“She’s a good boat,” says Tim Loveless, of Nanaimo B.C., gesturing with a sweep of his arm that is both casual and deeply affectionate, towards a well-used assembly of marine ply, fibreglass, resin, a pretty shitty engine, some running gear, and a helm and throttle. The composite parts of which he christened Lady Lay, some years ago, and has dutifully referred to with the feminine pronoun ever since. Even while refusing to acknowledge the wishes of the tens of thousands of his fellow Canadians who – unlike his boat – have made it explicitly clear which gender they consider themselves.
“The hell you talking about?” Loveless demands aggressively, when asked if Lady Lay might not, in fact, be more of a boy. Or not any gender at all.
“Just look at her would you?”
Tim and a visiting reporter both stare at the 33-year-old, 21-foot, Bayliner cruiser. It looks like a 21-foot Bayliner. Maybe a a guy one. Maybe a girl one. Maybe just a genderless-means-of-conveyance-over-the-water one. The reporter says as much.
“Yeah but that’s because you don’t know her,” Captain Loveless says, before launching into a litany of salty stories about the adventures he and his boat have shared over the years, and enthusiastic descriptions of calm, sunny days anchored in one of the many small bays that chew into Vancouver Island’s primordial coastline – one that is almost as antediluvian as Tim’s need to fix a person’s social identity to the particular arrangement of body parts they happened to enter this – at-times acutely cruel – world with.
“So she’s definitely a she,” he concludes, giving a gunnel a smack that echoes hollowly.
The visiting reporter nods, accepting the intractability of Tim’s position on this. She then asks why, if an inanimate object with zero gross tons of agency can be a woman, can’t anyone? Particularly a fellow citizen who says, in very clear, actual language: “Hey, you know how your floating collection of delaminating fibreglass is a girl? Well so am I.”
“No,” Tim says quickly, loudly enough to scare up a few dozen seagulls of indeterminate gender. “No, no, no. No way lady. No. A woman is born a woman, genetically, and in other ways that matter to, well, a lot of people. Someone born a guy just doesn’t have the right equipment to be a girl.”
Wrapping up the impromptu, dockside interview, the reporter points out that neither does his boat. Like, not even close. But that that’s ok. Because the problem doesn’t lie in Tim’s decision to call his boat a she. It’s in his need to deny that same prerogative to someone trying their best to fit an odd shape (human) into a difficult and complicated space (society).