On Gender

Does the moon envy
sun’s glorified reign –
(gender inferred)

Sons were sun
in my family,
we women lunar

Father straddled
the two – a secret
we fought to suppress

Fluidity of pronouns
non-existant
in formative years.

(Image my own)

In Remembrance (for Father)

I hold a photo of my father –
on that last Remembrance Day –
am awed by the person we never knew.

Just fifteen, he signed on,
joined ranks with an elite squad,

trained for unarmed combat.

He wears his Commando’s beret,
medals proudly adorning his breast –
symbols whose meanings are now lost.

They were the best and the brightest –
sleuthing out enemy stores, carrying

operative data to oncoming troops.

He cried that day, as candles glowed –
tears for the fallen – “Good men,”
he muttered, squeezing my hand.

A suicide mission, he’d called it,
armed with a knife and hands
of steel – a black pill if caught.

By day, he never spoke of war,
at night, he screamed in terror.
Why such a mission? I asked.

He’d had his own secret cause –
a war waging within him – 

bent on eradicating a tragic flaw.

War made my father – a disciplined,
regimented man of iron, intimidating,
fearless – machismo at its best.

He returned a hero, celebrated
with his hometown, and left again –

the lie still burning within him.

Father was a valiant soldier –
counted himself privileged
to serve beside the honourable.

At fifteen, a girl whose body
belied her existence, enlisted

in a fight to become a man.

(The original version of In Remembrance appeared November 11, 2015.  I resubmit it here, edited, for my weekly challenge: sacrifice.  My father sacrificed his life during the war, and then went on to sacrifice his true identity for the rest of his years. November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada, a time to honour those who fought for our freedom. )

 

Debonair and Deprived

“Is that you father?”
acquaintances would ask –
voices deep and dreamy.

Particular about his dress,
meticulous in his grooming,
Dad’s eyes sparkled oceans

his dark, wavy curls
framing a strong face,
his body tall and muscled.

I’d tilt my head sideways,
incredulous at this response,
then realize they’d fallen

for his mask – carefully
debonair, he exuded charm,
a well-rehearsed routine.

It’s his birthday today –
would be, you see, but
Dad passed over long ago.

Tortured, he was, relieved
to be done with a life
so defined by deprivation

for masculinity was only
a shell – housed a restless
spirit, a woman never seen

forced into seclusion by
a society – a family – who
could not/ would not see.

He may be free, but the tragedy
lingers – awareness now so raw
of all that might have been.

“Yes, that it my father,”
I might have said, adding
“A beautiful soul trapped inside.”

(My father was born June 14, 1924, and struggled all his life with his “secret”.  He turned to the Navy commandos at the age of 15, hoping to “beat” his impulses, and then alcohol to numb the pain.  We bore the brunt of his suffering, and were never able to cross the bridge to understanding. I have no pictures of my father, and only this one image of myself as a teen.  We looked very much alike.)

Fandango’s word of the day is debonair.

Daily Addiction is deprive.

Glass Caskets

What mysteries lie in ancestral roots,
what clues to illuminate the dysfunction
that permeated our familial ties, cursed
us with a pervasive sense of perversity?

We are a portrait of deviancy: still life
torsos, dismembered from birth, non-
conforming hormonal structures denied
reception in the aftermath of Victorianism.

An aunt, who despite her outer female
attributes earned the nickname Billy
tried her best to acclimatize to girlie legs,
distracted herself with industry, could not

bear the swirl of dresses, nor the reek
of men’s cologne, banished herself to
far off lands; followed a brother – also
optically illusive – knew himself as Liz,

adapted arms and legs of steel to bury
his essence, donned military rags, and
macho outbursts; failed to elude his
inner truth. Raised by this disembodied

woman, whose embittered cries echoed
through our hollow chambers, shattered
any attempts at compassion; we were
observers at a funeral, where the casket,

made of glass, held a lonely figure – head
and shoulders solely visible – all but dead,
suspended, like a science experiment gone
terribly wrong, abandoned, in a gel-like bath –

embalmed dysmorphia on private display.
Lacked the resources to understand the
complexity of their sufferings, too entwined
to be rational – ignorance blinded by shame.

