A SYTYCB entry
I was 7 years old when I learned how to gut a fish. Like any old day out camping with my family, I woke early and skipped down to the river to throw a line out into the rapids and wait impatiently for some hungry fish to answer. Most of my childhood my parents employed the outdoors as my own personal babysitter, knowing that they could give me a cheap plastic fishing rod, point me to the water and I’d be occupied for hours. Of course, my parents never expected that I would actually catch a fish, but fate found its way to this budding wilderness lezzie on an early summer morning when a little trout tugged at the end of my line. YES. I screamed with joy, fear and utter shock at the live being desperately trying to shake free from the line attached to the pink rod that I held in my grubby little 7 year old hands. This was it, the time had come. I caught my first fish, all on my own. My screams exited my little body without my permission and I yanked the small rainbow trout out of the water until its pathetic body flopped around on the rocks fighting for its last chance at life. My dad came running down in frantic response to my yelps, only to find me wide-eyed and full of prideful wickedness as I stared at the suffering creature at my feet.
A big smile spread across my dad’s face as he offered me a congratulatory high-five. Then came the fateful words, “Ok, now you have to kill it and gut it, Marion.” The thought of picking up the slimy critter and ending its life in my bare hands stopped me in my prideful tracks. I just wanted to do the fun part, not the icky stuff. My dad grabbed the fish and placed him into my hands as we pulled the hook out of his mouth together. I’d seen my brother and dad do this a hundred times, but this time I felt something new as I took the fish in my hands and followed my dad’s instructions to murder the nearly lifeless being. I took a deep breath, shoved my internal “ewww” to the wayside and got on with it. It was invigorating to see my hands so capable of such an act. This was my first taste of the satisfaction that would follow acts of wilderness survival. I felt capable, strong and just plain badass in my 7 year old skin.
The look in my dad’s eyes told me I had changed on that day. Had I been a young boy, I imagine him saying “Today, son, you begin your journey to manhood” but he lacked the vocabulary to guide his daughter on her very distinct path to some other kind of –hood, one that would remain unidentified by both of them for years. What neither he nor I knew was that in that very moment I began my right of passage into a kind of dyke-hood. Wilderness lesbian-ry crept into my bones and filled my veins with muddy water at the young age of 7. As the adrenaline flooded all the crannies of my tiny body, I felt a surge of unadulterated love for the “wild” and my ability to engage with it, live in it and find a home in its harshness. It was the ruggedness of it all that captivated me.
The outdoors was my first love. It taught me to trust my own two hands, to listen to my instinct and to throw society´s bullshit about the limitations of my gender in the garbage. Like most little girls, society breathed down my neck with constant messages of “No, you can´t. Get a boy to do it for you” but the wilderness responded on a stronger note, convincing me that “Oh girl, yes you can. And damn sure you can do it better than most boys if you give it a real shot.”
This is my thank you to the wilderness for giving me the confidence to exist in this world so stacked against women and girls, and so full of thoughts, words and institutions that have at times made my lesbian self feel incomplete. Thank you for teaching me that my hands are as capable as any.