Monday, January 26, 2009

Gender

Our culture definitely agrees there are 2 genders (or sexes, but the culture as a whole does not separate the two), and these are not to be trifled with. From pronouns to applications to official documents to bathrooms to “sir” or “ma’am”, our mores and folkways support the cultural foundation of 2 sexes. In recent years, gender presentation has become a little more fluid and relaxed, but do not be fooled, our cultural structures are set up to sanction those who become “too fluid”. For me, gender identity is more complex than male or female, masculine or feminine, or even the trans words of crossdresser and transsexual. For years, much of the trans-community supported this dichotomy, by accepting the polarization of gender by transitioning to become the opposite sex, with full gender presentation on the extremes of the gender scale. In the last few years, we have seen more trans-people occupy a gender space that is between the genders, or having markers of both genders, or as some prefer it: a third gender……..or a fourth?
I occupy a gender presentation space leaning toward female, but I feel no need for SRS or voice lessons (although there’s nothing wrong with that). I dress mostly as a sort-of femme woman leaning toward butch, and occasionally dress very femme or even high femme. So I enjoy skating around on the femme side of the spectrum, though never landing in a solid place. In presenting gender like this I have actually been inspired by some young transfolk, who have come “out of the box” in an unashamed radical expression of gender as fluid of which I was amazed, then respected, and now in which I participate.
The culture views this fluidity as “queer”. Over the years, I have been stared at, shouted at, laughed at, but never physically assaulted (maybe because I am a big girl?). But I know transfolk who experience it as hurtful, suffocating, painful, embarrassing or shameful. Other transpeople describe themselves as having one’s “identity disregarded by others but having no choice other than to endure their insistence on choosing a different one for you that they superimpose upon you without permission.” Over the years I have had to process and deal with all these emotions, and have escaped shame and fear and find myself, more often than not, having fun with my presentation and with the reactions and feedback by those around me. I say that very carefully, for I know I have kinspeople who are struggling to the death over some of these issues.
I would like to say that the present experiences of gender fluidity herald a time in the near future of full acceptance of people whatever their gender presentation. Being a cockeyed optimist:
I could say life is just a bowl of Jello
And appear more intelligent and smart,
But I'm stuck like a dope
With a thing called hope,
And I can't get it out of my heart!
Not this heart...

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