Locker room talk: getting pronouns right and more

I am always delighted by conversational surprises, when a superficial conversation prompt takes an unexpected turn into deeper territory. This morning, I had the pleasure of talking about gender with some older women in the locker room, following an otherwise neutral query about Thanksgiving. I’m sure it helped prime the conversational pump that one of the women knew of my professional background. “You’ll appreciate this,” she began, “One of the kids coming is a girl who has decided she is a boy.”

Interestingly, a version of this transgender conversation has been coming up quite a bit in my world lately. Maybe it’s that I seem like someone who is open to hearing about it. True. But I suspect it’s also because gender exploration is more acceptable for the current generation of young people and the older people in their lives are having to figure out how they want to respond. Cool!

After noticing my locker room friend’s obvious struggle to know what pronouns to use for this newly transitioning young person, I said, “I have some transgender people in my life and I know from experience that he will really appreciate your efforts to get the pronouns right. He’ll feel really cared about by your willingness to use he/him when you refer to him. If you say the wrong pronoun, it’s no big deal. Just correct yourself without a fuss and move on.” This seemed to ease the anxiety of this former nurse, her need to be a caretaker answered. Could I have corrected her on the “girl who has decided she is a boy” thing? Yes. But I generally find support to be more effective than correction. Maybe we’ll talk more at some point.

“I just don’t understand how this is different from being a tomboy. That’s what we called this in my day,” the conversation continued. “Yeah, it’s interesting,” I said, briefly noting my still wet bathing suit and the towel covering my body. “I was a tomboy…probably I still am in a lot of ways. Although I don’t especially have a need to define my gender one way or another at this point in my life, I’ve wondered how my gender identity and decisions about gender expression might have been different if I was growing up now.”

I’m well aware that this is sometimes the place in conversation when I get the sense I’ve gone too deep for other people’s comfort. That isn’t so unusual for me – ha! – but I’ve learned to tolerate awkward silences and to tread back to the superficial, as needed. This time I didn’t need to.

“That’s so interesting,” the other woman chimed in, “We were just talking about this after a lot of wine around the fire pit…and I think it was freeing for these 60 something year old guys to see they weren’t alone in having a feminine side. And how it was permissible for a girl to be a tomboy, but not whatever the opposite would be for a guy…how that’s changing now.”

“Yeah, totally,” I said. “I think this younger generation is really showing the way…because binary thinking is kind of limiting, right? I mean, most of us fall on a spectrum in lots of dimensions of our lives don’t we?” (Yes, I really talk this way…for better or worse – LOL!)

They agreed!

Now, I understand not everyone agrees. I’ve had a version of this dialogue go other, less satisfying ways. There are also a lot of nuances I didn’t pursue with my locker room friends. But I love that these conversations are happening – in locker rooms, around fire pits, and dinner tables – if imperfectly. Because they are the way of progress.

To all who are pushing the envelope of self-expression, being true to yourself however that shows up, I see you and am rooting for you!

Do You See What I See?

I’d wager to bet our perceptions differ, even as we may imagine we’re looking at the same thing. This is a truism. But it’s curious, isn’t it? By default, we assume we have a shared reality, when that is only partially true.

I recently posted to Facebook a photograph of a painting I made, my primary intention being to share what seemed like an amusing interchange between me and my husband. He said he liked the painting; I was less impressed and responded with something like, “If you really like it, you better take it to work with you, otherwise I might not be able to resist painting over it.” I’m known for painting over my work, for ruining a decent painting by changing “just one more little thing.”

The encounter was meant to highlight my struggles as a painter, possibly to invoke a chuckle or two. I can be guilty of taking myself too seriously. This exchange, and the telling of it, was meant to be an antidote.

What happened next was puzzling to me, but not really surprising when one considers how varied our individual perceptions of the same object can really be. In short, many people – many more than usual – responded positively to the painting. Some folks suggested the painting might be my best work. 

I was stunned. Really?

You might imagine I’d be pleased to have my work well-received, which was true to a degree. It feels good to be liked and I always appreciate when people take the time to acknowledge me in some way.

But more predominantly, I was aware of feeling dysphoric, confused. What am I not seeing here?

Have you ever created something you didn’t personally like very much? 

Of course you have!

Have you ever had other people like that thing more than other things? Things you’ve liked better yourself? Worked harder on, been more proud of?

It’s a strange feeling, isn’t it?

In some ways it’s a bit like going to a costume party and having people say you’ve never looked better. Really? Do you not like the real me? 

But who is the real me? Who is the real you? Would you know your true self if you saw it reflected back to you? If your art reveals something about you, do you know what that is?

In a world where wearing masks is a social custom, is it any wonder we get confused about what is real, true, and good?

Wait, are we talking about a painting or about being authentic? Well, I think they’re connected, at least in this example. Because I know it’s possible to hide the truth of who we are, even when we think we’re being open. Just as it’s possible to truly reveal ourselves without noticing, without seeing ourselves. For better and worse.

None of this may be relevant to the painting. Art is subjective; perceptions vary. But when the groundswell of something you’ve created differs so widely from your own opinion, the problem likely lives in your perception of self.

Perhaps it’s time for you to broaden your self perception, to expand the expressed range of who you’ve allowed yourself to be? 

I know that time has come for me.

Want to Spark Joy without Tidying up?

Make art where you find it. Every day. For YOU and for love. This isn’t a Hallmark card, it’s a way of being.

Don’t wait for Valentine’s Day!

Deliberate creative acts, even small ones, feed your spirit. Do it with heart shaped strawberries or whatever inspires you. Make art – broadly defined- to create your best, most authentic life.

At most, it took an extra minute to decorate my husband’s breakfast plate as shown. The choice to do so made me smile, made him feel special, and added a little extra, out of the green box beauty, to our St. Patrick’s Day morning. Triple win.

Truth in advertising: I’m hardly an apron-clad housewife, looking for all the ways I can please my man. Most days I barely get Cheerios in a bowl for myself. Does he eat breakfast on those days? I don’t know! This post isn’t about being a good partner, at least not directly.

It’s about nurturing your creative spirit and watching your world transform!

When you cultivate a creative mindset, every day offers opportunities to make something new, to see the world with fresh eyes and an open heart. A creative approach to life changes everything.

And that’s not all…

When you find ways to share your art with others, you contribute to the pool of love. In case you hadn’t heard: love is the best antidote to fear. Don’t you want to feel less afraid? More joyful?

Making art (cultivating a creative mindset) is a form of self-love; sharing is how you spread love to others. Not everyone will feel the love, but even if one person does, the ripple effect may create a wave of goodwill. Don’t you think we need more of that?

Need more examples, more explanation?

Read more about #makeartwhereyoufindit here.