6 Year Retrospective: Part 2
Then I Was Stumped by The Gender Galaxy, Now I Resent When It’s Not Around
Going through old posts, I ran across one where I proclaimed myself stumped by the gender galaxy. And I went, “Really???” Now it feels so comfortable that I resent it when I find myself in a gender binary context. I find myself puzzled or annoyed when other people are confused. And in retrospect that’s just fucking ironic.
Even more ironic to me is that my yearning for more gender diversity was so obvious as a child. I started writing fiction with alternate worlds at about age seven or eight, and it was rife with tough women, gender role and sexual dimorphism reversed cultures of strapping warrior women and delicate domestic men, and lands of strapping warrior dudes in skirts. I remember watching a documentary about David Reimer (I read his biography last year to finally get the full story after my childhood recollections, and wow, that was fucking awful), and another one about a transman around the ages of nine or ten, and I was absolutely riveted by the entire concept. I had a stage of adolescence where I daydreamed about marrying a transman, or having a husband who transitioned MtF. I daydreamed about my ninth grade (male) crush having boobs and wearing a v-neck blouse and thinking it would look pretty good.
Then there were all the times I did things that were considered masculine, and got called tomboy and she-male in middle school, all the discomfort radiating from my father when I did not conform to the expression of womanhood of his own mother. My own conception of my femininity was so radically different from everyone else’s. Sure, I liked wearing dresses and jewelry sometimes, but the rest of the time I didn’t shave and I never wore makeup. I was direct and had a strong handshake. It doesn’t seem like much to me, but I got pinged with tiny signals from people all the time that I was doing girlhood in an uncomfortably wrong way.
And still, still I managed to set up some kind of belief that genders should match sex and people who felt otherwise should just accept it. I remember a conversation in college with a classmate who was an LGBTQ activist and playing the pronoun game, her using the pronouns that people identified with, me trying to use the pronouns associated with biological sex, and her just shaking her head at me. My boyfriend at the time tried to explain it and it would just not get through. I loved genderbending, and I saw gender through a lens of whatever someone was passionate about, whether it was baking or dancing or sports, and in a female-bodied person that was their femininity, and if they were a male-bodied person that was their masculinity. The layers and switch-backs in the protective maze of my denial were extraordinary.
It took facing that not only was my expression of feminity and womanhood often the reverse of what I saw around me, but that there was a man in me too. I’m still not really sure what it all means, but I’ve stopped trying to “figure it out.” Sometimes I feel like a woman, sometimes I feel androgynous, sometimes I feel like *neither*, and my masculine self is often an internal sense. I don’t present. I usually choose clothes based on function, sometimes based on aesthetics, and occasionally a gendered aesthetic.
Then I Was Angsty as Fuck, Now I Am So Over the Sheer Amount of Energy It Takes to Angst
I suppose in the West, angsting is considered the prerogative of the young. My ego would have liked it if I had been above it, and my ego would now like to believe I’m above it now, which is of course not true. I have my moments. I kvetch. I snark. I have my times where I feel put-upon and downtrodden. But, I got tired of it.
Yes, people can be victimized by other people, by policy, by cultural paradigms. It happens far to often and it’s very real and we all have to deal with the consequences and work for change. But we can also victimize ourselves. We can internalize the sense of our victimization until it becomes an identity, until it shapes our lives and it can prevent us from enjoying them.
Yes, I had to grow up feeling that I am not safe because of the shape of my body, I had to grow up feeling that it was not okay to be me because that isn’t what girls are supposed to be/do, I had to grow all the way to adulthood believing there was something sick and wrong about me because of my desires. I grew up in an environment of heavy emotional/verbal violence with the threat of physical violence, but I was not directly physically or sexually abused and my basic needs (including love and support) were met much of the time. As an adult, I do still have to deal with the lingering trauma of having experienced those things and the attitudes and dangers still present today. I can spend my emotional energy healing through all that, or I can spend my emotional energy being stuck in it. I choose the latter (except when I don’t, because psychological patterns, they’re tricksy).
As of right now, I do not live in a national context where I will be executed, mutilated, raped, or imprisoned just for being who I am and expressing myself. I do live in a national context where I could lose employment, relationships, child custody, and possibly be imprisoned if I got on the shitlist of someone in power with very narrow values who misinterprets something I do or express. I think it can and should be better, and I actively put my energy into changing that. But given some of the more heinous alternatives, I can deal with the threats I face. I’m an adult. I am fortunate enough to have resources at my disposal. I can carry my emotional safe space with me, I can take care of myself, and I can meet my own needs. Sometimes that’s hard, and frustrating, and I yearn, but I always strive, and I find ways of meeting my needs in small ways in places I don’t expect.
The dominant culture and femdom are still fucked, but that doesn’t mean I have to be.