Only now, in the light of current revelations,
is the depth of our misguided conclusions
made tragic – wish I could reach back through
time, adjust the settings to acceptance, but

lack the currency, have no resources, other
than these words, to communicate the sheer
brutality of discrimination – have witnessed
the bloodied carnage of authenticity oppressed.

(Image: Pinterest)

 

 

A Woman I Never Knew

Much planning involved in duplicity,
when absence of feminine is intent –

no amount of research can release
her, buried in a home within a home.

Empty out existing observations,
imposed interpretations – education

only served to dismay us further –
all erasable.  Forensic investigation

required to grasp the inner workings,
only seasoned visitors have caught

wind of – witnesses (mother/father);
all we children knew was her name;

a moniker that invoked turmoil, yet
she, pregnant with hope, anticipation

would make her presence known –
a grand performance – she did not

belong; we shunned her, doubted
her veracity, convinced her host

was manipulative, depraved – had
no concept of acceptance – chose

separation – s/he pushed me out;
not that I was ever welcomed –

a child of this woman within a man,
whose obsession consumed us,

consumed my innocence, toyed
with my journey to self-discovery,

distorted images of beauty rooted
in the hovering pall of her presence/

absence; tried to escape, seek help,
create a semblance of normalcy, but

am haunted by the woman, whose
destiny, never achieved, now lags

behind me, feeding my frailty; wish
I had found the words, openness,

had dared to know her, to have stood
beside the she Dad was meant to be.

(Image:  lgbrpcv.org)

Tragedy

A splash of icy water –
first personal assault
on an adopted persona –
marked each day’s start.

With military precision
the lie, perpetuated since
childhood, was carried out –
a ritualized euthanization.

Starched collar, tightly
knotted tie (hangman’s
accomplice), solidified
the tortured charade.

A stray, unyielding curl
atop neatly cropped hair –
lonely vestige – belied
the woman locked within.

Stiff comportment channelled
inner rage, buried beneath
driven pursuit of monetary
success professing normalcy.

Behind the mask, a gentler
soul watched, agonizingly
lonely – abandoned authenticity
imprisoned, denied expression.

Alcohol, sought to numb twisted
reality – exacerbated tensions,
propelled acts of violence, drowned
unwitting co-conspirators, diminished

hope – no viable solution – society
uncompromising – fantasies of death –
swift release – defined behaviours,
created a legacy, a prayer adopted

by a child left behind, incapacitated
by father’s anguish,  smothered
by ashes of incredulous tragedy,
awaiting the phoenix’s rising.

In Remembrance

latest-1

I stare at the photo of my father,
that last Remembrance Day,
in awe of a person we never knew.

Just fifteen, the awkwardly tall
figure joined ranks with an elite
squad trained for unarmed combat.

He’s wearing his Commando’s beret,
medals proudly adorning his breast,
symbols whose meaning are now lost.

They were the best and the brightest,
sleuthing out enemy stores, carrying
imperative data to oncoming troops.

He cried that day, as candles glowed –
symbols of lives lost – “Good men,”
he muttered, and squeezed my hand.

A suicide mission, he’d called it,
armed only with a knife and hands
of steel – a black pill if caught.

By day, he never spoke of war,
at night, he screamed in terror,
Why such a mission? I asked.

He’d had his own secret cause,
a war waging within him – bent
on eradicating his heroic flaw.

War made my father – a disciplined,
regimented man of iron, intimidating,
fearless – machismo at its best.

He returned a hero, celebrated
with his hometown, and left again –
the lie still alive within him.

My father was a valiant soldier –
counted himself as privileged –
to serve alongside the honourable.

At fifteen, a girl whose body
belied her existence, enlisted
in a fight to become a man.

* * *

In remembrance of the countless men and women who put their lives on the line in the name of freedom – every one of which has a story.

 

 

For You, Dad

Anti-establishment
and flower power
formed the backdrop of my youth.
Women burning their bras,
Hippies holding sit-ins,
War in Vietnam.

Ideals began to form.

Beatles and Rolling Stones
were household names,
and school children took
the Pepsi vs. Coke challenge.
Twiggy and Mary Quaint
set the fashion stage.

