I posted the original essay on my blog. It was a bit long for an Out In SA piece and just became longer, but screw the man. Or in this case, Elaine, our esteemed editor. But then something awesome happened. When I posted it on Facebook, the thread got hijacked in the best possible way.
Because I have brilliant and reflexive friends. The resulting discussion was way more brilliant than the original blog post. And she said yes. My parents were good hippies. They were determined to not steep their first daughter in gender norms by putting me in frilly dresses, pink, hair bows, and polka dots.
I grew up in overalls and onesies until one fateful day at the mall. It can be rainy and cold for days on end in the Pacific Northwest, as you know. My mother brought her bouncing off the wall toddler to the mall to work off some energy. And The future Intimacy Dr discovered dresses. I still have a lot of dresses. And more skirts than tops to go with them. And to be completely honest?
I ooze female-presenting, matching my birth assignment, no matter what I put on. I also dig men. Men are yummy, and just smell right to me. By birth assignment, that makes me heterosexual. So all of this means that I must identify, gender-wise, as female, right? Gender has nothing to do with who you have sex with, what sexual organs you were born with, or how you present on the outside.
Sometimes we express ourselves through those means, but gender is more complex and way more an internal state of being than you may have realized. These come from a glossary I created with Beck Munsey, and recently updated with assistance from C. Jones and Jennifer Linden. Anything problematic with these definitions are entirely my fault, anything great they get credit for. And you wanna buy that shit when it comes out.
A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth, and may or may not be congruent with that assignment.
While the historical argument is that gender is purely a social construct, newer research demonstrates that gender behavior does not vary significantly between cultures, therefore there may be neuro-biological roots to gender expression. Also known as gender binarism or binarism. Some people differentiate between the two terms. May be a gender identity itself. Refers to the fluidity of identity. A form of gender identity or expression, genderfuck is an intentional attempt to present a confusing gender identity that contributes to dismantling the perception of a gender binary.
Used to call attention to the self-identification inherent in gender. Cisgender, transgender, man, woman, genderqueer, etc. A person who does not subscribe to gender expressions or roles expected of them by society. Conforming to the cultural rules regarding gender expression, either explicit or implicit. A person who refuses to be defined by conventional definitions of men and women. A term popularized by Kate Bornstein in her book of the same name, not seen in current vernacular as often.
And language, like gender identity, is fluid and constantly changing. No matter how girlie I look, anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes in a room with me knows that there is nothing girlie in how I navigate the world.
My reputation was made when I convinced a local pimp to give up his girl my client so she could take the spot I got her in substance abuse recovery. Because really, what else are you going to do when a mini-van driving mom pulls up and demands you hand over your meal ticket? Besides pee yourself laughing? I navigated caring for a dying husband while completing a doctoral program. You better believe I have a set of balls that drags the ground when I walk.
I had shit to take care of. Gender is between the ears, not between the legs. It also may have everything to do with how you present yourself to the world, nor nothing at all.
So other than the fact that I can rock a short skirt like Tina Turner, there is not much girlie about me. But I am not traditionally male in any sense either. I am warm, and empathic, and unaffectedly care about people. That I accept them, just not their bullshit.
I genuinely like people, quite nearly all of them. I talk about my feelings and cry whenever the fuck I feel like it. The gender binary definitions above, in case you forgot have really fucked us up, as a culture. Why do we have to choose a set of rules and ascribe to them? We lose so much of what makes us the unique, excellent individuals that we are. When I present with my dear friend Beck Munsey, we ask the room which one of us is gender queer.
Only once, in one presentation, did someone say that I was too, not just Beck. We are both queer. Beck digs chicks, I dig guys. We were allowed to be who we were without question, owning all of the excellent qualities that we culturally ascribe to maleness AND femaleness in our same personhood. Jill Solloway, the creator of the brilliant Amazon series, Transparent, spoke to her own gender identity in the February issue of Elle Magazine. I feel like I am in an ever-evolving state of becoming, and I definitely feel like when my father came out [as MTF transgender], it gave me a comforting feeling that I came from a queer family.
And in terms of whether I identify as bi or queer, I feel like there would be a totally different answer a year from now. Facebook is always trying to figure me out. Just shut up and show me my feed, yo. When you break the binary, you break the algorithm. Both online and in real life. They want the neat category. If you were born with a vagina, you should act like it. At least for those around you. Like metaphors, algorithms are simplifications, or distortions.
And they couple to other processes, machines, and materials that carry out the extra-computational part of their work. They want to be innovators, disruptors, world-changers, and such zeal requires sectarian blindness. And no one gives a damn if the person reaching for the last bag of baked Cheetos is male, female, or other. As long as they put that shit down, because you saw them first. I love that the term two-spirit , which had fallen out of use in native communities for many decades now is being reclaimed.
It is being used to honor all of the facets of identity that can exist within someone. As my indigenous sisters reclaim it, I hope others do as well. I can rock a tiny dress, after all. But I explained to him that all the things he loves about me are the things that have scared off many other men. My education, my propensity to say what I think and back it up with both research and action, my determination in going after what I want.
And are not what we culturally ascribe to femaleness in our culture. Not just in theory but in the day to day reality of our lives.
Now he just laughs when he finds a stray hair on my chin and announces that my maleness is coming out. My son pulled off his size 12 smelly-ass sneakers the other day to reveal a pink pair of socks. MY pink pair of warm, warm boot socks. That I had spent 20 minutes looking for that morning. You know those are mine!
No matter what your birth assignment, no matter what your gender identity, no matter what you look like on the outside? Rock your gender identity. If it is somewhere in between? Could you help me pluck this chin hair, real quick? The disconnect is half the story.