The Importance of Being Abby Wambach

Share a story about someone who had a positive impact on your life.

The best thing that happened to me over time with media is getting Abby Wambach on a podcast where she’s vulnerable to the point of tears on a regular basis. This is because she’s able to speak in my language so easily. I have no doubt in my mind that if we were in each other’s lives, we’d have a great time. My first girlfriend was a goalie. I speak soccer. She speaks processing everything. It’s everything I love about Meagan and me, because I’d like to think that we’d have a lot of fun teasing each other on our differences…. like following the stories of the players, but not really being able to tell you anything about the way they play….. I learned that language over many years of sitting next to sports fans and picking up quotes I could use later. I’m a total moron when it comes to sports, and treat athletes like superheroes because of what they go through to accomplish their goals. Meag quit before she was known, but she was in the Canadian Olympic development program. It was huge, and she also had a disease (Osgood-Slaughter) that won her multiple knee surgeries. So maybe she quit before she was well-known, but she probably knew she had reached her limit on self repair and maintenance. Therefore, I knew more about the emotions behind being an athlete than I ever thought I would. Those feelings are enormous, and because they’re so adrenaline fueled, I needed to hear those stories. It filled me with a great sense of awe.

My love for Meag mixes in with my love for Abby, so hearing her voice gives me a sweet note of remembrance. She even has the same patois as Meag, interesting because they’re from different countries. Interesting to hear the same perspective in the same way despite different accents and different cultural references. The similarity is the jargon of the pitch. I am Ted Lasso to an enormous degree, because he knows nothing about soccer and yet still wants to be on the field.

Continuing my education on the emotions of athletes where Meag left off, I realized that I saw both women like most teenage boys see Superman. Therefore, I love watching documentaries on ESPN as much as I enjoy Black Panther and Into the Spiderverse (Miles is my favorite). Trust me when I say there is very little difference in a Marvel origin story and starting the journey to outright disregard for physics.

I have never seen Abby play except on TV, but it would have been incredible to see her in person. However, the player side of her is not the part I like. It’s so great that we can empathize with each other on a pretty deep level, even though we are not in conversation. I think about my responses as if we are, though.

Today it’s a discussion on gender. Abby and Glennon were talking, and it was actually something that Glennon said that started this whole entry. She said “I only see gender on me, not in me.” That what we wear to express masculinity and femininity are what we’ve been told are the definitions. Gender is not real, but the committee who decided what it is has existed for most of humanity’s existence. Abby talked about how men’s clothes fit her better, but that’s not necessarily how she saw herself inside. I could definitely relate. I reject women’s clothes because I don’t want to accentuate my curves. I don’t want ornamentation on simple things. Women are looked at differently when they wear those things, and I very much reject that. Not only is my mind non-binary, femininity is something I don’t want you to discover right away. I want to keep to gender neutral subjects until I trust you enough to go there. I don’t want to feel like a For Sale sign. It’s especially important for me not to reflect femininity because I take public transit. I am generally not subjected to harassment that way because few dudes catcall other dudes. When that happens, sometimes it’s flattering. It’s mostly not.

I didn’t figure that out until Abby said that men’s clothes fit her better so, oh well. It’s also easier to shop, because you know your measurements. You can order pants over the internet, it’s so standardized. I’d have to pick through a hundred pieces of women’s clothes because every brand makes me go up and down in size. It’s too much work. Why put in that work if I genuinely don’t care whether people think I’m male or female? It has led to some interesting stares when I walk into women’s restrooms. They’d only have to talk to me to know I was in the right place, so I’ve noticed that when someone does talk to me in the restroom, I speak in a higher register than normal. It’s trying to prove that I’m female. To be male is to be thought of as a threat, because they so often are. To think that I was going into the bathroom to do anything but get in and get out made me self-conscious.

I feel like I can relax into it now, because people seem way less afraid of trans men than trans women. That’s because legislators are overfocusing on them. Where’s the debate about trans men competing in soccer? It’s nothing, because transphobic cis men aren’t threatened. They know they’re stronger physically so they’re not competitive. It’s a threat to manhood because the society we created has been dismissive of female strength until now. It wasn’t a woman, it was a man playing dress-up. Trying to explain how that was ludicrous led to all femininity trying to be explained to us as both trans women and men who like to dress up as women were treated the same way. Drag queens do not choose to live their lives wanting to change the body with which they were born. Trans women are generally differentiated by surgery, but this is only through my own experience of the community, not an objective fact. It is the definition I have heard most frequently over the years, and recently have heard less and less people also giving that definition. I may need to rethink my position, because I do not mean that being trans is dependent on having surgery, just that most of the men I’ve met who do drag present as their assigned gender when they’re not on stage. Gender is a construct, and there are as many ways to express it, and it’s fun to let go of what you think gender is and just be in the moment.

In my dreams and in my writing, I’m nonbinary. I’d never change my pronouns to reflect it, because I don’t care. Some days, I feel very female. Some days, I don’t. I know it by the ways my paragraphs read and which writer’s voice I have in my head that day. What I like about my own writing is that I read a ton of other authors to soak up lessons on craft, so I’m developing a style of my own by mixing everyone I’ve read together. I didn’t come here to be the next anyone. Like everyone trying to be an elite athlete, I brought my own shoes.

I surf reddit posts to find writers like me, assurances that my writing is coming off in the style it reflects. Dooce’s influence on me was not to let human behavior be a black and white issue. Yes, I have talked about problems I’ve had with other people, but at no time have I ever talked about problems without making it clear that I also love these people. Human behavior is nonbinary because it depends on how much of either gender we’re using at the moment. We are experiencing emotions and styles of communication attributed to each gender, but those definitions were created to make something obtuse into something manageable. People’s minds work better in databases than word clouds. Some people need a concrete taxonomy of what is male and female behavior, and feel threatened by the idea that it’s not transparent.

