My New Band Is: Girl Report
Wherein I report my own gender nonconformity to The State.
As you may have noticed, the right-leaning state legislatures in this country like to generate a lot of stupid legally untenable laws designed to strip the rights of certain classes of Americans. Georgia is a couple of steps away from requiring everything short of a DNA test to vote and in defending it, the NRO is arguing, against their own interest, that we should only allow informed voters to cast ballots—as if that would help, rather than hurt the party that elected Donald J. Trump.
More recently, North Carolina is trying to pass a hideous anti-trans law that requires state employees to inform parents if their child displays “‘gender nonconformity’ or expresses a desire to be treated in a way that is incompatible with the gender they were assigned at birth”. I have no idea what the criteria for “gender nonconformity” are, but I do know what gender stereotypes are, having been on the receiving end of them, like most humans.
So I’m gonna do North Carolinian bigots a solid: I will self-disclose my non-conforming behavior, even though I am not a child and if the state wants to make me more girly, that ship has already sailed. I will even send this report to my parents if they want.
Am I Even A Girl, Really?: A Self-Assessment.
Elizabeth hates the color pink. Genuinely hates it. Her favorite color is blue. It’s always been blue. Blue reminds her of the ocean and the sky and the eyes of the first boy she ever had a crush on. Pink reminds her of Pepto Bismol and tampons and conjunctivitis.
Elizabeth has a lot of boy friends. Not boyfriends. Men who are just friends. She spends time with them and has meaningful conversations with them, often alone while consuming gin martinis, and does this without ever wanting or needing to have sex with them. And not because she does not view them as sexual beings; because she views them as whole, complex humans and does not assess their value primarily through a sexual lens.
Elizabeth loves James Bond movies and has strong opinions about Timothy Dalton. Her preferred interior design aesthetic is cocaine chic and plans to one day build a house that looks like a Bond villain lair. Another Bond aficionado once asked her if she had fantasies of being a Bond Girl. She has never wanted to be a Bond Girl (except maybe Eva Green, who is fantastic). She has always wanted to be Bond.
Elizabeth is a writer who utilizes language as a professional and tries to be precise about the words she uses, but loves a good stream of well-deployed profanity, and a truly filthy dirty joke. She says fuck in public all the time, and it’s not very ladylike. She says it on Twitter, in emails. She tries not to say it in front of the five year old, but if you ever hear him saying it, she will apologize but secretly be a little proud if he deploys it correctly and artfully.
Elizabeth’s five year old is a boy child and she is constantly having to explain to him why, contra what he sees on children’s television, mom has always preferred Legos to Barbies, chemistry sets to tea sets, tools to jewels. And no, she really does not like the color pink, and it’s okay if he does.
Elizabeth sometimes watches porn and has specific preferences. So do most of the women she knows, and she finds it irritating that we live in a culture that constantly downplays the extent to which women enjoy sex solely for pleasure. Or that they enjoy it at all.
When people asked Elizabeth what she wanted to be when she grew up, she told them she wanted to be an auto mechanic. A few years later, she wanted to be president. Then she wanted to be a lawyer because she likes arguing and has endless stamina for it and this often causes her to waste way too much time on Twitter. She went to college and majored in public policy and political science because she wanted to work in international security, ideally as an analyst, working on the problem of terrorism. She did not end up doing that, and as a result, you are reading her newsletter.
Elizabeth tends to be reserved in person, and because she is not a boy, this is sometimes regarded as aloofness by people who don’t know her. She maintains that she is a strong, silent type, even though she’s never heard that description applied to a woman.
As a teenager, her sartorial aesthetic was a kind of androgynous preppiness. She wore a lot of polo shirts and Patagonia hiking shorts. She often bought these things in the men’s department because all the polo shirts in the women’s department were fucking pink.
In her early 20s, Elizabeth started a happy hour called The Christopher Hitchens Drinking Club. She was a Hitchens fan and libertarian(ish) then, and no, she didn’t agree with him about Iraq and his assertion that women could never be truly funny (because they understood the pain of childbirth or some such nonsense) was sad and very, very wrong. But nonetheless: the point of the club was to debate a political issue once sober and again drunk, which is a ripoff of a conceit from a PJ O’Rourke / Chris Buckley column, and also not a very good idea. Attendance at the CHDC was 92% male because, she realized later, people who are Hitchens fans are overwhelmingly men, and the debates never got off the ground because the sober debate part of the happy hour never happened, largely because most people began the hour with a scotch on the rocks, as Hitchens would have done. Then followed it with more scotches, which Hitchens did, many times.
