This is a topic that’s been on my mind a lot recently. Maybe part of it comes from having grown up in the ’80s where, to a young teen-aged girl, feminism and lesbianism were synonymous. I truly felt for a time that if I identified as straight, that meant betraying my sisters-in-arms and my gender as a whole. (I didn’t feel this way for a long time, but I remember carrying that belief.) Had I been given the education back then that I have now, I would have recognized the difference between sexuality and sex – and acknowledged that sexual attraction was not what I had been taught it was. (We’ll get into broken sexual stereotypes later.)
As I’ve explored the world more and more, I’ve come to realize that my gender identification is not cut-and-dried. I had my goddess-worshiping pagan phase, and that helped me to embrace womanhood, but even that felt just a little disingenuous.
Let me backtrack for just a minute here and explain something. Why did I have to explore goddess worship to come to terms with my own female-ness? Simply put, I perceived the female form as weak, vulnerable, and a perpetual victim-waiting-to-happen. Chicks were chattle, interchangeable, and you could only tell them apart because of their accessories. They were only pseudo-exalted by boys who were not introduced to the mysteries of the vagina, and once they had experienced the joys of sex, girls turned into prey.
I felt like I was wearing a gigantic “kick me” sign wherever I went as I tried to be a girl, and I think I got it worse than most because I have also always been diminutive and younger than my peers and more intelligent than average, so I knew when I was getting the shitty end of the stick. And what’s worse, since I didn’t identify with girls as readily as with boys – because nail polish?! manicures?! pedicures?! boy-bands?!? dafuq?!? – I hung out with boys more, and that meant that I was a closer target for more distasteful victimization. Even then, I looked around at other girls and considered them to be far worse off than I was because I was conscious of the imbalance and thus sought a way to create my own freedom.
Waaaaay back in the day, that was what being female felt like to me: it was a trap, a slavery, even in our “enlightened” age. And these days, I can’t say that I feel much different because I will not make more than 75% of what my equal male counterparts make (often less) in a corporate environment, my value is often still defined by how many and by what arrangements I have bred offspring, and I am first judged on how pretty I am – and if I’m not trying to be pretty, then clearly I must be relying on my intelligence to get by in the world.
When I finally came to understand that I saw femininity as weakness, I came to terms with it through studying more positive female role models through paganism. Maybe the whole thing started because I was raised Roman Catholic where our only role models were virgins, whores, and codependents. Once I felt I had a decent acceptance of my girlness, I started exploring the concepts of masculinity instead, because maybe if being a girl was such a drag that I had to go to such extreme measures to feel okay about myself, a boy had to have a better existence, right?
In many ways, men have it just as bad or worse. Their personalities and personal desires are usurped by the demands of society – “Have ALL the children”, “Make ALL the money!”, “Play ALL the sports!”, “Fuck ALL the women!” What if they don’t want to? What if going to college and working in a corporate brain factory all day is not ideal? What if traveling the countryside in a Rennie caravan is what they want? It takes a strong personality to go against the grain and turn his back on the 3-bedroom suburban house with the SUV and the credit card debt, especially if he still wants to raise a family, and the pressure of bucking the system can make them crack in a totally different way.
Men are just as fucked by patriarchal bi-gendered society as women are.
That got me thinking about how much of our gender identification is wrapped up in our societal standards and how much is biological. I’m starting to notice that while aboriginal and native tribal cultures identified a Third Gender – a melding of male and female attributes – this is distinctly different from transgender wherein a person feels completely at odds with their biological gender assignment (cis-gender). Because both “non-binary gender” assignments are, well, non-binary, they get lumped together, and that brings us to a conversation I had with a complete stranger in a bar, as I am occasionally wont to do.
This occurred back when I shaved my head the last time, late 2009, early 2010. CS (Complete Stranger) commented to me that I would look so pretty if I grew my hair out. I replied that I looked pretty either way, my beauty was not in kept in my hair.
“But you look like a boy,” CS replied.
I looked down at my obvious chest cabbages. “No, not really.”
“You know what I mean,” he pressed. “Wait, are you a lesbian?”
“Nope,” I answered.
“But you’re not a dyke?”
“Then why wear your hair so short?”
“It’s comfortable,” I answered, “and I save a ton of money on shampoo. I never have to worry about putting it up in the morning or waiting for it to dry. Why do you wear your hair so short?”
“Because that’s the way I like it,” he said.
“That’s the way I like my hair, too,” I replied.
“Are you planning on trying to be a guy?”
This caught me a little off-guard because the thought had never consciously occurred to me. Me? A guy?! I cross-dressed as a social experiment a few times when I was much, much younger, and if I wasn’t passable as a guy, at least the people around me had the decency to pretend that I was. I had never actually thought of gender reassignment, though.
And by posing the question, I realized that I definitely did not want gender reassignment.
I like having girl parts. I freely admit to laying in bed after my husband has gone to work and just playing with my boobs because, hey, boobs! They’re fun! They’re squishy! And they feel good when you play with them! And it feels good when you play with other people’s, too, but that’s not the point right now. I’m also primarily androsexual – I like boys. I sometimes like girls, too, but for a different kind of relationship that might end in sex but without the same expectation of it as I’d have with a boy.
But I also identify as not being a great mom – but I do feel like I’m a great dad. My impulse is to make the money, pay the bills, play with the kids, change the diapers, teach the things, throw the balls, walk the dog, and then ideally pass them off to someone else for the mushy stuff. Wanna make a mistake? Go for it. Here’s what’ll happen if you– yep, exactly as I said. Gonna listen next time? No? Well, okay, go make some mistakes. And, yes, that means not bailing you out.
NOT very lady-like.
Oh, crap, what does that mean for my husband?
Lucky for him, I do actually know how to girl, but I’d like to imagine that he respects my strength and stubbornness and intelligence as much as my genitalia. I do grow my hair out relatively often, but I also wear makeup when it’s short because, frankly, I think that’s hot. And if I think it’s hot, that boosts my sexual confidence, and that’s where the sexy happens.
From my perspective, I’d say that my male partner is one lucky fellow. Yes, I girl as well as I can, but because I’ve also explored masculinity as far as I can without actually having a penis, I expect that I can relate to him even better. Isn’t that the biggest complaint between the genders? Neither side truly understands the other?
Then there’s people like me who are pretty much in between. We’ve kicked the traditional gender roles to the curb and stomped them into greasy stains, and we’ve taken the parts that we want from both sides to make them part of a shape that’s better than either of the originals. We demand to be treated equally to all our other fellow humans because we are equal within ourselves – we are balanced and comfortable, once we realize that our gender roles are not defined by our junk but instead by our choice.
We are going to break the system by making our own system, one that is not defined by greed and hatred for the unknown. We are going to embrace cis-gender, gender-queer, transgender, and every kind of person there is, as long as they approach us with love. And we’re going to do this starting a few years ago so that it can be our reality sooner instead of later.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, these boobs aren’t going to play with themselves.