Sitting Pretty

Sitting Pretty 

I practiced in a mirror

how to stand & not pose

how to sit casually

how to get up

<>

the mirror wasn’t big enough

for a sense of what I was doing

the cellphone video 

was somewhat better

<>

but I spent so much time

getting it set up

at the right angle

with the right lighting

there was no time left

to practice anything

but attitude

<>

I was told by

online tutorials

that as long as I did things

with attitude

they would be fine

I could sit with attitude

& a message would be delivered

<>

my body language would say

what I was afraid to say

which was

‘do you mind

if I sit here’

Back to the Rules for Monks after a summer break. Keep in mind that all of them were written before the pandemic & most are getting a first look since they were saved as draft. Many of rules govern how the monks were to comport themselves modestly in public so as not to attract undue attention. I can remember one teacher in grade-school who insisted we sit at our desks in the appropriate way – feet on the floor, no slouching, no crossing of legs for boys, though girls were allowed to cross their ankles demurely.

At the start of his class we would enter the room orderly, stand by our desks & sit quietly. Other teachers didn’t care how we entered the class room or if we scrambled to our desks as long as we sat in them. But I did, for a time, practice walking like a male, which I never did master. Watching myself in the mirror only made me even more self-conscious. Was my hair combed masculine enough – as a aural blond with baby fine hair there was no way to butch it up short of having brush cuts.

Body language apparently speaks volumes. Experts have translated the body language between the two princes & what they say is too vulgar to be printed lol. But, you know, I have more important things to worry about when I’m on transit than what my posture might be saying beyond don’t stand so close me. Thanks to keeping our eyes from meeting I can read the language of shoes.

I have seen online tutorials mostly aimed at women for how to walk up stairs in a dress in such a way that people behind you weren’t looking up your skirt, how to sit without flashing one’s panties, how to get in & out of cars demurely, how to keep your boobs from popping out when bending over to pick something up – a lot of stuff guys never have to worry about beyond wearing shorts that don’t let your balls dangle for the world to see. Buddhist monks wear robes which solve that problem.

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Ankles Crossing The Line 

Ankles Crossing The Line

boys don’t cross ankles

when they sit

only girls cross their ankles

boys can put a foot

on the opposite knee

that is how men sit

you are a man aren’t you

you better start to act like one

how is your belt buckled

only girl have the buckle on the left side

or is it the right side

shirts for boys have buttons on the right side

shirts for girls on the left

or is it the other way

for buckles and buttons

<>

someone always looks

enforces gender appropriate

mannerisms

a code that if broken

meant derision

only girls sit to pee

only girls cross their ankles

when seated 

only girls

can part their hair in the middle

or on the left side

or was it right

I don’t remember now

but in high-school that was vital

<>

I never got any of that straight

because I wasn’t straight

I wonder if there’s a history of gender that explains how things became categorized as being gender specific. I mean things like colours (pink vs blue), actions (standing when a woman enters the room), professions: well okay I do get that one, as many depend on brute strength, but male nurses are suspect, objects (jewelry), scents (Old Spice vs Chanel No. 5). Men wore aftershave, women wore  perfume. I sometimes wear Chanel No. 5.

There are gendered versions of watches, running shoes, shirts, cosmetics etc. Man-sized meals. Real Men don’t eat quiche. Shirley Temple for the ladies, Virgin Caesar for the gents. All of which starts young – toy kitchens aimed at girls, toy tools for boys. Imprinting that never gets questioned. I don’t recall ever asking my mother why all my clothes were blues, blacks & browns – by the time I got to high school I broke free & went for multi-colour & was frequently picked on because of it. 

The desire to look ‘fashionable’ was not masculine. The male uniform was bulky jeans, scruffy shoes, blocky dark plaid shirts & shapeless jacket. If one was on a team a team jacket was permissible. If you weren’t on a team you didn’t count anyway. Boys didn’t dance well at sock hops. Masculinity was always established by violence – or rebel stuff like smoking.

Girls who smoked were sluts, boys who moved were toughs – but that’s another poem. I was a rebel who never smoked 🙂 I was a rebel who wore white shoes, who let his hair grow into a Beatles cut. I once was asked are you a boy or a girl so I guess my even my walk wasn’t masculine enough. Conformity was masculine, nonconformity was suspect.

I’d like to think things have changed but a man wearing a gown to the Oscars created a sensation. The increased notice of trans has made many uncomfortable with the changing clarity we once had thanks to defined, unalterable notions of gender.

My pronouns: it, that. 


