Aloha ‘aina; aloha ‘oe

The astronomers are trying to build another telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea.
The Hawaiians are protesting.

In my mind,
I am shuffling journal articles,
trying to look busy
when she asks whether or not
I consider myself to be white.

When I was a child, being Hawaiian meant-
I was the hula hoop champion of the neighborhood,
my skin changed colors with the seasons
and no one could pronounce my name.

“My father is from Hawai’i”
I would declare, proudly.
Although his being from anywhere might have served the same purpose
in justifying my difference.

When I was 19 being Hawaiian meant-
I moved to the Big Island to study my heritage in a classroom
where I learned I wasn’t really Hawaiian at all,
speaking with edges like one haole girl from the mainland.

Suddenly everyone pronounced my name correctly,
but I had a hard time recognizing it.
Such an alien sound- my name,
wearing the accent it was born in.

I fell in love with a French astronomer
who liked to call me his local girl
as we explored the island, and drank Longboard Lager
bound by our mutual strangeness on the black sand.

I try to explain to her, to Sarah,
the way the word heritage
is broken glass in my clutching hands.
That being Hawaiian has little to do with blood.

Kamehameha was a monarch, not a dragon ball-Z phenomenon.
And truly being Hawaiian
means being connected to the land,
the ‘aina of Hawai’i.

But my island is not that shade of green,
my ocean is made of sagebrush, not saltwater,
my blood runs thick with the asphalt of Interstate 80,
and my hands are rough from limestone, not lava rock.

There is no moisture in my air.
There are no beaches in Cheyenne.
Although, there is a volcano
vast beneath my feet.

Perhaps I am a daughter of Pele.
If only when I dance
when I rage,
when I grieve-
as if there is a difference between the three.

The astronomers are trying to build another telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea.
The Hawaiians are protesting.

And in my mind,
I am shuffling journal articles
with pale golden hands
when she asks whether or not
I consider myself to be white.

A letter to my cross-dressing pen-pal

Dear B,
I’m actually quite torn about which of your alternates I like best. I think Brianna, maybe, but Brandy is cool since it’s closer to your male name, female, and also an alcohol. Hmm.

I actually decided to go with all three names (Elle/El/L) dependent on my gender at a given moment. Today it’s El. Usually it’s Elle, sometimes, if I’m in-between, it’s L. I like the versatility, and the simultaneous unity of pronunciation. It’s a metaphor. I’m in my guy mode again today. Upon reflection, I think I need to look in the boys dress clothing section, and also for jeans/trousers. Men’s small is still a bit too large. *Sighs* this clothing thing is a pain in the ass.

Seriously, I think we should all be able to shape-shift back and forth and between sexes. Or at least have timeshare options…

Regarding existing in a comfortable box: I think the most valuable thing I have learned so far in life is when to cut my losses and move on to something I really need. As described harshly, but gorgeously here. I can’t get enough of this stupid comic… it’s so good. Going to a therapist can be helpful. Don’t be afraid to find a different one if this one is not helpful.

Regarding your concern about being a “pervert” or “sexual deviant” I had a few thoughts:

First- what does that mean to you? What is a pervert? Why is it bad to be one? Just think about your own understanding of the word, and why it is something to be concerned about. Same with “sexual deviant.”

Then consider: is your behavior harmful to you or anyone else? Genuinely? How so? Does your behavior go against your values in some serious way? What values? Where did you learn these values? Are they still relevant to your life? Should they be?

Please feel free to send me your thoughts on these questions, I’d be very curious to hear them.

Perhaps a more useful question is “Why don’t more people wear exactly what they want?” The term “cross-dressing” itself assumes that there is actually a valid line to be crossed. As I think I mentioned before, it’s generally OK for women to wear more masculine clothing (though presenting as men, binding our breasts and cutting our hair is still not as acceptable) largely because it supports the male-powered status-quo. Yes, female and male bodies are different, and clothing serves to accommodate and emphasize those differences, but what does it matter if ‘boys’ want to be pretty and ‘girls’ want to be handsome?

A well-known gender scholar presented at the University the other day and made a really interesting comment. She looked around the room and said “I don’t see two people here of the same gender.” And I think she had a point. Rejecting our tidy male/female man/woman binaries can go beyond creating more segments. What if gender is the intersection of thoughts, experiences, presentation, emotion, and relationships? She also asked “are you the same gender with your peers as you are with your parents?” Which I found fascinating.

We are all social chameleons, fitting into situations and relationships, often without thinking about it. Even when identifying as a “woman” I wear different clothing to the auto-shop than I wear to school, different clothing to the ranch than to a club. My behavior, and likely my gender presentation, is distinctly different in each of those scenarios. Being feminine is not a one-dimensional experience, nor is being masculine. What if those who identify as genderqueer, trans, genderfluid, crossdressers, all simply have a more nuanced sensitivity (and acceptance) to their own capacity to be fully human, and not be held completely by the socially acceptable gender constructs?

Before they learn the “rules” of gender, kids wear things because they feel right, because they feel most comfortable, because they are authentic to who the kid is at that moment. Adults seem to trip over themselves when their desires clash with what is expected. Yes, society and it’s developed ‘norms’ has many functions and uses, and it is important to navigate it, to know the rules. However, as Picasso supposedly said:

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Alright, that’s enough food for thought I suppose. I should go work instead of creating the gender-creative manifesto.

El (for the moment)