It helps to know yourself, or it helped me. When I really thought about the idea of gender expression, I learned which parts of my brain tended to lean male and female. In doing so, I learned that if it’s complicated in my brain, gender dysphoria must be extraordinarily difficult.

As I said yesterday, your mind runs on many cores and takes in many experiences at the same time. Those thoughts are uncategorized, and as you try to categorize them, the culture informs you, particularly the beginning of your socialization. Over time, the culture has decided that feeling like you were born into the wrong body and wanting to get it corrected is wrong. When the majority decides the fate of the minority, you get the type of homophobic and transphobic behavior you see today. Being trans is getting more and more acceptance in some areas of the country. In others, we haven’t even made it a priority to stop violence so at least they don’t have to live in fear of being hunted. Crime statistics on trans women is a bigger problem than we’re making it out to be with law enforcement. Living in safety is even more threatened when you are trans and a person of color.

Therefore, it is harder to ignore what other people think, because you don’t know what kind of situation you’re in. The best example of this is Matthew Shepard, who was lured by two guys who flirted with him and he left with them, because why not? Once he was in the car, they killed him by hanging him up like a scarecrow in Laramie, Wyoming.

Abby also knows that kind of pain. The pain of just wanting to be treated like everyone else in the majority, and fighting against a rising tide because our numbers are small. It’s another nonbinary spectrum altogether to be grateful for our allies and hurt that we need them. In our minds, it is a non-issue except that heterosexual, homophobic and transphobic people make it a thing. It’s the land of liberty, and we’re being inundated with messages that we’re not worthy of the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else due to their preconceived notions of what being queer means and rarely is their rhetoric based in reality…… very much like appointing a room full of white men discussing legislation over women’s bodies. It’s a direct attack on autonomy and agency, but the people in the majority don’t see it because it doesn’t affect them. The same emotions do not come up for them, and they don’t care to understand. Communication stops and violence starts.

To kill someone based on something you don’t understand is unacceptable in a nation based on personal freedom, and it happens all too often. The question shouldn’t be how to make queer people fit in by making them succumb to the majority opinion, but how to legislate so that cis and trans people are treated the same, and so are straight and gay people. The law could do horrible things to all of us. It’s persecution from religion and so many people up to the Supreme Court live and breathe it. Most of the acrimony against queer people comes from the church. White churches don’t handle the issue of queer people in the church any better than blacks, because the most conservative of both races and denominations agree on their definition of how queer people should be treated. It can be an outright tirade on how we are sinning, to something more polite, like it being incompatible. Neither feels good, but at least with Evangelicals who are completely cut off from education and experience are easier to handle because they’ll stab you in the front. It’s easier to ignore than more friendly ways of firing.

Friendly fire is saying completely homophobic things that sting and not listening when queer people say it hurts. I do not want to think about how I’ll probably never have a baby, I look like I don’t feel good when I don’t wear makeup (seriously, this is just my natural face), and it irritates you to watch gay couples kiss on TV. I’d rather not know those things about you and am mystified as to why you’d think I’d want to. Because being irritated with queer people just living their lives does not compute. In our heads, we know who we are, and we’re just wired that way. There’s nothing we can do to change it, stop trying. Society has to accommodate us because we cannot comprehend why gender and sexual orientation aren’t treated like blue eyes and brown eyes. That it ever was treated as more important than that reveals the limitation of someone to empathize, and people who are so terrified of grey area that they’d rather kill someone than understand them.

In the 90’s there was a talk show hosted by Jenny Jones where a man revealed to his best friend on the air that he had a crush on him. Two days later, the straight best friend shot him with a double barrel shotgun. Where does that large a reaction even originate? Asking why doesn’t solve any problems for me, but it does inform how I vote. I want the police defunded, which is a terrible reduction for reallocating assets where they’d be better served than military-like violence. Cops don’t often think like intelligence officers, asking for more information. Their reactions are quick because they need to be, but prejudice is built into their heuristics. It feels like too many are trigger happy, not because they’re proud of murder, but because they didn’t think. Alternatively, people who aren’t cops aren’t punished as badly by the law because of the jury’s preconceived notions about what constitutes being black or being gay before the trial ever starts. Crimes against us are seen as heinous, but laws don’t stop mental illness on the other end of the spectrum.

I have been blamed for natural disasters, because my sin is so great that I can take out Louisiana if I mix it with the power of my brothers and sisters. People have actually gotten on the news and said that effectively being gay causes God to send these horrible natural disasters.

First of all, God doesn’t define sin. We do. We as a species wrote the Bible and have determined what it means in different ways. Factions who have interpreted passages to beat people rather than love them for who they are is tragic…. and yet, the story of what it is to be a minority. Human society is always looking for a reason to explain everything. Then, the majority agrees and the minority is ignored until it rights something that never should have been considered wrong in the first place. The system makes it necessary to fight for nothing. Housing, employment, education, healthcare, and opportunity should not be hindered by anything you can’t change about yourself. It’s punching down, and the apathy of people who aren’t bothered to make it stop.

This is especially important of people like Abby Wambach, because to have a public platform and be queer is an invitation to fans to focus on it. What is a non-issue becomes an issue worldwide. Friendly fire is straight people saying that they wished she just wouldn’t be so loud about it….. thinking that they like the person just fine if they complied.

It’s exhausting, and I would never want to be the one that goes through her mail. The fact that she does it is enormously telling of her character, because she focuses on the fans who love her and stands in defiance of anything that defines her by someone else’s standards. It’s an inner strength that has to be developed over time. Abby has it, through my own cultural references.

So I’ll just keep listening and soaking up all she has to offer.


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