My best friend’s cat Nikki just died. Nikki was an amazing cat, and very complicated and hard to sum up easily. She was a lot like Fey in parts of her personality and body language, but Fey was a Gryffindor and Nikki was a Slytherin, for whatever reason. She was, to my knowledge, 17, the same age as Fey when she died.
She always lived her own way, and died her own way, fortunately peacefully while unconscious, despite it being bowel cancer. She seemed to be in less and less pain towards the end, which is oddly how my father experienced his death from cancer. (Not what you’d expect, but it happens. He had no pain the last two weeks of his life, he said it just vanished and never came back.)
She was in many YouTube videos like these, with Brodie (who is Hufflepuff to the core):
He was the first of the younger cats (a trio of formerly feral littermates) to be able to approach her because his social skills are amazing and he gave her the respect she commanded. (She always acted a little like royalty and expected to be treated as such.)
Brodie actually, while she was dying, mirrored her movements for 20 minutes one night, almost as if to show her that he’d be able to take over guard duty when she was gone and she didn’t have to worry about that.
All the other three cats (Coraline, Brodie, and Shadow) clustered around her and kept watch while she was dying.
Anyway, the only poem I can offer in tribute to her is by Longfellow, “The Light of Stars”:
The night is come, but not too soon;
And sinking silently,
All silently, the little moon
Drops down behind the sky.
There is no light in earth or heaven
But the cold light of stars;
And the first watch of night is given
To the red planet Mars.
Is it the tender star of love?
The star of love and dreams?
O no! from that blue tent above,
A hero’s armor gleams.
And earnest thoughts within me rise,
When I behold afar,
Suspended in the evening skies,
The shield of that red star.
O star of strength! I see thee stand
And smile upon my pain;
Thou beckonest with thy mailèd hand,
And I am strong again.
Within my breast there is no light
But the cold light of stars;
I give the first watch of the night
To the red planet Mars.
The star of the unconquered will,
He rises in my breast,
Serene, and resolute, and still,
And calm, and self-possessed.
And thou, too, whosoe’er thou art,
That readest this brief psalm,
As one by one thy hopes depart,
Be resolute and calm.
O fear not in a world like this,
And thou shalt know erelong,
Know how sublime a thing it is
To suffer and be strong.
I would indeed beware of Nikki. A cat who can never be summed up no matter what you do. May she rest in peace.
My friend can feel her feet, and really that’s all that matters.
She spent forty years pretending to be a man. She has finally come out as a woman and begun transitioning to living in the world as a woman. Nearly everyone who knows her has reacted similarly — “Oh that makes sense, why didn’t I ever think of that?”
But then there’s the other reactions.
My friend can feel her feet for the first time in her life. She can feel her body. She was so disconnected from her body before that she didn’t notice a surgical scar she’d had on her arm in plain sight her entire life. And now she can feel her feet.
Whenever I automatically feel my feet, it means I’m connected with the world, it means something is going right, I am doing the right thing. I feel my feet every time I play my grandfather’s violin.
So when she told me she could feel her feet, I knew she was doing the right thing.
Her eyes have changed too. I didn’t used to really know she had eyes. Now they are impossible to miss, with tons of emotional depth, range, and complexity. Strangers compliment her on them.
But some people react to her in a way that makes me uncomfortable.
She’s just trying to live her life, feel her feet, do what she needs to do.
Other people seem bound and determined to explain their theories of gender to her.
They seem to think that her announcing she exists is an invitation to a debate. (It’s not. And neither is this post. If you want to debate gender, do it somewhere else, I will not approve your comments, I will not have a post about respecting my friend turn into a place to disrespect her.)
This is incredibly disrespectful. She is a human being trying to live her life. She is trying to live a life where she can feel her feet, have beautiful expressive eyes nobody’s seen before, be happy in her own skin.
Her existence is not an invitation to a debate.
Her existence isn’t the start of a philosophical discussion about whatever you happen to think gender is and how you think it works.
Her existence is not an invitation to explain to her exactly why you think she is how she is. And what you think is really going on with her.
It doesn’t frigging matter if you understand what’s going on with her or not.
It really doesn’t.
I don’t understand gender. I understand less about gender than the average human being does. Because I’m genderless. Gender identity is a foreign concept to me. I don’t appear to have one, whatever it is.
But not all the world works like I do. And not all the world should have to. And I don’t feel insecure enough about my ignorance that I have to cook up an explanation for everything I don’t understand, and throw it in the face of everybody who experiences something I don’t.
Sometimes you’re not gonna understand.
Sometimes you’re not gonna know why something is so important to someone.
But none of that matters, actually.
I don’t have to understand gender identity to understand that it’s incredibly important to the vast majority of people on the planet. Including my friend.
I don’t have to know why it’s important.
All I have to know is that when my friend lives her life as a woman, she can feel her feet. She can feel as if her body is finally a part of her. She can feel happy and fulfilled and just go about her life without thinking about trying to look male all the time. She can show the world how deep and expressive her eyes are when she’s not living in hiding and fear.
Those are the only things that are important.
My opinions on gender — if I even have them — mean fuck-all in the scheme of her life.
The ways my experience of gender differ from hers — not important in terms of how she is leading her life.
I don’t need to insert myself right into the big middle of everything related to her. In fact the best thing I can possibly do is get out of the way and let her be herself.
If she wants to talk about gender she’ll bring it up.
Her existence is not an invitation to that conversation any more than my existence with a feeding tube is an invitation to a debate on assisted suicide.
Just have some respect.
For my part, I found out that she’s never worn shawls before. She wanted to try colorful clothing. She wanted the option to wear things that were feminine. She’s never had these options before. (And no, not everything she does and wears is stereotypically feminine. She just hasn’t had the chance before.) She loves to wrap herself in blankets, so I told her a shawl is like a socially acceptable usually-triangular blanket you can take anywhere.
So I’m crocheting her shawls.
Every stitch says “I already know you are a woman.” Just in case she needs a reminder with all the other messages she’s getting.
I’ve made her two so far. One is purple mohair lace. The other is a sturdy wool in many bright colors that seem to suit her. Because that’s the other thing. Her soul used to be grey and in hiding and kind of reserved. Ever since she came out, her soul has been all the bright colors you could imagine. I’m not the only one who has remarked on these changes.
You don’t need to make someone shawls to show your respect for her womanhood though.
And you don’t need to understand anything about gender.
All you have to understand is that living as a woman she can feel her feet and everything else.
It really comes down to that.
Not you. Not your opinions. Not your ideas about gender politics. Get out of her way. This is about her, not you.
Living her life.
Which is not an invitation to a debate.
She is who she is. Grant her the courtesy of treating her like it.
That’s all you need to do, all you need to know.
My friend can feel her feet.
My friend can express great depth of emotion in her eyes for the first time in her life.
Her soul shines in all these beautiful colors that were hidden before.