Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Gender and... Coins?

As someone who's been mis-gendered my whole life, I pay careful attention to gender rules. It's surprising how deeply social edicts penetrate. Even areas where you don't expect gender rules to apply often have them -- with unspoken praise or criticism for meeting or violating the prescriptions.

Among a long list of experiences I could cite, let me relate one that happened last week. I was at Target buying a product and the cash-register rang up $12.02. I pulled a $10 bill and two singles out of my wallet; I announced to the cashier I have two cents and fished for pennies in the handful of coins in my front pocket.

What role could gender play in this scenario? None, I expected. But the cashier, a woman in her forties, was visibly taken aback. She looked at me and said, "I'm surprised you have coins. Men never carry change."

I tried to process her words. Men don't carry coins? What do they do with their change? When shopping, I always have a handful of coins in my pocket and use them for precisely this situation. Yes, I know women frequently have little coin-purses in their bags and helpfully pull them out to make purchases easier but I wasn't carrying a handbag, I wasn't using a coin-purse; I was merely doing what I thought all humans did in commerce regardless of gender. But to the cashier -- who interacts with customers all day long -- I am an outlier. A gender-bending pioneer with pennies. She didn't say her remark with condemnation; rather, she was simply expressing surprise.

Does my habit of carrying coins deserve comment? Is that how far gender has taken us?

Your thoughts?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Halston, Fashion Designer

I was looking for something to do yesterday so I rode my motorcycle to the Nassau County Museum of Art which has an in-depth retrospective on the life and work of famed fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick. Halston became so famous last century that he went by a single name (his middle), like Cher and Madonna.

What interests me about Halston is not his fashion designs but his role in society. In the Seventies, he was a celebrity who hung out at Studio 54 with close friends Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol. Even more significant, in the Eighties he was the first haute couture designer to launch a line of low-priced clothes in a discount store (JC Penneys). That experiment was a failure but led to later efforts in the same direction by other designers. The clothing line he sold at JC Penneys, called Halston III, was attractive but prompted high-end stores like Bergdorf Goodman to drop him, fearing Halston's association with lower-class retailers would ruin their own elitist reputation.

Halston started out as a young gay boy in the Midwest whose seamstress mother taught him how to sew hats. He gathered attention for his creative hats which allowed him to move into the fashion industry. The pinnacle of his success was designing hats for Jackie Kennedy (Onassis) who wore his famous Pillbox Hat at JFK's 1961 inauguration.

Women stopped wearing hats in the Sixties so Halston moved to designing clothes. His designs were simple and elegant. There are several on display in these photos. The last two pictures show the inexpensive clothes he designed for JC Penney -- which appeal to me. Despite their low cost, they possess subtle style.

Halston was also known for being one of the first celebrities to license his name for other products (e.g., perfume). He is often associated with the synthetic fabric Ultrasuede.

Halston's longest relationship (16 years) was with a man who was working as a male prostitute. Halston died in 1990 from AIDS.

Do you recognize his name? What do you think of his designs?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Love and Art

I visited a local art museum today and saw a Halston exhibition I'll write about tomorrow. Until then, here's a picture of my favorite statue. It reaches my heart.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Men In Skirts

This Summer, the weather in France is hot. So hot that male bus-drivers want to wear shorts at work. Unfortunately, a dress-code rule for their employment forbids shorts. The drivers protested but to no avail.

So what did they choose to do? Wearing skirts! Skirts are permitted by the dress-code. Even though obviously intended for women, the rule doesn't limit skirts to women so they are technically permitted for anyone, male or female.

Here's the story. No word on whether the drivers are shaving their legs...  :-)

What do you think?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Another Reason To Love Canada!

Our compassionate neighbor to the north just passed a law protecting transgender people from discrimination and harm. It's described in this news article.

One might think this protection is so self-evident it ought to be law everywhere but you'd be surprised. Many U.S. states don't have it and neither does U.S. federal law. There are a few local laws here and there but, on the whole, transgender people in my country are subject to discrimination and harm without legal redress.

An important significance of laws like this are their cultural symbolism. This is what a Canadian legislator said: "Transgender and gender-diverse people deserve to know that they are welcome and accepted, embraced and protected, and that in Canada they are free to be their true selves."


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Defying Expectations

My whole life I've defied expectations. People make assumptions about me based on external appearances but their assumptions are wrong. It happened again today, in a different direction than usual.

Every motorcyclist will tell you we get approached by strangers in public. The encounters are usually pleasant and fall into two categories. Most common are older men who compliment your bike and tell you they rode in their youth. Their story usually ends with "...then I got married and my wife said I couldn't ride any more." These guys are wistful and sad.

The second group of strangers, frequently older women, want to scold you. They tell you that their neighbor's brother's kid got killed on a motorcycle and imply that such is your fate. Explaining the satisfying joy of motorcycle-riding to these people is a futile endeavor.

So I'm out on The Jolly Roger today, my fiery red sportbike. I pull into a parking lot and notice a kid in his twenties mesmerized by my bike. He gawks at my expensive gear and can't take his eyes off me. When I remove my helmet, he really wigs out. From ten feet away, he yells "Dude! You're old!"

I wasn't sure what he meant by that so I didn't react. He quickly turns apologetic and tries to explain himself. "I mean, that bike's got balls! I never expected you to be riding it." Okay, so it was seeing my grey hair that shocked him. He didn't expect to see a geezer like me piloting a motorcycle this sporty. I smiled and said, "You're only old when you choose to be old."

If I wanted to further surprise the kid, I could have told him I'm really a girl. But that would have caused his head to explode and I didn't want to clean pieces of his brain off the bike.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Life On Two Wheels

Heading out on an aimless motorcycle ride
relaxed yet spirited pace
into the night
on my poem of a bike
which pours my soul into the wind