Thursday, May 31, 2012

American Gender, Part I

As salaam alaikum,

A bit before I graduated from high school, three of my closest friends suggested that I write short stories for them, since I had established myself as an aspiring writer. I didn't get farther than brainstorming one of the stories, one that I would dedicate to my best friend. It was the closest thing to fantasy that I've ever dreamed up. The story took place in a post-apocalyptic world in which nations no longer existed and singular, small communities were their own nations, warring nations that fought themselves into carnage and nonexistence. Young men, and a few young women, zealously auditioned to join militias and take to the battlefront. Select nations triumphed over the rest, and most of the young men of these nations hungered to join these militias, though it was more competitive.

The protagonists of the story were the futuristic descendants of my best friend and I who just happened to be, through the randomness of genetics, remarkably like their ancestors. My friend's character, who I'll call A, tried out repeatedly for her nation's militia, but repeatedly failed elements of the test because of her size. Short and petite, though enthusiastic skilled in other ways, she was not a contender. My character, who I'll call C, is A's childhood friend. She is a member of one of the numerous peaceful, nomadic societies of primarily women and some of their children who flee battles, care for the wounded and try to salvage vestiges of the previous society as they travel. She supports A in her quests to join her former nation's militia, while she otherwise contentiously objects to the wars.

C is the leader of her society of young women and few children. They wear long dresses, cloaks and scarves to protect them from the elements, depending on the season. Their shoes are worn because of their long journeys and the fact that their clothing is made up of whatever is salvaged along the way. Many of the women in the societies are courted by men from nearby nations, since many women in the nation have either had been killed or fled long ago. Courted instead of simply being overtaken because the women in the society defend themselves fiercely, and women in the nations stand up for them as well. Besides, for the sake of the nations, there is no time to expend energies on anything but the rival nations.

The story opens and C is being courted by a man she's actually quite interested in, though he is the leader of one of the nearby nation's militias. C denies it but has circled her society precariously around the outskirts of this up-and-coming nation, that is not yet in the ranks of the victorious nations that triumph over all and has encountered many casualties. Though their meetings often end with them disagreeing about the means to the end of establishing themselves anew in the world, she comes to love this man, though she is conflicted about leaving her sisters in peace to join, again, a nation, supporting their means.

One day, when A returns, dejected once again about being rejected from the militia, C, in spite of herself, suggests the militia of the man she's been seeing, that is rag-tag but in need. A, excited because she's heard rumblings about this nation, though torn about abandoning her allegiance to her former nation, agrees to meet up with this militia man...

I told my friend about this story after she came out to me about a year later. She asked whether her sexual orientation influenced her character at all, and I told her no, and it was true. "A" was just a reflection of how I understood my friend's expression of her gender, even though she still had long hair and wore "more feminine" clothes at the time. I saw her as a little warrior who was often thwarted at 5'2" and less than 100 pounds, who was often thwarted because of her own self-deprecation, her lack of self-esteem, the memory of past failures, but when she overcame that, she was a beast on the inside, full of vigor, enthusiasm, the ingenuity to make her skills work, to compensate for her shortcomings. She was driven, and when she was, she was fearless. I could tell she didn't want what the other girls wanted. She never got caught up in boys like the rest of us did. And that's why A was like she was.

And C was like she was because C was me. I am a pacifist. I do not believe in the necessity of war and I believe sports came into existence to extinguish the desire within men and some women to kill each other, and keep them occupied in a safe competitive spirit, for example. In a post-apocalyptic world, I would definitely not fight in any battle of dubious import and significance.

We were just two variations of the many possible that I perceived in the female gender spectrum, independent of any notions of sexual orienation. My friend is the passionate warrior, and I was the compassionate pacifist. In the story, neither one of us is judged as more female than the other, more woman than the other. Our concerns were just...different.

Thus was one of my earlier manifestations of the conglomeration of ideas that resulted in my perception of gender. From observing my parents and grandparents, to things my mother directly taught me, to television shows and girls and boys, men and women I met along the course of life, along with my own personal inclinations, these all led me to express my gender as I do now.

This is my American gender.

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