Of course, when I came out as a lesbian, a lot of people were all, “Oh it’s because she was never close to her father, blah blah blah.”  Which makes no sense because Lauren had the same situation and she’s straight and feminine.  And some of the butchest dykes I know have great relationships with both of their still-married parents.

Now that I’m starting to go by “K” in daily life, of course, I’ve noticed the connection to my father, Karl. The first time I signed something as “K. Kriesel,” I hesitated because it looked like he had signed it.  When I sent him a email this past fall, the first time we had conversed in eight years, I came out as a lesbian to him for my own closure.  In one of his many rambling, disjointed and angry replies, he suggested that I’m confusing my sexual orientation with my gender.  Hardly, they are unrelated.

But I have wondered what impact he has had on my gender exploration.  My healing from everything he’s done and my coming out as genderqueer/androgynous seem to be unrelated at their sources, but help each other along now.  I have come to realize, though, that he contributed almost nothing to my hyperfeminine childhood.  I visited him on most weekends and during a few weeks every summer when I was 4-14.  The vast majority of the time, he acted like I wasn’t there.  But we did hike, swim, boat and fish, he taught me about woodworking and archery, he tried to teach me Latin and how a carburetor works when I was too little to understand.  We built a model car and a model biplane.  It was only in the places under my mom’s influence that I was hyperfeminine, I was scolded whenever I deviated from that.  It has become clear that he left his first wife and my mom, at least in part, because he wanted a son.  Since he was elderly and my mom was unable to have another child after I was born, I guess he figured that I was the last chance he’d get so he treated me androgynously.  Then I hit puberty, changing from his child to his daughter, and he kicked me out of his life.

He has been the most prominent masculine role model on my life, of course.  And the times he spent actually teaching me to be self-sufficient, hard working and academic are great examples of positive masculinity.  As difficult and painful as he has been in my life, how androgynously he raised me provided balance, relief, and even an anchor from the ridiculously Barbie-like standards of school, church, my mom and my baby-sitters.  It has only been after I separated my actual self from that heterosexist role that I’ve been able to see all this and to actually be grateful.

Now that I’m finally settling into post-undergrad life (NYAH to Brandie, Jennie, Kelli, Anna, Lyda, and everyone else still stuck at Alverno!) in the city where I belong, I guess it’s about time I start . . . you know, figuring out what the hell I’m doing. With all these la-de-da grad school people around me (you know who you are) and considering the requirements of jobs I actually want, I’ve been thinking more and more about starting grad school within three years. My super-cool uncle once told me that he thinks that one should go through hell in your 20’s in order to live well for the rest of your life; that’s beginning to get more and more appealing . . . except that I’m still in my 20’s lol.

After researching several schools in the Chicagoland area, only one stands out: The School of the Art Institute. I want to attend a specifically art-centered institution – that was a mistake I made with Alverno – and the only other place that’s really appealing, Columbia College, is too business-based for me. SAIC is IT!!! Their MFA in Studio (through the painting and drawing department) program is almost like it was made for me. http://www.saic.edu/degrees_resources/gr_degrees/mfas/index.html It is RIDICULOUSLY expensive, but I think I would regret going anywhere else. It does have great job opportunities. However, most of the jobs that require only a BA are suited for people who actually go there already. For example, I couldn’t be a competent SAIC representative to high schools if I haven’t had the experience of being a student there. In any case, grad school at SAIC is even in my dreams, I think about it so much.

I would need to be in more exhibits, sell more pieces, get more experience in the art world before even thinking about applying to any grad school for my MFA. The Chicago Artists’ Resource is fantastic so I’m getting a great start less than a week after moving here. And before getting back into any school-like program, I want to take advantage of several artist-in-residence offers in the West (Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, etc.), Zion National Park being my #1 preference since I’ve already been there three times and because . . . well . . . LOOK AT IT!! http://www.nps.gov/zion/supportyourpark/artist-in-residence.htm

Here is my ideal 1-4 year plan:

1) Get a job, saving up enough money to travel
2) Participate in juried shows, art fairs, gallery events, workshops, etc. to build my reputation
3) Attend 4+ weeks of artist-in-residence programs
4) Apply to SAIC

Let me know what you think