This is my symphony

What I read & what I lived …

He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them “human.”
Genesis 5:2 New Living Translation

It was one of those late night conversations, just friend-to-friend over two (or it was three?) glasses of wine. My good friend turned to me and tossed out this zinger: “You approach life like a man.” I didn’t know whether to be insulted or take it as a compliment. Me, masculine? I was a single mom whose sole purpose at that point in her life was to nurture three kids through childhoods encumbered with all the messiness that divorce brings. I had loved a man as dearly as was humanly possible. I baked brownies and simmered homemade chicken soup on cold Sunmale and femaleday afternoons. I cross-stitched, for heaven’s sake!

But as much as I wanted to deny her assertion, I recognized the truth in what she said. I could be blunt and sharp-tongued. No nonsense.Get-down-to-business and let’s-not-talk-too-much-about-feelings. Impatient. Short-tempered. Kind of like my dad on his good days.

It only took a couple more decades for me to figure out that nature sometimes is nurture, and I was molded by what my mother and father modeled. But nature is also sometimes just … nature. And those masculine qualities were traits I was born with.They could serve me well in times of crisis when a cool he
ad needed to prevail. They could work against me when a more vulnerable approach was necessary. More importantly, I think, I’ve come to see that when humans are at our healthiest, we’re all of us male
and female, yin and yang.

When it comes to LGBT issues, I’m not well-read–and I’m certainly not savvy enough to be political about the issue. I do know people whom I love and admire and maybe that’s enough. I’m also drawn to stories of women and men who must come to terms with their feminine and masculine. Sometimes this is made even more difficult by the times in which they live, or the rules they believe they must follow to be normal or good. Which isn’t a thing, really.

There’s just you and me and all of the muss and muddle that makes us human.

Great reads about interesting human beings who bend gender rules:

Misfortune (Wesley Stace): A baby boy is thrown out on a trash heap in London, and his benefactor rescues him, only to raise the baby as Rose. Is this misfortune? Or is Rose Miss Fortune? (See what Stace did there?) It’s a romp of a read.

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell (William Klaber): Based on a true story, Lucy Lobdell initially disguises herself as a man after she runs away from an abusive husband. But after a time, Lucy comes to see herself as Joe.

Neverhome (Laird Hunt): A Civil War story with a twist. Johnny doesn’t go marching home; his wife does. Ash longs to go off to war–and adventure–but her husband Bartholomew does not. So she binds her chest and goes off to join a Union regiment, hoping to pass.

Middlesex  (Jeffrey Eugenides): I put off reading this Pulitzer Prize winner for a long time. I shouldn’t have. This three generation family saga tells the story of a Greek immigrant family’s journey to the U.S. The narrator X is diagnosed with a rare genetic mutation. So at age fourteen the child who was raised as the girl Caliope becomes Cal, the young man. Cal’s story is engaging, poignant, and not at all voyeuristic. It’s a must-read.  

In One Person (John Irving): If you’ve read me for any length of time, you know I love me my John Irving. This novel, however, isn’t his best–I just couldn’t leave it off the list.

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