Gender. [part 4]
[part 3 here, with links to previous sections]
Earlier this year, I had all my internal sex organs removed: uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes. With that, I find myself wanting to explore my gender identity again, in a meaningful way.
I remember my first shock of recognition about being “other” gendered. There was a short story, I think in Omni magazine, about a person who was neither/both male and female. They had a role in their society as a third member of relationships, and often helped to balance those relationships. I think this story effected my views on relationships and sexuality as well as gender—though the reality of being the “third” added to a couple tends not to work out as ideally. One is more likely to be treated like the ultimate sex toy, which is only fun in small doses… (but that’s a whole other conversation.)
I used to identify as a genderfuck—that is, someone who purposefully subverts or plays with gender expression and expectations. I no longer make an active effort, and for the past few years have considered myself gender fluid. Now, I find that I shift less and am settling in toward the middle.
My journey has been something like this:
Clueless about gender studying being a girl playing with gender expectations wondering if I am a gay man in a woman’s body trying to embrace & feminine mythology as identity drag queen on the weekends relationship as a woman with a gay man living as a gay man asexual studying and embracing all things female and feminine, exploring feminine sexuality asexual actively trying figure out how to live as genderqueer.
I have spent a lot of my life trying to learn how to be a woman. A little trying to learn how to be a man. Both have been artificial, and driven largely by sexual identity or general acceptance.
Being female-bodied, though, means that to be perceived as not-woman I have to actively adopt masculine visual cues. But this also can lead to the interpretation of my gender presentation as butch lesbian. In truth, though I’m pansexual—it would be more accurate to say I’m masculine-sexual. That is, I’m attracted to masculine energy, whatever body or gender it’s attached to. And if I’m read as a butch lesbian, that signals to people the expectation that I’m probably attracted to feminine women. I can appreciate a beautiful femme, but unless she’s got some masculine elements—they aren’t going to turn me on. When I got to see Dita von Teese perform, I was in awe of her matching heavily Swarovski-encrusted bra, corset and hot pants, and didn’t particularly look at her tits and ass.
I find myself wondering how much of my discomfort with my body (tits are weird, and until I got it removed my uterus was a source of strong dislike because of the problems it caused me) contributes to my feeling that I’m not a woman. When I was an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, all the hippie chicks talked about fertility and lunar cycles and the mother-goddess. I hated that, because it made me feel, as a female-bodied person who did not cycle and would not have children, that I was not welcome in the club. Part of the reason for writing this series has been to explore my feelings about gender, and how that’s evolved.
I’ve never been comfortable in woman-only spaces. The past few years, that’s changed a bit—and, if the women are more mature, and not all straight, I might be. But there’s an assumed solidarity that I don’t feel—even after decades of trying to forge sister-feeling. I am very comfortable in mixed spaces—mixed in terms of gender and sexuality. I am also very comfortable in male-only spaces, as long as the guys are kinky and/or gay—though, since I’m there, I guess those are mixed spaces, too.
I have, at a few points in my life, had a gay best friend. Each of them has said that they considered me a gay man. We weren’t “girlfriends” who dished about shoes so much as buddies who dished about cock, and went out to pick up men together. My gay husband said he loved how much I reminded him of his first male lover.
I try to look at socialization, and cultural assumptions, and figure out: if I were born with a male body, if I hadn’t spent years studying how to be a woman—would I still be “other” gendered? Or would I be a gay guy? Or a bi guy who likes some butch women? Really, there’s no way to tell.
Ultimately, I am (as are we all) the result of my genes and my journey. I am a genderqueer person, and I am comfortable with that being its own thing—neither man nor woman and not androgenous, neither butch nor femme, and not agendered either—but something else.