I suppose some might call it mischief rather than joy.
I got my first buzzcut because all the baby dykes were doing it and I liked the visible difference. In a fairly homophobic highschool, it was a not-so-subtle, “I am not like you.” It discomfitted people. It made my allies easier to identify, with their approving eyes and sly smiles, their quick nods and casual comments on my hair. It made those who might give me trouble easier to identify, too. The smiles grew stiff, the body language got defensive. “Oh,” they said, “you cut your hair…”
I preen at the approval and smirk at the disapproval. Ah. Someone needs their worldview adjusted. Happy to oblige. I’m a 3-for-1 deal with my short hair and masculine clothing. Without a word, I communicate sometimes-girls-look-different, sometimes-gender-is-complicated, watch-out-there-be-queers-here.
While some adults regard me warily, children are a delight.
“Are you a boy or a girl?” With an engaging smile, I will squat down to their eye level. “Nah,” I say, “what about you? Are you a boy or a girl?” The child’s face will scrunch- this is not a question they are asked often. “I’m a girl,” she will declare. There will be a beat, a pause. “Wait, what do you mean?”
“How come you look like a boy but sound like a girl?” I blink, parsing that. “You mean, because I wear boy clothes?” She nods. I shrug. “‘Cause I like boy clothes better. I think it’s pretty cool we can all wear what we want.” She thinks about it for a second. “Yeah, I guess that’s pretty cool. I like to wear pink.” I laugh a little, but kindly. “That’s great,” I say. I mean it.
“Nuh-uh,” I hear one of the kids saying. “not all girls have long hair.” I smile quietly.
This is how my gender becomes a joy. My visible difference makes a little more space in the world for other people to be different. And that lights my heart up.