when I first became aware of gender as an issue…

It is 1978: From afar – I catch myself watching CJ at the “back door” smoking cigarettes like the rest of us, but never talking to anyone. CJ is a few years older than me. CJ and I never speak and we do not seem to have the same friends. It isn’t until one day when Mr. D. our principal calls “Cindy” to his office. CJ is a girl, at least according to my high school principal. Soon after my new found awareness, Denise comes to me saying “You are the only one I can trust, but I must talk to someone. I have been fooled and I am so embarrassed.” I barely know Denise, we are in a few classes together, but rarely speak. Maybe we smoke the same brand of cigarettes and bum off each other from time to time. I never know why people trust me with their secrets. Anyway, Denise had had a date with CJ and was revolted to find a wad of tissue in CJ’s crotch in exchange for the penis she was expecting to find. I reassure Denise, that it was OK and CJ was most likely not trying to fool her, but was certainly taking on an identity that felt more secure. Today – I can not remember how it all turned out, but I never again saw CJ smoking at the back door. I think CJ dropped out of high school.

A few years later, I found myself in a class titled “Anthropology of the Family”. I thought – this is it! We talked and read about individual roles in the family, nature vs.nurture, and gender – including babies born with ambiguous genitals. How we are raised vs. what our body chemistry is. Unfortunately due to my own fears of ambiguous gender roles in myself, and fear of getting too close to the subject matter at hand, I dropped out. I also thought my parents would see the class as irrelevant – so when I changed majors from psychology to art, I kept Biology to keep my science oriented family happy. Now here I am again – only this time my family will just have to make do! 🙂

The Gender Portraiture Project is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life!