By nature, most plants are hermaphroditic. Meaning, the flowers they produce may contain both female and male sex organs. A magnolia flower for example, grows with anthers, a stamen, and a pistil and, within that, a style, stigma, and ovaries (A stamen and anthers being male organs and the pistil and so forth being female organs). Not to say that I have both functioning ovaries and a penis, because I don’t. But, most days, I find that I feel a little less human, and a little more like a magnolia.
The sexual anatomy of a plant is a bit trickier than ours. It begins with the comparison of monoecious, dioecious, and hermaphroditic. Hermaphroditic plants, as mentioned before, don’t really have a gender. Nor do their flowers; these are called bisexual flowers. Monoecious plants don’t have a gender either, but their flowers do. A monoecious plant can bloom both female and male flowers, but never bisexual. Dioecious species are rare. These plants are gendered in every aspect. The plant itself is male or female and goes on to bloom strictly male or female flowers, never both.
I was born a female. And, for most of my life, I’ve felt like one. I started off Monoecious. I was and never will be forced to produce strictly sons or daughters, but I felt pressured by societal norms to produce, nonetheless. To be bisexual, in gender expression or sexual preference, was a foreign concept. One that seemed far and unusual. I was straight, and I was a girl. It seemed that was all there was to it.
Things got trickier when I began comparing the stamen to the pistil. I had a few boyfriends, so most of the experience was with the stamen. My attraction to males seemed natural to me as far as I could tell. My jealousy of them did not. Nor did my attraction to the pistil.
In the plant world, hermaphrodites are incredibly common. In fact, 90% of all flowering species produce bisexual buds. The blossoms sprouting from the nodes of hermaphroditic plants are often referred to as perfect flowers. These flowers, having both sex organs intact and ready to get busy, do not rely on bees or other insects to reproduce. They are self-sufficient, powerful.
I realized I was attracted to women when I was 11 years old. Having just entered middle school, self-sufficient and powerful were not familiar terms. I was a musician, a violinist, but I paid much more attention to the girl sat next to me than I ever did the music on the stand. I told a friend or two and was grateful when they still loved and accepted me, but nothing much ever came of the confession. The girl I sat less than 10 inches away from never had the slightest idea of my interests. She knew who I was, though, and that felt like a start.
Hermaphrodites, though common in most other plant families, are rare in Cannabis specimens. Cannabis is typically a dioecious species. The differences between a male and female cannabis specimen are slight at first but become unmistakable later in their growth. Females go on to produce their famous, smokeable buds, while males go on to produce small pollen sacks to fertilize their counterparts. Like any other rule of nature, though, this one can be broken. A Thai sativa plant, another strand of cannabis, is genetically hermaphroditic.
During my freshman year of high school, I was asked on my first date. She was a year older than me, but sweet, caring. I said yes immediately. Upon asking my mother for permission, I was met with an obstacle that differed greatly from the self-acceptance I had been working to grant myself. I’d never quite thought about what it would be like to seek the same acceptance from my family. She, my mother, was furious. Not over my demands to start dating, but over my desire to date women. The conversation was short. I wasn’t allowed to see her.
Hermaphrodites are undesirable in the cannabis growth and consumption markets. Having both sets of sex organs, the Thai sativa can reproduce on its own and, often, reproduces entirely too much. This results in a surplus of seeds with low quality. Meaning, they don’t get people high enough. To avoid this, the growth process for Thai sativa difficult and meticulous, one that requires constant surveillance and separation of male and female sex organs. Because of this, Thai sativa is avoided, taken on by only the most chivalrous of growers.
After that conversation with my mother, I felt a little less like a magnolia, and a little more like a stalk of Thai sativa. I kept my preferences to myself and went on to date a boy. I was minimal in my expression, showing up to 8am classes in tight jeans and dresses and tops that showed off my most female assets. Some days I fought urges to wear baggy jeans and graphic tees, to tell my mother I no longer wanted the D cups I was born with. Some days those urges weren’t there. When I looked in the mirror, I wasn’t sure I saw a woman, and I wasn’t sure of what else I could be. I was confident in love; I went after who I wanted. As long as they didn’t have a pistil. I didn’t know who I was then, and I’d argue that I still don’t.
Not long after I was asked on my first date, I started smoking marijuana. I didn’t know much about it then, much less about hermaphrodites. What I did know, though, was that indica made you sleepy, sativa made you creative, and both made you laugh. Today, I’m versed enough to tell you that Thai sativa is a hell of a strain, and nowhere near deserving of the slander spewed from the mouths of the impatient. Thai is fruity, in scent and in flavor. It calms the mind and creates a sense of euphoria. It can cause headaches or anxiousness, but these prove to be a slight an incredibly rare price to pay. Thai sativa is magical. I’d argue its more magical than the magnolia.
During my second year of college, I went on my first date with a woman. I had no idea what I was doing. I felt so clueless I left not even knowing if it was a date, in fact, I’d argue I still don’t know. But I went, and we smoked, and we laughed. I wore baggy jeans and a graphic tee. I told her about my past and future and, for the first time, it wasn’t filtered through a male or female lens. I was more. And when I look in the mirror, now, I no longer see a woman. A person stands before me. A magnolia. A stalk of Thai sativa still growing.
Aleah Vega is a sophomore RTVF and Creative Writing Major.