The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta. Zero Mile is a series of sometimes fictionalized and sometimes real stories based on life in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
I’m a terrible speller, and my grammar is questionable. Writing is my way of documenting what I see in life. The things I see are also terrible and questionable. It’s hard to get the words right. I start by looking in the mirror. I’m the first monster I see each day.
I am female by birth, in mind, in body. But I’ve been mistaken for a man at various points in my life. I have a husky voice. I wasn’t curvy in my adolescent years. With a baseball hat on I could easily be confused for a boy. I was cast as a man in my middle school play. I wore a mustache and played the part of the professor.
Parents came up to me after the show and said I was a “nice young man.” I didn’t correct them. I felt proud. That’s real acting. I thought about Shakespeare and all the women who never stood on his stage. I took my gender neutrality as progress and as a compliment.
It wasn’t until I grew older that the word tomboy began to bother me. What did being a tomboy mean? Is there an opposite of tomboy? I still don’t know. I was a girl who liked Hess trucks and snakes and Barbie dolls. I am a woman who likes earthworms and construction cranes and red dresses.
Because I am terrible at grammar and gender, I’ve always loved the word “they.” For years I tried to use “they” and was forced to use “he or she.” It felt wrong. I would write “she or he” for my own empowerment until the grammar police would correct me.
Then we were allowed the “she/he” that was written as “s/he.” I hated this one with a passion. How do you read that? And I’m not a slash person. I am not a she-he. I’m me. I’m they.
I love this old show called “Sisters” for the sole fact that the four female leads all went by a masculine derivations of their names. Alex, Teddy, Georgie, and Frankie. I adore androgynous names. This might explain why I have so many kids, but was only successful of giving one a gender neutral name. This is also why nicknames are so important. If I shout out Squid or Goose or Captain, you really have no idea if I’m calling for my daughter or my son.
If you want to be on my good side, don’t hug me and call me Nick.
In my professional life, I have colleagues all over the world that I’ve never met in person. We work by email and instant message. I have no idea if they are male or female. Sometimes their names are foreign to me. Sometimes the names are known to me, but gender ambiguous. Kyle? Jamie? Dagmar? Azaria? What about my favorite May name, Juno?
I have a colleagues in Ireland and France. I communicate with them regularly. And based on their names, I have no idea if they are men or women. If they are she, he, or them. And I don’t worry about it.
But then I do worry. I worry about everything.
I worry if I am a true ally. I think we are all the same and know that we all have different perspectives.
I worry about our strange obsession with sex and sexuality. Our bodies are taboo on one hand. Then we define everyone we meet by their genitals and use of sexual organs. How does this even make sense?
I worry about the soccer cheer the girls say. I cringe when they chant, “We don’t need Barbie dolls. We like kicking soccer balls.” We can’t you like Barbie dolls AND soccer balls? I love balls. I can say that. I’m a married lady, and I enjoy sports.
I worry that I have a lot to learn about “they” and “them” meaning every person I meet.
I worry that I’m not the ally I should be.
I wonder. A word like “they” used to mean other. You woman. You black. You blind. You queer. They can now mean us. All of us. No matter what secrets our bodies hold. No matter who we love. No matter.
If you see my name, if you hear my voice, if you see my body, and call me they or them. I will feel proud.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. Zero Mile stories will appear on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.