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Dress For Success

Dress For Success 

<>

I’m looking at dresses

skirts

something for me

but it’s all too fem

I wonder

why is fem a bad thing

<>

there was a time when

nothing was too fem for a man to wear

all those portraits

of men in wild oceans 

of lace

satin

brocaded jackets

did they dress like that

hanging around their homes

what did they wear

when they weren’t posing

<>

do I want this dress

to pose in

or

do I need something practical

utilitarian

genderless

<>

I’m looking at vintage photos 

of men 

going fishing

they’re wearing shirts & ties

shirts & ties to the beach

on picnics with the family

working on the roof

I can’t remember 

the last time I wore

a shirt & tie

but I remember wearing them

owning them

I’ve never worn a dress or a skirt

<>

I don’t want to make a statement

but that is impossible

if I showed up

in acceptable formal

Henry VIII court wear

it would be a costume

how many times 

would I have to dress that way

for it to be as ordinary

as a shirt & tie

would a dress on me

ever be as ordinary

as a shirt & tie

A few years ago Billy Porter showed up at the Academy Awards in an amazing, huge, black ruffled ballgown with a tuxedo jacket top. Beautifully tailored & shockingly fashion forward. It got him more press than anyone else at the Awards that year – what year was it? Who won that year? I can’t remember but I doubt if I’ll forget that dress or who wore it.

This was followed up by some minor male pop stars in various fashion magazine spreads, modelling dresses & androgynous clothing. Gimmick stuff supposedly to aid in the cause of degenderizing  clothing. If you look back through the history of fashion there has always been a clear difference between what men wore & what women wore – at least those who could afford it & had social positions that demanded it. What the farmer’s wife & her husband wore were close to identical. 

I know that when I grew up clothing was gender by colour & practicality. Boys never had lace trim on their sweaters; pink, blue etc. Even which side you buckled your belt was a gender indicator. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out women’s blouses had buttons on the left (or is the right), men’s shirts on the right. 

Hair was another defining point – men/boys short – women long. When the hippie guys began growing out their hair, it was always straight down never teased into hair hopper balloons. I never knew a girl who got a brush cut for the summer. I never owned an ordinary shirt & tie.

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Fear Walks In

Fear Walks In

some people

bring fear into a room

ideologies that I am expected

to accomodate

without knowing

<>

they prejudge me

for prejudging them

merely because of who I am

of who I appear to be to them

<>

I am an enemy on first sight

without having to say a word

or take any action

other than being there

of being unlike them

they feel unsafe

because I am not invisible

and it is my fault

<>

all my fault

for not understanding

what they haven’t told me

At a recovery meeting, when we could meet face to face, after a step had been read aloud – going from person to person around the room – a member shared on their difficulty with the hetero male normative language. When they read their section they de-gendered the language & as did some of the others who read. They implied that those of us who did not, lacked sensitivity to important gender issues. 

I gave an inner shrug – I’ve been around recovery rooms long enough that I am not unsympathetic to this but at the same time I’m in recovery to recover not to deal with linguistics or how to do the gender appropriate reading aloud of the literature. 

Referring to God as a him is off putting to some people, referring God at all is off putting to some people – if I don’t take pains to make the proper substitutions I make them feel unsafe. What can one do. Stop reading aloud? Ask for a show of hands, before reading starts, of people who feel unsafe because there are cismales in the room who don’t mind being called he? Online some people are including their pronouns as part of their names. (By the way my pronouns are it or that.)

After reading at an lgbtqia open stage an audience member spoke to me about enjoying my pieces but wondered if such sexually explicit material was appropriate because many in the community were triggered by such material. I had introduced one of pieces as being explicit but I guess I hadn’t allowed people enough time to leave the room. I’ve spent enough energy in saying my ‘partner’ & avoiding gender specific pronouns so as not to offended delicate hetero sensibilities that I’m not going spare lgbtqia by suppressing myself. I’d rather not perform than get trapped by self-censorship.

The fact is I’m not all that sensitive.

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Nine

Nine

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio TV newspapers

that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

expected of my gender 

<>

O when I was nine

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the boy my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

<>

O when I was nine

I learned to swim

looking at the differences

between boys and girls

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of the gender of the object

<>

O when I was nine

I don’t that I was making waves

as I waded from nine to nineteen

by the time I left nineteen

I knew

these were dangerous waters

at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

I heard on a TV documentary about children that our sense of self was basically formed by the time we are ten years old. By then we have absorbed the ‘teachings’ of TV behaviours that inform our subconscious. So, back in the day, I was aware of what the culture of the time expected of my gender. I was also aware that it wasn’t the right fit but I hadn’t developed the language for that beyond feeling it was the wrong fit. Today thanks to instant communication children have a greater knowledge of gender variations. I doubt that at the age of five I would have understood what a faggot was, children today do know what it means. 

