Chapter 4

Friends with Women

- ---o=O=o--- -

But really guys, who understands women? he said to the audience
Hahahahaha said the audience
Because we all know the ways
All the ways get mixed up
And things aren't the same anymore

And because
If we don't understand
We are innocent,

Written during my South Pacific trip, 2011

- --o=o-- -

One of the main topics I hit when telling family and extended family about my (trans) gender is my sophomore year study abroad to the South Pacific. The Studio Art major at my school was heavily weighted towards women, and this was a trip focused on drawing and printmaking. There were around 32 women, 4 men, and myself. We were constantly travelling, hiking, drawing, and living together—it was like a female immersion program.

For most of my life, my relationship with women was filled with mystification and deep, invisible barriers. Certainly part of the blame rests on my parents and the church for being needlessly prudish and gender segregating, but the surrounding culture had/has its own limitations as well. I never consciously believed that women were inferior, or that I had bad interactions with women because of their gender. But on some level there was always an essential Otherness, an inherent superfluity, impossibility, or even danger of connecting to women outside of marriage, dating, or sex (depending on who you ask).

Spending ten weeks completely surrounded by women set me on a path towards unlearning what I had learned. Women formed nearly the entire "cast" in the story of my life for that time period. They were joking buddies, they were rivals, they were conversational partners, they were teammates, they were crushes, they were incidental. The fact that I identified with and enjoyed the friendship of some of the women on that trip more than any of the men was a simple and incontrovertible fact.

I was learning to see women as people.

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