It wasn’t cold. I wore an activity t-shirt to wick away the heat and sweat while the sound of the tyres buzzed against the tarmac of the path. The small town that lay in the recess of the valley had slowly drifted downwards and away and the noise of the traffic on the carriageway was replaced by near silence of the wilds. Just as the grey buildings of the town was replace by the rolling green steep valley fields the mobile phone bars were replaced with “No Service.”
My rejuvenation for cycling had sent me on journeys miles from home that felt like another continent and reconnected me with the outdoors where types of trees and birds thrive that just don’t exist in the city. What had amazed me was the faith in humanity I could still have. On my two wheeled journey, except for the interim train ride, on the weekend I don’t think one cyclist passed me by without saying “hello”, “hi” or even a knowing nod. There is something special about connecting with a stranger, even if for just a short greeting, where we are sharing the same delight and nothing else really mattered; our politics, standing in the community and, for my own interest in self introspection, gender.
I had worn my cycle shorts, pontytailed my hair that stuck out the back of my cycle helmet just like a baseball cap with hair jetting out from above the buckle. A ruck sack full of things to survive any change in the climate and my three quarter length running tights over the cycle shorts just for that extra wind protection. I was a mix match of gender clothing where my running T-shirt was nearly neutral gave a message that was probably confusing to others.
Despite this people still said hello. A teen comments on my bike. The train guard thanked me for my ticket on inspection, though he did say, “Sir.” Still, it showed that even with this gender unspecific presentation where I could be one or the other, depending on what part of me that person was focusing on, didn’t really cause me any harm, lack of respect, politeness or just plain ignoring me.
This all said there was the odd stare on the train, usually at my running tights and then a look at me. Usually when they realise they’ve been spotted looking they’ll look away and pretend they weren’t looking. Only when I look back a moment later they’re doing it again, and get caught out again. It’s a fun game.
In some ways I don’t really care about those type of moments. To think ten or fifteen years ago that would have terrified me, now I kind of absorb it as a kind of verification and validation of where I am in my journey and who I am. At the same time I sometimes wish on the day that this happens, when I am that indeterminate gender, that I’d tried may be a little harder. Rather than go in the half and half comfortable place that I should push myself into a slightly more out of my comfort zone. Get myself towards the female side so that I am recognised as who I want to be recognised as.
Pushing myself a little more on those occasions would help my journey forwards than just continuing on at the point I’ve reached. It’s a hard compromise, especially when there are the days where I feel I’ve put in very little effort and someone says, “she” or “her.”
A few weeks ago on the Saturday run I heard some guys running behind chatting. “The one on the left, they’re fast — ” talking about a women running off to the side of me, and then “her in front, she sprints the end, I wonder why she doesn’t run that pace the whole time?” I could feel the glee rising throughout my body, even though I know it could have been because all they could see, from their point of view, was the swishing hazel ponytail from behind.
Even as I sit here in a cafe writing, an older women stood from the table, with her husband and another couple, looked at me as she struggled to find that other sleeve of her padded winter coat and gave me a sour look of confusion for a moment. Second guessing those thoughts though mean very little in reality and may be the best action is to just carry on as I am.
— ♥ —
I reached the lake surrounded by steep sides lined with bright green grass and thick dark shadowing pine trees. The wind puffing in my ears intermittently and an October bird squeezing scarcely. I could have been that whole continent away from life where the intricacy of gender didn’t matter so much, as long as things were right for me.
The mountain stood domineering on the horizon with a thick mist of rain clinging to its hidden peak. The ripples in the water lapping the waters edge tactile. There was both a serenity and stormy seriousness about the place as I stood amongst this very real natural landscape.
The mountains soon delivered their rains. I put on my waterproof and headed back. Fine rain hitting my face hard, the water running down my legs and soaking my feet was hardly noticeable as nothing seemed to upset this moment. I couldn’t do anything but smile. It would just have been a cherry on the mountain if I was just that little bit more complete.
Until next time