Where was I when I was nine? We had just settled in Sydney, Cape Breton after moving across Canada for a couple years. My mother & I had spent some time with her family in Wales during this time as well. I remember ‘living’ in Moncton, Stellerton or was it Truro for short periods of time & going to schools there, briefly. Finally in Sydney, were we lived in three different neighbourhoods before my dad bought a house in Ashby.

One result was that I spent those formative years as a displaced person – someone who was different. My Dad prodded me into things that could show me how to ‘fit in’: cub scouts, YMCA. I did the best I could but felt like an outsider &, as I recall, was fine with that. I did get these weird mixed messages ‘why can’t you be like other kids’ then when I wanted some fad item ‘why can’t you think for yourself.’

I survived partially by hiding in booze & partially by writing & painting as I gradually found language for what I was. Though then that language was loaded – an abomination unto the Lord – sort of stuff. Today I know the tragic flaw wasn’t my sexuality but the way culture regarded not only lgbtq but sexuality itself.


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Elevator

Elevator  

the elevator door opened

there was a woman

alone

she stepped back

to let me enter

I didn’t get on

I let the door shut

so she could continue

her ride alone

I live a relatively insular life – social distancing was fairly easy for me even before covid19 made is culturally appropriate. My social interactions are limited to clerks & fellow travellers on the recovery road. That being said I am aware of the complexity of gender relationships, of the cultural context of masculinity, femininity, race.

I’m not sure what sparked this particular moment. The pācittiya spoke to not being alone with a woman & this is where it lead me. For the monks I suppose it was to keep them pure, untainted by temptation – because, clearly men cannot control their sexual urges & avoidance is the only solution. The same sort of reasoning was behind sexually segregated schools.

Rather than men having to exercise restraint just keep the bait out of sight. If they should get at it, it’s not their fault, it’s biology etc. For me some of this comes from our the dichotomy of our sex-o-phobic culture. Look but don’t lust – lust but don’t touch. If you don’t touch what’s your problem?

I’ve heard female friends talk about not feeling safe just walking cross the street after dark, feeling paranoid getting in an elevator with a male they don’t know. I’m glad I don’t have to live in that persistent undercurrent. I can’t remember the last time I was in an elevator.

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Ordinary Dress

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Ordinary Dress

I’m looking at dresses

skirts

something for me

but it’s all too fem

I wonder

why is fem a bad thing

there was a time when

nothing was too fem for a man to wear

all those portraits of men 

in wild oceans of lace

satin

brocaded jackets

did they dress like that

hanging around their homes

what did they wear

when they weren’t posing

do I want a dress

to pose

do I need something practical

utilitarian

genderless

I’m looking at vintage photos 

of men going fishing

they’re wearing shirts & ties

shirts & ties to the beach

on picnics with the family

working on the roof

I can’t remember 

the last time I wore

a shirt & tie

I’ve never worn a dress or a skirt

I don’t want to make a statement

but that is impossible

if I showed up

in acceptable formal

Henry VIII court wear

it would be a costume

how many times 

would I have to dress that way

for it to be as ordinary

as a shirt & tie

would a dress on me

ever be as ordinary

as a shirt & tie

is ordinary a bad thing

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Kiss The Monster

The Monster 

whose lips are these

did they kiss 

before they were grafted to my face

this attitude to the kiss

where did it come from

what cultural imperative 

was infused into my brain

to tell me the power of the kiss

 

I look down at this body

ruminate about this brain

all the things woven into 

my sense of self

that I don’t know were they originated

though I know they are controlled

by attitudes I can’t alter

 

the history of dominant needs

sutured to my ideologies 

as seamlessly as these lips

as these hands

which send ripples of fear

through the global villagers

 

a monster created in their minds

moving in this world

asking them

are your lips yours

or have they too been grafted

seamlessly

as you groped with those hands

(your hands?)

into adulthood

 

Stepping away from the Rules for a break 🙂 Each October I’ve been writing poetry inspired by horror movies. I’ve been a fan from an early age – ghost stories, spooky stuff had a distinct appeal for me. I can’t pin-point an actual age or movie that sparked my interest. Maybe it was ghost stories at Y camp?

 

One approach is to see the world from the creature’s point of view. This is the most famous monster of all – Frankenstien’s creation. I’ve given him a more introspective sensibility that is even present in the novel. In the book he is quite chatty & thanks to his bad brains, rather vengeful. My creature is stitched together from similar parts from movies, books & shoe-gazer angst.

