26 September, 2009

Special needs

When I was in high school I was one of the only students who was openly gay. I was extremely sensitive to the idea that other girls might see me as a predator, and I felt like the only way to prove that I wasn't was to not be any more attracted to them than they were to each other. But I couldn't turn off my attraction to girls, and the more I put pressure on myself to be asexual, the more uncomfortable I was interacting with girls, even girls I didn't find attractive. This led to me having special needs.

My special needs were impairments in doing things that most girls don't find difficult: touching girls, and being in a room with girls who were changing. Every year I was in the winter musical, where one was expected to do both of those things. I had to figure out how to accommodate my special needs. Instead of changing with everyone else, I would change in the bathroom. The dancing scenes posed more problems. Like many high school musicals, ours had a mostly female cast, so most of the dancing couples were female/female. In tenth grade, I actually went along with this, but it was really difficult because I couldn't bring myself to actually plant a hand on my dance partner's waist. Instead, I let my hand hover in the general vicinity. During practice, I would let go of my partner's hand every time we stopped dancing, lest I be suspected of holding on too long. In eleventh grade, I was lucky enough to be paired with one of the few boys. In twelfth grade, I took matters into my own hands and under the question, "Would you mind being cast as someone of the opposite sex?" wrote, "as long as I don't have to dance with a girl."

The dance teacher Mrs. G. was incredibly kind to me in ways I'm still grateful for, but I missed rehearsal one day and the next day I discovered I had been paired with a girl. Maybe I'm being melodramatic in retrospect, but if I remember correctly, it was a girl I had a huge crush on. I knew this could not happen. "NO," I said. "I AM NOT DANCING WITH A GIRL."

Mrs. G. looked puzzled. "But your character is a girl. You're not dancing with a girl as a boy." My character was originally a man, but Mrs. M., the wildly talented drama teacher, always thought up new blocking and line readings so that the girls at my school could play our characters as girls, instead of trying to imitate a standard performance.

And fortunately, Mrs. M. was there right then. Mrs. M. was also my English and playwriting teacher, and she had read all my miserable scenes and journal entries, and she had witnessed my incredible embarrassment when another girl read the part of my husband in an absurdist theater elective. "It's not being a boy. Amanda can't dance with a girl," she said, and that was that. Unfortunately, Mrs. G. split up two friends who were dancing together, and I didn't know how to explain to them why I was so insistent. They weren't mean about it but they seemed confused, and I cried when I was driving myself home, feeling guilty about being a burden.

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