Despite all of this, Elizabeth is not a “guy’s girl”. When her boy friends say shit that’s casually misogynistic, she tells them that and they talk about it, like adults. She does not feel the need to pretend to like “boy” things when she doesn’t in order to curry favor with them, in the same way that the men she’s friends with never pretend to have any interest in more traditionally female things when they don’t. She doesn’t understand why anyone thinks golf is fun and thinks spending all day trying to whack a tiny ball into a tiny hole is a metaphor for the cosmological insignificance of man.
Elizabeth did perfectly well in STEM subjects. In fact, she was at the top of her class, thanks, @bayesiantfreethinker1983. She did not become a programmer because she was more concerned about how to stop religious apocalyptic terrorists, as all teenage girls are.
Elizabeth’s ideal meal is a bloody steak with a gin martini. Her friends all understand this and her friend Sloane, who is a vegetarian, took one for the team and booked her bachelorette dinner at an excellent steakhouse in Miami. Then they all sat on the beach, with their beach reads--in Elizabeth’s case, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Report. Elizabeth admits that in many respects, she has the tastes of your baby Boomer dad, but has not yet become obsessed with books about the Nazis.
Elizabeth married a guy she worked with. She was his boss. She maintains that no one should ever date their subordinates, which she hasn’t done before (or since, obviously), and that doing it is generally unethical and a recipe for a sexual harassment lawsuit. As a result, she disclosed to her own boss as soon as something Not Professional happened that it had happened, and asked him to change the reporting lines so that her future husband wasn’t reporting directly to her. He declined, thought it was fine. The owner of the company, Jared Kusher, saw no problem with it, because he does not understand basic labor law and could not fathom the sexual harassment implications because the boss in this case, Elizabeth, was a woman. Her now husband once met Jared for a drink at the Armani store, which inexplicably has a restaurant, to discuss the commercial real estate publication the Observer owned, and in the course of making small talk they discussed the relationship. Jared’s only question about it was whether Elizabeth was a good cook.
Elizabeth is very analytical but whatever the opposite of detail-oriented is. She will not do your administrative shit for you, dude, because you wouldn’t do it for her, either. And you wouldn’t want her to do it. She is bad at it.
Elizabeth is annoyed that any of these things are considered gendered, a frustration she knows is shared by men who are stay at home dads, who like cooking, care about fashion, watch The Bachelor, have no problem talking about their feelings (or admitting they have them), enjoy a good facial, hate sports bars, and think of sex primarily as a emotional experience. She has some nostalgia for her early childhood when she really didn’t know that many of her interests and predispositions were reserved for boys. She doesn’t know how this hateful, coercive law would even be enforced or enacted considering that some people view everything through a gendered lens, but knows that it’s fundamentally designed to erase trans people, and, secondarily, force women out of male-dominated spaces by forcing them to perform cliched expressions of gender as children. Transphobia and male supremacy are complimentary, to use a word Evangelicals love, abominations. It also willfully and hatefully misinterprets trangenderism as performance, and one that is defined primarily by performing traditional markers of gender.
Elizabeth is a straight (or mostly straight—sexuality is not a binary, and she has been attracted to women before) cisgendered woman, and doesn’t really give a fuck what some sexually insecure bigoted conservatives think she should or should not be doing, and also does not care what they think her son should or should not do. She thinks these jackasses who abuse the word “liberty” every day want freedom for no one but themselves, and think only they are entitled to “pursuit of happiness.” This law will never see the light of day because their ignorance is both constitutional and Constitutional, but that makes it no less appalling. If they did manage to create this Big Brotherish bigoted dystopia, she can only speak for herself, but she’d double down on everything they think is unladylike.
She’d even take up golf—and beat the shit out of them at it.
[Recurring Disclosure Feature: I obviously am not working in international security right now. But I learned a lot about chemical weapons in college by working on something related to this, and if you have any disconcertingly combustible nitroglycerin-propelled M55 rockets that could potentially leak nerve agents that target acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, I have an opinion about how to get rid of them and have never been able to deploy this knowledge in my professional or personal life. If you live in my liberal neighborhood of Brooklyn and have this problem: they are sadly not compostable.]