Because it exposed me to prejudice and violence, my gender was the main thing I was trying to eradicate when I became a teenaged Christian fundamentalist. From a Saskatchewan farm, of Mennonite and Ukrainian heritage, I had no choice but to believe what the patriarchal world was telling me: girls were lesser; they carried the weight of Eve’s sexually dirty side of human nature; they didn’t deserve to sit in the front seat of the car; they didn’t deserve the choicest portions at the table.
Because I was female, I was prejudiced against myself.
Because Jesus was supposed to “wash me clean,” I believed I had been born again to become pure spirit—which is genderless.
When I went away to university, I couldn’t understand why men kept coming around to bother me. Couldn’t they see I wasn’t really female?
The Gender Issue is my first as Executive Editor (Headitor?) of Rhubarb magazine. It feels more like I’m the lucky first reader.
While choosing the wonderful pieces of writing that best bloomed under this heading, I realized that every piece of writing is a little about gender in some way—and all of us read it under that influence.
Even if we aren’t aware of it.
Even if we deny it.
I challenge you to read this issue with awareness, to pick up the subtlety. For example, in “Horses in the River,” Ralph C. Martin contrasts silent Mennonite approval of male-type behaviour with the denial of “female” nurturing behavior. You will find both poetry and non-fiction from Abigail Carl-Klassen, non-fiction and fiction from Harold Macy, and an abundance of twists, holds, half nelsons, and general grappling in the wrestling match that is The Gender Issue.
I also challenge you to read the writing and then page over to read each author or poet’s biography. You will see who is bending gender these days. It was quite a thrill for me to zoom around that bend with Hillary Kobernick in the driver’s seat.
We have forty-six chromosomes. Only one shifts the human being into genders. That’s only slightly more than two percent of a difference. Even at birth, there’s a significant number of us who physically fall somewhere in between—and I believe that’s the most interesting place: where people refuse to conform to society’s demand that we be merely one or the other.
I’d like to dedicate The Gender Issue to my friend, Wes Funk, who sent Rhubarb a poem before passing away tragically on October 9 of this year, at the age of forty-six. He hosted the Saskatchewan-televised literary talk show, Lit Happens, and was the progenitor of many LGBT writing events in Saskatchewan. An irrepressibly good and loving soul, he self-published fiction, poetry, and memoirs, and was one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met, L, G, B, T, or none of the above.
In this issue, he has the final, poetic, word.
Bernice Friesen, Editor