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Nov 1, 2012
As many of you know, I am a native of the Jersey Shore, which has been hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. My parents, and several other extended relatives, still live on the mainland and got only some flooding in our back and front yards. However, the barrier islands near us, which include the resort community of Seaside Heights was totalled, the world famous boardwalk was chopped into pieces by the waves and a pier containing a mini amusement park was destroyed, and several rides associated with my childhood are now underwater. Although there are sustained efforts to rapidly bring the shore back to normal, the summer 2013 season may be effected.
I feel that I should blog in this forum because it is part of my gender narrative. Most of my summers before I was a teenager involved visits to Seaside Heights, as well as Point Pleasant to a more limited extent. The memories of being a little girl, running free at Seaside, going on all the rides, eating zeppole, and spending a lot of time with relatives, some of whom are no longer in our life, and some of whom have even since passed on.
Of course, I can\’t help remembering that I was in a gender role that I did feel right in. Seaside Heights was, and remains to this day, a very conservative and cisheteronormative community. In my life, I have never seen a transgender person or any same sex couples walking the boardwalk, and, especially in the early 1990s, a same gender couple holding hands would have been frowned on and possibly even experience physical violence. Although Seaside was a temporary escape which I enjoy, at the end of the day, I still struggled with my identity, but wanted to keep the peace and keep that time uncomplicated. It was a place where boys were boys and girls were girls, and many transgender people, and even gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, have mixed memories of these childhood experiences, on one hand, great memories were made, however, it was in a cisheteronormative milieu.
About 2 years ago, when I first started blogging on this website, and as somebody new to my transition, I decided to visit Seaside for the first time, en femme, and as the blog post will tell you…nothing bad happened. Indeed, it was possibly the last time I visited Seaside before moving to Pennsylvania. However, I wish I could have enjoyed it as I did as a little girl stuck in a boy’s body.
Indeed, there is some symbolism to this hurricane, as it washed away a complicated past for me, of disinterest in the problems our family faced and dysphoria towards my gender identity, of a world where nothing mattered, and a world without LGBT visibility. I don’t want to condemn Seaside Heights and marginalize their struggles, it is what it is, and this is my past. Seaside will be rebuilt, but it will never, ever be the same.
I hoped that someday, me and some friends could go back and enjoy it all over again, in the self that was always there but was hidden all those years ago, but due to disinterest from friends, my parents moving to Florida next June, me moving to Cali soon after, and lack of transportation and money, it may be that I will never be able to die knowing that a part of my childhood memories could be relived as my true authentic self.
I hope Seaside gets rebuilt soon, I may never enjoy the shade in which the tree is being planted, but I hope that others relationship with the shore is not as complicated and is as enjoyable as it was back when I was a little girl. Keep those people who have passed or have experienced hardship in your thoughts.
-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis (Born in Toms River, raised in Bayville, schooled in a district which includes many students from the barrier islands, and visited Seaside Heights).