Diary of a Darklady
Do Reproductive Organs Make the (Wo)Man?
Maria Small lived next door to my parents when I was a toddler and a first grader in Central Point, Oregon. According to the tale passed down to me by my father, I had a frequent playtime companion in her grandson. In fact, it was he who once informed me that “peas are icky,” thus influencing my previously pea-positive eating habits for decades.
At some point in our history as next door neighbors, Maria felt compelled to visit my parents and share her concerns about me, their first born and daughter. Apparently Maria was uncomfortable with the androgynous pixie-cut that they had chosen for my hair, the gender neutral nickname they called me by, and the fact that I wore dresses on some days and slacks on others. These, in combination with the roughly equal balance of “boy toys” and “girl toys” that I played with on a daily basis were a flashing orange warning light complete with screaming alarm in the poor woman’s world, alerting her to possible danger ahead for me. Maria was afraid that I would grow up to think I was a boy.
I didn’t grow up to think I was a boy – and it would be difficult for anyone to mistake me for one these days. One of my lipstick lesbian friends has pronounced me the most “femme” woman she knows and a cute MIT biologist who shared a drink with me at the Las Vegas airport recently agreed that I have a most female appearance. I’ve never wanted to be a man and never had a problem with being a woman.
On the other hand, I’ve never really identified with being a woman. I have always been female in the same way that I’ve been near-sighted, plump, ex-Catholic, and brunette. All of these things have been parts of who I am, but none of them have summed me up entirely. In some ways, Maria Small was right. Although I didn’t grow up thinking I was a boy, I also didn’t grow up with a conventional sense of what it meant to be a girl. I never learned how to do my hair up fancy or put on make-up. I’ve always preferred books to babies, indulged minimally in cosmetics, and enjoyed swearing like the drill sergeant’s daughter that I am. It’s never occurred to me to keep my opinions to myself or to throw a game so as not to hurt a boy’s ego by winning. My hair has been long and my hair has been short. I’ve enjoyed both the decadence of wearing Cuban heeled stockings inside of high heeled shoes and the practicality of ankle socks stuffed into old school sneakers. Although I have come to appreciate the luxurious pleasure of collecting underwire bras and lace panties, I still don’t have a clue how to use eye or lip liner.
Of course, there’s more to being female than fashion trends and gender roles. There’s basic biology. But I’ve never been real tapped into that, either. My biological clock has never done much ticking, so I opted out of the baby race as soon as possible. I started with birth control pills when I was 17 and had my tubes tied when I turned 30. In many ways, I’ve lived a life only vaguely aware of my organic womanhood. Other than restraining my large breasts and dealing with my nearly monthly menstrual cycle, I’ve not given the whole I Am Woman thing much attention. Perhaps that’s one reason that I’ve made friends with transsexual men and women with such ease. Not having a clear idea about how I should identify as a woman, I’ve found it difficult to have pre-conceived ideas about how other people should identify themselves.
In August of 2004 my menstrual cycle caused me so much discomfort that I went to the Urgent Care unit begging for pain relief. I’m generally so absorbed by my daily routine that I forget to take aspirin when I have a headache, so this was unusual for me. Although I thought something might be up, the worst thing I expected was bad cramps, something some women deal with their entire fertile life.
Two months later I became, for perhaps the first time, acutely aware of the fact that I not only have a vagina, but also have ovaries and a uterus. Due to what was later diagnosed as an ovarian cyst the size of an orange, I experienced approximately two hours of the most amazingly agonizing cramps and spasms. In another two, a similar experience motivated me to visit the Emergency Room. Next week not only the cyst, but the ovary will be removed.
When I learned this, I was suddenly faced with the loss of an organ that I’d spent a good deal of time effectively ignoring. I wondered for a moment if removal of the ovary would somehow make me less “a woman.” Of course, this calls into question what one considers to be a woman.
While staying in Las Vegas during Internext (http://www.internext-expo.com), Adult Entertainment Expo (http://www.adultentertainmentexpo.com), and the AVN Awards (http://www.avn.com), I had many opportunities to ask myself precisely that question – and so many more. I was surrounded by erotically idealized examples of womanhood. Generally petite and at least minimally (and sometimes maximally) enhanced, the female porn stars I mingled with often seemed more like animated archetypes than flesh and blood people. Yet they were both.
On the second day of AEE, I was invited to stay at a house being rented by Robert Hill Releasing (http://www.roberthillreleasing.com) for its trans performers Carmen Cruz (http://www.carmencruz.com) and Buck Angel (http://www.transexual-man.com). Two more different personalities might be difficult to find, yet they resided within that house for several days without major incident. Carmen was airy, effervescent, eternally chatty, and always on the prowl for a sexy party and maybe just a little bit of “trouble.” One evening before a possible shoot, she spent hours in the bathroom painting and perfuming her beautiful she-male body while she tried on a variety of sexy garments. Tidy was not a word I strongly associated with her, although she sure the hell sizzled once she settled on her “look.”
Buck, on the other hand, was heavily tattooed, leather jacket wearing, cigar smoking, and impressively defined above the waist in an entirely different way from the busty Carmen. The quiet but emphatic trans-man bills himself as the only “man with a pussy” in the adult industry and has caught the attention of not only the straight but gay side of the market. In a business model saturated with cocks in frocks and butch men with enormous dicks, a man with a pussy is a rare treat. I spent quite a bit of time with Buck and his delightful wife, Elayne Angel (http://www.ringsofdesire.com) and we puzzled often over the questions associated with sex, gender, what makes a man or a woman, the effects of testosterone on personality, receding hairlines, lesbianism, getting fucked, the differences between the M-to-F experience and the F-to-M experience, why any of it matters — and how much it sometimes does. I don’t know that any of us came to any conclusions, but it felt good to ask, discuss, and clarify the questions. There’s a reassuring bond in mutual pondering.
Although I don’t really believe that being sans an ovary will make me any less a woman than I am with two, I still don’t know exactly what I mean when I use the word “woman” to describe myself. I’m not the kind of woman that Carmen Cruz is, nor am I the kind that Buck Angel used to be. Elayne Angel and I have biological similarities, but are distinct feminine entities. I’m still figuring it all out – and I can only imagine what Marie Small would have to say about the entire thing.