4 min

Snakes & snails & puppy dog tails

What else are little boys made of?

BOYS I HAVE KNOWN. On the road and at the Michigan Women's Music Festival. Credit: Alexis Vaughn


My mom says that when I was conceived, she saw swans and stars dripping over her head and felt a baby boy plant its fetus self inside her. She told everyone she was having a boy named Alex. That was that.

Upon my exit and entrance into the doctor’s hands, my mom asked, “How is he, Doc?”

“It’s a girl.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, Mary, I am sure.”

So, in consideration of my woman’s body, I became Alexis. But Alex wasn’t dead. The boy I could have been remained.

The first time my mom tried to put me in a dress, I cried incessantly and peed all over the yellow gingham pattern. She had little interest in fighting me. So she bought me my first belt buckle, cowboy boots with spurs, a Super Cycle (the poor man’s Big Wheel), and for my eighth birthday made me a Rocky Balboa hooded boxing robe out of gold satin. I called myself Johnny Scott.

My dad wanted me to be the first ambidextrous pitcher in the major leagues. He didn’t see that the biggest problem might be gender. We worked on a left-handed slider. He still calls me son sometimes.

When he left, my mom and sister and I lived together in what might be called a misogynist household. Not that we didn’t have female friends, but we just didn’t trust them. My mom worked with a handful of bitchy bar hags, my sister was constantly tormented by skinny girls and I only hung out in packs of mean and horny boys.

When I hung out with girls, it was only because I wanted to kiss them. This feeling was never lost, but got masked in high school. I had my share of fucking guys, mostly friends, and participated in many a scholastic activity. I was even homecoming queen, which was a coup. My date was a drinking buddy. He ended up dropping me off that night at the house of a girl I fingered in a hot tub. Lots of ladies in my school were willing to put out for other girls.

The day I graduated I moved to San Francisco, where my natural life as an unfettered boy ended.


There I was, 19, in the center of it all: San Francisco, early 1990s, where the super sexy and the super sensitive collided. My women’s studies courses were the bars and lezzie barbeques – the butches and femmes playing out their roles, as the identities were experiencing a resurgence again. I was somewhere in the middle.

A boy, but not a butchy butch, even though I road a motorcycle and was never without a toothpick. Over time, the pressure to identify was immense, especially since I was going out with a theory-headed femme top. Power feminism and the riot-grrrl wave got me all fired up. I became more comfortable with myself as “woman,” but not a woman.

I dumped the femme and started seeing this creature that had such a pretty lady face, but acted like a dumb boy. I was back to floating in the androgynous zone; even a shade closer to fag, which was exhilarating.

Not that I hadn’t conceived or pawed at this notion before, but it was a meatier change. I felt something heavy and silent was creeping towards me. Dumb boy lady (now an ex) suggested we go work at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. She may as well have handed me an invitation that read: Superfreak Heaven.


Prior to entering Shangri-La, me and dumb boy lady were unpacking the truck in the parking lot. The sun and excitement of my first year were making me woozy.

I stepped under the shade of a tree and watched dumb boy unpack. I had a series of epiphanies: I had been dating a dude. What does that make me? Who am I attracted to? Should I be more attracted to girly girls?

All of these notions quickly dissolved as we descended upon workerville to witness the biggest hodgepodge of shirtless dykes working away like beavers. All panic disappeared as my horny self realized I had the pick of the crop. The cruise began.

I shacked up quickly with a girlman who looked like me. Let her fuck me like mad, which was something that I hadn’t been too keen on in San Fran. We drank beers and cruised girls. We had farting contests and she gave me a slingshot. A butch girl called us fags. I panicked, then realized that it was kind of a loving accusation.

My twin boy and I eventually faded out and we began chasing after the same girl.

As the years rolled by, I noticed the broadening and blurring of gender roles and identity at Michigan. Femme girls were on heavy lifting duty and construction crews. Butch women were taking care of children and washing dishes. Work allowed for a stronger sense of self, allowing a whole layer of bullshit to fade away. On any given night, one could witness cocksucking contests, boxing matches and Crisco wrestling, the participants being part of a wide spectrum of welcomed boy, girl, man, woman things.

My high school fantasies were coming true. Anyone could be the captain of the football team or a cheerleader slutbag with a goatee. Towel snapper or stripper bride. A harem leader with a D-cup.

In essence, I’ve had the luxury of life as the eternal tomboy. I avoid theorizing my identity or giving myself a static label because it sucks the fun out of it. It stifles any amount of spontaneity in how I react to a given situation. Most of the skirmishes I’ve experienced have been within my own community, but at least the dialogue continues. The category of “other” is an emerging population.

In fact, I am about to start a skateboard collective called The Third Sex. Wanna join?