I lived in creative times.

A flower-toting leader,
dating well below his years,
wooed his lovers and his nation
with a French accent,
and called in the army when
the FLQ threatened peace.

Passion awakened in my heart.

Open concept was my classroom,
education free-style.
We had a Wong and a Suzuki,
and watched the Black Panthers
on a sometimes-coloured TV,
and learned that we were WASPs.

I was on the edge of compassion.

Talk shows revealed infidelities,
and debated homosexuality –
criminal or mental instability?
Equal rights meant equal pay
while Country Clubs posted exclusions
and institutes housed the nonconforming.

I started questioning.

Home-made prevailed over store-bought,
and a Valium suppressed mother
kept my father’s castle,
and we went to church on Sundays
and practiced perfect smiles
and learned to pretend.

Enlightenment comes at a price.

Too young to understand the dynamics
of my brooding inner turmoil,
I raged at the discrepancies,
and swung with a fast right,
fighting for a justice
I could not articulate.

I learned to hate.

The consideration my father preached
was a one-way street.
He spewed racism, and sexism, and abuse;
over-worked, over-drank, and
railed against a world
where he could find no acceptance.

I discovered we had secrets.

Teen pregnancy, LSD,
and schizophrenia invaded
our patriarchal fortress,
internal combustion threatened,
yet we held fast to our façade –
happiness and solidarity.

When Dad came out I wasn’t ready.

High school came, along with disco;
Barbie dolls were traded
for platforms and menthols.
While Rocky Horror gained a cult following
my father revealed his own cross-dressing
ambitions and asked us to call him Liz.

I learned to run away.

Halter-tops and tight blue jeans
attracted adverse attention,
the police told me after the rape.
I crawled back home and began to cut
unable to feel through the armour
of numbness I had donned.

There was no way out.

Donahue paraded real life transvestites
before a disbelieving audience,
while psychiatrists spoke of deviant addictions.
Electric shock treatments broke my father,
he begged but I pushed him back in the closet.
We would not speak of it again.

I steeled myself against life.

Landlines, now, are disappearing,
Televisions smarter: Reality the new fiction.
Songza picks my playlists.
Integration and differentiation
are the educational goals I seek
to fulfill in my role as teacher.

Relief followed my father’s death.

LGBQT is on the forefront
workshops teach about sexual orientation
and gender identity,
and I learn that it is hormones –
not addiction – that decide,
and the realization pierces my heart.

There’s been a tragic misunderstanding.

My liberated, forward thinking mind,
strangled by a self-serving heart
slammed the door on possibility
eclipsing the brilliance and creativity
of the soul that was my father.
I never knew his authentic self.

There is no going back.

The river runs within me now,
a deep and endless stream.
The shards of my former reality
too shattered to mend; I stumble
humbled by the inadequacy
of this human existence.

I write for you, now, Dad.

Day 247 “Multiple Perspectives”

Anti-establishment
and flower-power
formed the background of my youth.
Women burning their bras,
Hippies holding sit-ins,
War in Vietnam.

Beatles and Rolling Stones
were household names,
and school children took
the Pepsi vs Coke challenge.
Twiggy and Mary Quaint
and Piccadilly Circus
set the fashion stage.

A flower-toting leader
dating well below his years,
wooed his lovers and his nation
with a french accent
and a sense for current trends,
and called in the army when
the FLQ threatened peace.

My school was open-concept
and learning free-style.
We had a Wong and a Suzuki,
and watched the Black Panthers
uprising in the South
and learned we were WASPS.

Homosexuality was debated hotly-
criminal or mental instability –
and transgender was not even a word.
While the world around us struggled
with equality and human rights
my family hid behind our walls
while my father dressed in drag.

Times have changed,
and perspectives altered
and sexes can now marry same.
There is sexual orientation
and gender identity,
male and female polarities de-mythed.

Human rights
on the forefront
of law-making and policies.
Universal Design for Learning
stressing accessibility.

How I wish you could see it, father,
from your resting place.
This world of ours is changing
and what was once disgrace
will someday be commonplace.

Inspired by: “Transgender Dysmorphia Blues” Against Me!