Portrait of the Artist as a Young Tomboy

So I’ve started riding a bicycle again. It’s the first time I’ve done so in about 25 years. I bought the one I’ve got for $20 from a departing faculty member, which gave me the perfect non-committal way of seeing if I would ride.

& Oh, do I. I started some last fall, & when the weather got nice this year, I started doing 6 miles, then 7, then 10; then I leaped to 15, and so on, until now I bike about 20 miles a day, every day.

It brings me a lot of peace. I usually go out on a bike path around dusk, so I can get the last of the sun on my way out, & see the sunset on my way back.

Today, my chain came undone, which has happened maybe twice before – the very first time I rode the damn thing, but a friend fixed it. Now, due to her lovely example, I know what to do, and what you do is turn your hands into a goddamn mess. Still, I got the chain back on, wiped them on my black pants (which I only wear to ride), and went on my way.

Later in the trip I stopped to take a drink and needed some lip stuff, so I dug around in my bag and found a Burt’s Bees lip gloss. What a sight, right? Hands blackened with that greasy soot oh so carefully applying lip gloss. I had a moment where I thought: I have now re-achieved tomboy in a way I never imagined, but it’s true: I love going over curbs and through gravel and the kind of competitive cycling that most appeals to me is cyclocrossing, which worries me, but there it is.

Still, I need stuff & how much stuff I need is starting to make Rachel nervous: gloves, a warm thing for my head & under my helmet (a balaclava, they tell me it’s called, although with plenty of cycling nomenclature, that seems overstated), moisture-wicking shirts, a windbreaker, and, of course, stuff to clean your greasy hands with that doesn’t require water.

And a new bike with way more gears. Originally I thought I’d quit as it got colder, but on these first chillier days – it’s already dropping to the 40s here in the evenings – I’m pretty damn sure I won’t be quitting at all, just buying new & different stuff to ride in the cold/sleet/hail/snow.

So yes, maybe Rache should be nervous. Either way, fellow cyclists, tell me what I need, give me your best advice, or just say hi.

Breeding Out Tomboys

So what do you call it when a female doctor walks into a gene lab & doses all the pregnant mothers with a drug to prevent their daughters from wanting to work in “masculine” careers? Hypocrisy? Insanity? Female chauvinism? Pulling up the ladder under you?

I call it bullshit, but it’s happening. Dr. Maria New, an endocrinologist, is trying to prevent CAH in female infants, but as it turns out, the drug that prevents this masculinizing intersex condition in XX infants seems also seems to decrease incidents of lesbianism and bisexuality while simultaneously decreasing girls’ other “natural” impulses like playing with dolls and fantasizing about pregnancy and childbirth.

(Do little girls fantasize about pregnancy & childbirth? I had no idea. I never did, and I did play with dolls.)

From an article by Alice Dreger and two colleagues:

And it isn’t just that many women with CAH have a lower interest, compared to other women, in having sex with men. In another paper entitled “What Causes Low Rates of Child-Bearing in Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia?” Meyer-Bahlburg writes that “CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.”

In the same article, Meyer-Bahlburg suggests that treatments with prenatal dexamethasone might cause these girls’ behavior to be closer to the expectation of heterosexual norms: “Long term follow-up studies of the behavioral outcome will show whether dexamethasone treatment also prevents the effects of prenatal androgens on brain and behavior.”

In a paper published just this year in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, New and her colleague, pediatric endocrinologist Saroj Nimkarn of Weill Cornell Medical College, go further, constructing low interest in babies and men – and even interest in what they consider to be men’s occupations and games – as “abnormal,” and potentially preventable with prenatal dex:

So dex might have prevented Dr. Maria New, which right about now looks like it would have been a good idea.

I’d also like to point out right about here that, for the record, for all the people who pooh-pooh non-trans, gender variant women when we talk about being “third sexed” along with trans women, that it looks like us dykey, tomboy, uppity types are the first on the chopping block.

Still & all, Dan Savage asks an important question:

Gay people have been stressing out about the day arriving when scientists developed treatments to prevent homosexuality . . . Well, here we are—the day appears to have arrived. Now what are we going to do about it?

So what are we going to do about it?