Check out this totally awesome poem by Andrea Gibson, about living in our stupidly gender-obsessed culture when you present your gender ambiguously. (Contains some strong language.)

Transcript by Francisco/Genderkid
(below jump).

“Are you a boy or a girl?” he asks, staring up at me in all three feet of his pudding face grandeur, and I say “Dylan, you’ve been in this class for three years and you still don’t know if I’m a boy or a girl?” And he says “Uh-uh.” And I say “Well, at this point, I don’t really think it matters, do you?” And he says “Uhhhm, no. Can I have a push on the swing?” And this happens every day. It’s a tidal wave of kindergarten curiosity rushing straight for the rocks of me, whatever I am.

And the class, when we discuss the Milky Way galaxy, the orbit of the Sun around the Earth… or whatever. Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and kids, do you know that some of the stars we see when we look up in the sky are so far away, they’ve already burned out? What do you think of that? Timmy? “Umm… my mom says that even though you got hairs that grow from your legs, and the hairs on your head grow short and poky, and that you smell really bad, like my dad, that you’re a girl.” “Thank you, Timmy.”

And so it goes. On the playground, she peers up at me from behind her pink power puff sunglasses and then asks, “Do you have a boyfriend?” And I say no, and she says “Oh, do you have a girlfriend?” And I say “No, but if by some miracle, twenty years from now, I ever finally do, then I’ll definitely bring her by to meet you. How’s that?” “Okay. Can I have a push on the swing?”

And that’s the thing. They don’t care. They don’t care. Us, on the other hand… My father sitting across the table at Christmas dinner, gritting his teeth over his still-full plate, his appetite raped away by the intrusion of my haircut, “What were you thinking? You used to be such a pretty girl!” Frat boys, drunken, screaming, leaning out of the windows of their daddys’ SUVs, “Hey! Are you a faggot or a dyke?” And I wonder what would happen if I met up with them in the middle of the night.

Then of course there’s always the somehow not-quite-bright enough fluorescent light of the public restroom, “Sir! Sir, do you realize this is the ladies’ room?” “Yes, ma’am, I do, it’s just that I didn’t feel comfortable sticking this tampon up my penis in the men’s room.”

But the best, the best is always the mother at the market, sticking up her nose while pushing aside her daughter’s wide eyes, whispering “Don’t stare, it’s rude.” And I want to say, “Listen, lady, the only rude thing I see is your paranoid parental hand pushing aside the best education on self that little girl’s ever gonna get, living with your Maybelline lipstick after hips and pedi kiwi, vanilla-smelling beauty; so why don’t you take your pinks and blues, your boy-girl rules and shove them in that car with your fucking issue of Cosmo, because tomorrow, I start my day with twenty-eight minds who know a hell of a lot more than you. And if I show up in a pink frilly dress, those kids won’t love me any more, or less.”

“Hey, are you a boy or a — never mind, can I have a push on the swing?” And some day, y’all, when we grow up, it’s all gonna be that simple.

h/t Sociological Images

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16 comments for “Swingset

  1. Sarah
    January 30, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I adore Andrea Gibson. I strongly recommend purchasing or downloading her CD’s (legally). She wrote one of my favorite pieces called “Blue Blanket” that takes a fantastic look at the rape culture we live in.
    Plus, she has some great light hearted poems to.

  2. Jennifer
    January 30, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    This is one of my favorites, though Blue Blanket holds a special place in my heart too. For anyone within reasonable traveling distance of southwest Virginia, she’s going to be performing at Hollins University on February 22nd.

  3. corwin
    January 30, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Willows whiten.aspens quiver,
    Little breezes dusk and shiver
    Through the wave that runs forever
    By the island in the river
    Flowing down to Camelot.
    Four grey walls and four grey towers
    Overlook a space of flowers
    and the silent isle embowers,
    The Lady of Shallot

    One of my favorites

  4. Meghan
    January 30, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Yay! I have two of her CD’s and they are just marvelous.

  5. January 30, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    wow. not only is it a beautiful and powerful poem, but the language is just amazing…i’m in love with the message of the poem just as much as the sounds of the words she’s chosen…

  6. Corwin
    January 30, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    By the margin,willow veiled,
    Slide the heavy bages trailed
    by slow horses and unhail’d
    The shallop flitters silken-sailed
    Skimming down to Camelot
    But who hath seen her wave her hand?
    or at the casement seen her stand?
    Or is she known in all the land?
    The Lady of Shallot

  7. January 31, 2009 at 12:10 am

    I’m lucky enough to live in the same town as Andrea Gibson, and have seen her perform several times. She is incredible,

  8. January 31, 2009 at 4:43 am

    Goddamn. That’s just fucking right.

  9. January 31, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Cool, Emily! I wish I can see her one day. Her poem Andrew is another of my favorites.

  10. rex
    February 1, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Andrew Gibson came to my school and actually performed this poem. I do agree that most of it is quite striking, but the phrase “his appetite raped away” strikes me as inappropriately strong. I will not go so far as to say that such violent language may never be used as metaphor, but it does require careful choice and intention. Its placement here turns me off the rest of the work entirely.

  11. February 1, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Thank you for posting this. It made me smile. I hope she’s right that someday adults will be so unconcerned.

  12. Kelsey
    February 8, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    I love Andrea and her poems! This poem is great and (humorously) says so much about our society’s views of gender norms.

  13. July 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    I love this article!

Comments are closed.