Tracy and Robin had joked for years before they got married that people never knew who was “he” and who was “she” of the two of them. They decided that it was nobody’s business, so they never let on.
Their friends had hoped to learn the truth on their wedding day. Surely they would wear the traditional clothes? They were in for quite a surprise when they arrived at the event. They wore the traditional clothes, but not in the traditional way. This was in line with everything they stood for, so it made sense after all, but it still didn’t answer any questions.
Tracy and Robin were drawn to each other not out of a sense of finding their other half, but in finding another person who was whole. Both were perfectly comfortable repairing a car or knitting a shawl. Both could mow the lawn as well as cook. They felt lucky that their parents had taught them both how to be people first and foremost. Their gender was never used as a reason for or against learning anything.
They both hid their gender, not out of a sense of privacy or shame, but out of a sense of rightness. They wanted people to relate to them as people. The first item of prejudice was gender. Sure, you could add race, religion, creed, national origin and a host of other things up to and including what football team they rooted for. People used any excuse they could to pigeonhole you, to decide who you were before you even opened your mouth. Tracy and Robin figured that the more you can avoid those markers, the more people would have to make up their own minds for a change.
They were mindful to shop only where the bathrooms were genderless. Sometimes the buildings were old and only had one restroom with a single toilet. Sometimes they had family restrooms. They didn’t want to have to out themselves if they could avoid it.
They shopped at thrift stores, getting whatever clothing that struck their fancy and wasn’t too snug. Both were equally comfortable in pants or skirts. They were pleased when they could find clothing that was from immigrants because it was often loose and ambiguous. Comfort was the most important thing.
It was always assumed that one was female, but it wasn’t a given. Both could have been. Or neither. Or one or both could be intersex. Did it matter? Nobody separates by eye color or height, so why separate by something as equally meaningless and random as gender?
The Varda was concerned. It looked out at the scene before it, wasteland, all of it. Stones atop stones atop dry earth. The desolation stretched out as far as The Varda’s eyes could see, and The Varda could see very far – at least on the right side. The left side was nearsighted, but not just in distance.
The Varda had six eyes – two for each head. Each head had different capabilities and most certainly a different personality. The left saw the past, as far back as human history began, but no further. The center saw the present in all its glory and sadness. The right saw the future, shifting and uncertain to human eyes, but solid and sure to The Varda.
The Varda was just that, The Varda. It had no other name. How could it? With three heads and one lion-like body, it was three beings and yet one. This confounded everyone but made perfect sense to it. To name each head was to ignore the very reality of its oneness and unity within itself. It was the very example of cooperation and harmony. World leaders should have studied it, but didn’t. They might have averted this tragedy.
The Varda was always “it” – never he, or she. How could you determine gender? It did not reproduce, so it had no need for the simple distinctions of language. The Varda was simply The Varda, and nothing more.
All around The Varda were the cries of pain and confusion. The earthquake had ruined the centuries-old village with its monuments and temples. Shrines were in shambles. Homes were reduced to the clay that they had been molded from.
Enough earthquakes had happened in the past three hundred years here that the people had stopped building anything higher than a single story for their homes, or out of anything more substantial than packed earth. What was the point? It was easier to rebuild if there was less rubble in the way. Sort out the few meager belongings, set them to the side. Wet the same earth over again, pack it into simple wooden frames, let it set for an hour, pop it out and let it dry. A few days later they could rebuild the house – the same, or different this time. It was like forced redecorating. They had come to accept this as their normal.
It wasn’t normal. It wasn’t normal at all. They couldn’t see this, because of their limited sight. The Varda knew better. With time stretched out before it like a topographic map, it knew the dips and peaks of human history. It knew whether the people it watched were going to have a hard climb up the mountain of difficulty or an easy time of plenty in the valley of content.
Time was flat now, even for The Varda. It didn’t like this, not one bit. In all its eons of life, it had never felt so blind, so lost. It was missing its one way to guide its people, to keep them safe.
There was no way The Varda could let them know how lost it was. Their pain would only be magnified. It had to adapt, to learn how to see just the now, the present. Right now, all three heads saw only what was in front of them and nothing more.
It had started when the volcano erupted. Started? Perhaps stopped was more accurate. The three-part vision had turned off silently and slowly, like day fading into dusk. It was so gradual that The Varda didn’t even realize it until its sight was darkness, all flat and senseless. It could see, certainly, but not with the sharpness or meaning or surety that it had known all of its life. This was different.
Now The Varda was just like the people of this land. Time to rebuild, but this time it would be different. It would have to be.
I noticed something on a form recently for the first time. I don’t mean that I’ve never seen this before – I mean that I saw it with new eyes.
The form had a place for you to circle your title. Mr./Mrs./Miss
There are several things going on here. Notice that the male title is first.
Second – notice that there are two different titles for women, indicating whether you are married or not. There is a perfectly acceptable variant, “Ms.” that does not indicate marital status. Notice that men don’t have a different title if they are single or married.
And then I noticed it even more deeply. This is beyond hierarchy and status.
What do we even need these titles for? Why does it matter if someone is male or female?
Look at some of the names that are gender neutral. Robin, Terry, Dana, Tracy.
Do we treat people differently because of their gender, or status? If so, why?
Then I considered all the different names that I come across every day. Nashville is full of people from all around the world, and I don’t know all of their naming practices. I have no way of knowing if a name belongs to a female or a male. Does it matter?