyone who was trying to tease me was probably disappointed and backed off quickly.  In fact, I have never been attracted to women, only men.  Dressing or acting like a boy, playing with boy toys, etc. did not make me a lesbian.  I most certainly do not think similar activities will make my children or any other children gay.  I will always remember and laugh at toddler Logan playing with his ~4-yr-old sister and the same-aged neighbor girls.  My neighbor had an in-home daycare with three little girls.  Kaylin played with them constantly and Logan started tagging along as he got old enough.  Their big thing was playing princess and dressing up.  Logan wanted to join in the fun and would often allow them to put him in a dress.  I thought it was hilarious and adorable, but the neighbor absolutely freaked out that it would make him gay.  She also thought Gene would probably leave me if he found out.  Seriously?  I have an absolutely adorable picture of Logan wearing a dress and sitting on the lawn tractor.  Attitudes like this make me sad.  C'mon people, clothes and toys do not make children gay.  I could be the poster child for this.

I always enjoyed watching my kids and observing their gender roles when they were little (and even now.)  Both kids loved Thomas trains with wooden tracks.  Kaylin liked building different track formations that went to different fantasy lands.  She played with the trains as characters.  Logan liked building different functional tracks and played with the trains as vehicles.  Both kids liked sorting their toy collections (Kaylin's ponies, Logan's cars) and would spend countless hours lining them up in various ways.  Kaylin kept a running commentary, Logan would just make vrooming noises, but both were continuously thinking and plotting what they were doing.  Sometimes Kaylin played with cars and Logan played with ponies.  Overall, both of my kids have been more interested in things more stereotypically linked to their sex.  One of the comments on the gender identity thread was from a woman with no children and accused another woman of a little girl of "forcing" princess toys on her child and that's why she loved them.  Ha!  Really?  I'm pretty sure my little girl NEVER had a princess toy forced on her by her mother!

I have completely strayed from the original point of this entry, but I guess what I want to get across is that I don't feel like or think I have a disorder.  If "gender variant" only means that I do not fit stereotypical female gender roles, I will happily admit that is true.  If it means there is something psychologically wrong with me because I don't care about dresses and jewelry, I don't think so.  I think my issue is primarily disinterest in the subject.  It is more obvious to others than my other disinterests, but is it really "worse"?  I mean, basically no one cares that I never think about the perfect lawn application for the greenest grass or different qualities of yarn or the new tax laws for 2014.  Why should I care deeply for something just because the majority of the female population does?  I can think for myself, thank you very much!