Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day One - Saturday October 18: One Bread, One Body

"Hey lady, spare some change?"

Despite the places I've bound and packed, I still get called female as much as I used to be called male (which ironically when I wasn't packing, was more often).

My day started with leading bible study (on Isaiah 56) and worship at the synod's hunger workshop. It was great to be with them, to have a free meal and some to take with me to share with the other fools who are living on the streets with me this week.

If anyone noticed that I was packing, they didn't say anything to me. But, I'm not really sure how that would come up in the context of a communion service.

It was a great feeling to take the remaining communion bread to the streets with me to share with the homeless, as Luther used to do after his services.

One bread, one body.

My body, on the other hand is already upset. Not in the way I expect it will be after a week of sleeping on the streets and in the shelters, but it is certainly rebelling. My shoulders and neck are throbbing from the frogbra (or perhaps from wearing a stiff clergy collar), which binds my breasts tightly to my body. They are indeed closer than ever before, but they are not very well supported vertically.

My lips throb from the outbreak of coldsores (about 12) that sprouted on my lip from the stress of trying to get enough work to be able to have the privilege of being homeless.

So, I begin noticing my body, and noticing how others notice (or fail to) my body. Tonight as I brushed my teeth in the men's room at the church (which was open for a speed dating event), a man confronted me. It's funny because the use of the men's room is always a priviledge that I have wondered why I want. If you've never been in one before, I referring to the fact that men's rooms are usually smaller, smellier and very messy.

Tonight this man finished at the urinal and exclaimed "I didn't know this was a unisex bathroom!" to which I retorted, "actually in San Francisco anyone is allowed to use the bathroom of their choice despite their appearance and gender indentity." "Well, they should change the sign then, so it doesn't say Men's," he said with a scowl.

"Hi, my name is ryan, it's nice to meet you," I responded. With a huff he fled the bathroom.

One of the fools who witnessed the event asked "does that happen to you a lot?" I told her, that that was my experience almost every time I use a bathroom. Women tend to be more verbally aggressive, but the men can get physical.

It's true, regardless of where I have flat places or bulging spaces, I always have a sense of fear when I use the public bathroom. An act that most people get to consider private, tends to be discussed publically and confrontationally when I enter bathrooms. Recently, I had the staff of the Welcome Ministry and Old First watch the Toilet Training Video so they could learn more about bathroom discrimination. I recommend it to anyone who would like to learn more about how bathroom discrimination affects not only trans people, but also people with disabilities and women.

I always thought it was funny that bathrooms could become a big deal. If we actually believed that people in dresses should be in one room and people in pants in another, then perhaps we could spend less time trying to imagine how private flesh under those garments matched the hair length and voice pitch of people who are just trying to take care of a bodily function.

So, tonight I think about The Bible, that gets that since the time that there were bodies, that there were body image problems (nakedness, the garden, shame). I also remember the many saints that when on spiritual journeys who were born men, but lived, dressed and were named men.

Today I think how far the world has come since the time that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for wearing pants. They actually took her out of the fire half way through to reveil her breasts to the crowd, as an example of what the punishment for trans-gressing gender was.

Sister Susan told me that when she was wearing a habit (years ago) that they were told to bind their breasts to conceal their sex/uality, and thus enhance their faithfulness.

And I pray that no matter how our bodies fold or hang, whether we are proud or ashamed of our flesh that we love each other, not just how we see them but also how they choose to see, name and dress themselves.


Leela said...

I have several thoughts, but this one arises foremost: frogbra? Srsly?

Rev. Megan M. Rohrer said...

yup, I have a harder time with tighter binding because of my asthma.

PAW said...

I use the Last Resort and can only handle that about 6 - 8 hours tops before the asthma kicks in! I hope you have an inhaler with you. I know it's privilege to have meds on the streets, but breathing is mildly important.

Thank you for sharing your story. Always amazing.

Holly said...

megan - i totally noticed during the conference that you were packing, but i wondered to myself "does she have a penis?" seriously. reading this blog clarified a few things for me. it was great to meet you at the conference and i am thinking of you think week during your retreat.