Gender Diaries: AMES
As the world continues to push against gender constructs, the conversation around how people are identifying themselves is constantly evolving. Each week, Milk will feature a guest editor writing about their specific relationship with gender and, often, where it intersects with fashion. This week, we feature LA-based songwriter AMES. Listen to her new single “OLD HERO” here.
It’s hard for me to fault my parents for the way I was raised because they’ve made giant steps toward accepting me in my adulthood. I recently took my fiancé home to Oklahoma to meet my family, and they were nothing but warm and accepting—I even spotted a picture of my fiancé and me that my mother had printed out and framed on the family piano.
I knew I was a lesbian when I was seven years old. I was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist Community, and I had crushes on all the girls at church. At seven years old, I didn’t know being a lesbian was a “thing.” All I knew was that I got sweaty, nervous, and awkward around girls, and they made my stomach drop. I adored women. I remember watching The Sound of Music and falling in love with Julie Andrews’ character, Fraulein Maria. I envied the Von Trapp kids for being around her. I envied Christopher Plummer’s character for kissing and marrying her. I grew to resent men for the fact that they got to kiss, marry, and be intimate with women because I wanted nothing more than to be able to do the same.
When I was a bit older, I came to understand the word “homosexuality” and its biblical meaning. It’s listed in the chapter of Leviticus as one of the prohibited forms of intercourse (that also includes bestiality). Homosexuality was an abomination, and if a man should “lie” with a man or woman “lie” with a woman, “they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” I lived in terror for many years, but I don’t remember ever praying for God to take this “affliction” away from me. I loved women, and I wanted to keep loving them. It felt good. It felt beautiful.
My mother homeschooled me and my siblings—we were part of a strict homeschooling community where a lot of the women weren’t allowed to wear makeup, heels, or pants. I didn’t care about the makeup or heels, but I wanted to wear pants so badly like my brothers. I absolutely hated wearing dresses and having long hair. I didn’t like bows or hairspray or lacy socks. I wanted to wear pants and have my hair slicked back. I begged my parents for combat boots for years until a “worldly” family friend took me to the mall one day and bought them for me herself. I loved pocket knives, baseball cards, rocks, cowboy boots, and cap guns. You could say I was a “tomboy,” but it went deeper than that. One day I took one of my brother’s Sunday suits into the bathroom and locked the door. I put it on and stood on the toilet in front of the mirror for a very, very long time. I was in love with the way I looked in it. Sometimes I hated my brothers for being able to wear pants and Nikes, cowboy boots, ties, and have short hair. I fantasized having short hair and feeling it brush the collar of a sports jacket that I would one day wear. I went through a (rather long) phase of wearing men’s belts over my dresses or skirts. The belts felt like I had a tiny bit of control. I had other little mannerisms…I spat, I talked with a low voice, I smiled out the side of my mouth, I sat with my legs open, and I made a fool out of myself showing off for girls.
I’ve always identified as a woman, but I simply hated dressing and “behaving” the way society views women, and I rebelled against the way the conservative Christian community breeds women to be quiet and submissive, seen and not heard, and virgin and pure for my future husband. And while I couldn’t openly rebel against my parents, I rebelled quietly.
Now, I live in Los Angeles, and it feels like I have more queer friends than straight friends. I have transgender friends and friends who identify with every place on the gender spectrum. I can be myself, which isn’t necessarily masculine, but it’s not feminine either. I feel that if I were to still live in the Midwest, I would’ve chosen an extreme end of the spectrum: either super feminine to “hide” it or extremely masculine as a defense mechanism. As for myself, I’m neither here nor there. I’m comfortable, and with that, I’ve found peace.
Featured image courtesy of Matt Alves
Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.