Spring 2016. Early morning. We are in a hilly and wooded area in Northeast Iowa.
CAM (they/them) is dressed in outdoor wear with a backpack. They hear a low drumming sound.
CAM. Do you hear that?
Pause. CAM hears the low drumming sound again.
Ruffed Grouse. [beat] You won’t see them. They’re hiding in the deep brush. This tract — this hardwood forest— was saved from tilling because of the steep slopes and rocky soil. Perfect for grouse. And probably forty other species of birds.
Look! See the hawk? Red-tailed hawk. And those over there— turkey vultures.
This is what I love about my job.
Out here I always feel totally content.
I suppose I should be afraid, although I’ve never had anyone follow me out here.
I’ve been threatened, you know. Followed at night.
More times than you can imagine.
Pause. CAM listens and hears the grouse again.
We hear it in springtime. The male grouse make the sound by rotating their wings.
In some species, behavior is not so gender-specific. Birds, butterflies, a lot of insects
have both male and female characteristics. But I’m not going to try to make a lot of arguments comparing human and animal behavior. I used to do that.
Used to have detailed arguments. But you know,
people are just going to believe what they want to believe.
I don’t bring people here, generally.
I don’t want to expose this delicate environment to a lot of traffic.
I do bring my students here. This summer we sampled twelve streams
to measure aquatic diversity. Here’s what we found:
Streams like the one here— that have more diversity of life—
they’re healthier and better able to overcome stressors, like drought.
CAM starts down the hill.
Watch your step. I’ll take you down now. Down to the spring.
CAM walks down, then stops next to a stream. The gentle rush of water.
Always, when I’m out in nature, the— agony—
about who other people think I am—
Am I a woman? Am I a man?
On the street, in the grocery store, with a student. At a party. They’re looking at me funny.
They want to categorize me. It makes them so uncomfortable not to know.
What to do with me?
And I could say, well, I was designated female at birth.
But I don’t feel like a woman. Never have.
On the other hand, I don’t feel like a man either. It doesn’t fit for me.
Since it’s closer, I do generally present more like a man.
But I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want surgery
and I don’t want to give up the feminine parts of myself.
It’s funny. As a scientist, I’m always placing things in categories.
And I could tell you all about the way scientists are looking at gender
on a spectrum now— not just two choices.
But mainly, I want to make the point that
we are too quick to categorize people. Not just on gender,
but on a whole gamut
of characteristics. There is something really screwed up
about the way we put people in boxes.
Listen. People are not who you think they are.
Not a single one.
You think you’ve got someone pegged?
People are not what they seem.
And even if you could figure them out,
they’re like this stream. They’re always changing.
Being fed by something deep underground.
Pause. CAM puts their hand in the stream.
Personally, I find that refreshing.
More info: Character name is Cam (they/them). The scene is roughly in the middle of a full-length play (in development) entitled Women March on Washington. It received a reading this spring in Northfield, MN, with actors of diverse age, race and gender.
Playwright: Christine Kallman. I can be reached at my website, christinekallman.com.