He questions the sociological construct of the kiss, of the sense of self. The sort of questioning that many non-conforming gender people often go though as they sort though the history of dominant needs. LGBTQ people often end up with a sense of sexual self that they have to put together for themselves. How do you adapt this self to a culture that says self-acceptance still doesn’t change the fact that you are fucking monster that can send women & children screaming when you go to the washroom.

Part of the fear of the monster is often how it makes us question our own sense of self. Are these my lips. Is this kiss, is this gender, me or is it a cultural costume I wear to fit in, fit in so well there’s no need to make any decision. Why not accept the pre-made identity that allows us to conform so that we don’t scare even ourselves when we look into the mirror.

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The Right Entrance

The Right Entrance

the girls

had their own school

a Catholic separate school

we’re talking 60’s – 70’s

Cape Breton

 

I don’t know if there was one

for Catholic boys

but the girls had their own

to protect them 

from the unruly attentions of boys

 

schools I went to were mixed

but there was

boys’ manual training

girls’ domestic science

separate entrances for boys for girls

mixed classes

but boys’ gym

girls’ gym

 

the best way to control

those masculine urges

was segregation

guys who got laid were men

girls who got laid were easy

girls who didn’t were teases

guys who didn’t 

bragged about doing it

or salivated endless about pussy

boobs

because they were men

 

never once

never

was there a sense

that the guys were in the wrong

it was only the girls 

who need to be protected

guys weren’t taught

to think differently

in fact

we were encouraged

to get a little

get laid

get into her panties

 

find’em

feel’em

fuck’em

forget’em

 

this was masculine prerogative

entitlement

a natural urge

that resented any attempt

to curb it

do you want your sons

to grow up to be fags

yeah sure

free and easy access

to pussy

is the cure for queer

 

yet I grew up

gay queer a fag

full of fear

yet sure of who I was

& who I wanted to have sex with

 

I tried dating

getting a little

getting a little wasn’t enough

to cure me of anything

so I forgot’em 

but I did learn 

which entrance

was right for me

This piece is a documentary. All of it is my high-school experience though some of the facts go back even further in my history. When my family moved to Cape Breton I was enrolled in a nearby school with a mixed gender & to a degree religious population. Entirely white as well I might add. Protestant with a scattering of Jewish students – who we knew were Jewish because of the many holidays they had.

It wasn’t until I got to high-school that I realized there was a separate school system for Catholics, particularly girls. Rather it was a high-school run by a teaching order of Catholic nuns. It wasn’t limited to Catholic’s as I think one of my sisters went there because it offered better secretarial training. A class that was never offered to boys – we did get an introduction to basic accounting though.

Beyond this religious segregation there was a gender divide in the rest of the school system for sports, non-academic vocational options – boys got manual training & shop; girls got domestic science & shopping. Most of the academic classes were mixed but there was separate entrances for grades & genders. 

Sydney did have a sizeable black community, as well as a large Native community – but we only saw them if our teams were playing against them. As best as I can remember there was no racial mix in my high school except for one, lone Japanese girl.

 

The four f’s ‘find’em’ was a real mantra usually used by ‘guys who didn’t but bragged about doing it’ The piece also reflects how gender doesn’t equate sexuality – that even though I had all this male behaviour example I turned out queer, having no queer male behaviour example to lure me into the unnatural side. 

The ‘entrance’ that was right for me? I’ll leave that to your imagination 🙂


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The Facts of Life

The Facts of Life

I am a man

in a man’s body

there was a time

when I doubted this

a time when gender was fixed

by cultural controlled behaviours

men felt this and only this

women felt this and only this

 

to explain

variations in object desire

people were reduced

to data that was used to explain

what didn’t fit

so that men

in men’s bodies

who desired other men’s bodies

were actual women in men’s bodies

genders misplaced

trapped and looking for release

 

that a man would desire another man

could be explained

in terms of heterosexual norms

because only a woman

could would should

have sexual desire for a man

 

when I realized I desired men

I accepted that theory

I was a woman trapped in a man’s body

though it never made sense

but it was deemed more reasonable

than man to man attraction

the data proved that

yet my human experience

refused to conform to that data

 

I tried on the dress

I pushed my butch button

swagger not sashay

I couldn’t conform

or commit 

to prevailing theories of the time

 

I changed

accepted that I am is this

undefinable entity

such is life

I am a man

in a man’s body

who is attracted

to men’s bodies

I’m not a theory

merely a fact of life


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