Gender fuckery

(via arimoore on Flickr)

Sometimes I feel like my whole gender identity thing is just really silly. Does it really matter what pronouns people use for me? In practice, it almost kind of doesn’t, since basically all strangers everywhere still use words that match my biological sex to address/talk about me, since I am almost always read as belonging to the ‘corresponding’ gender. The “best” I could aim for in my general interactions with the world at large would be to create a personal presentation that resulted in a healthy mix of masculine and feminine pronouns from different people – but that kind of straddling the line is dangerous and scary.

The thing is, I’m not super emotionally affected by whether people remember to use the “right” terms or not. And of course all of the people I’m out to about it are people who would never have judged me based on my gender anyway, or expected me to fit in some sort of gender box in the first place. Because you all are awesome like that. And the whole point that my desire for gender neutral pronouns is kind of intended to make is that the gender boxes our society naturalizes are silly, and constricting, and dumb, and you all pretty much know that.


Gender fuckery can sometimes give me a really great sense of fulfillment. It makes me feel more centred and myself when I know that I’m with someone who is actively supporting my ongoing effort to reframe the way I conceptualize myself. Because ultimately, I think that’s what it’s about for me. When I think of myself as a woman, I have a sense that I am somehow failing at that – and while there’s all kinds of methods of dealing with this kind of problematized self-image, and lots of people defy gender boxes without changing the words they use to describe themselves (there’s plenty of comfortably female-identified but super butch women out there), this is really just what feels right for me, and what makes me feel most able to just be me. And that’s worth a lot.

I also think that a big part of the silliness I sometimes feel comes from a more generalized problem I have with being vulnerable to other people – I almost always feel similarly silly about asking for things I want sexually, for instance. Because I’m asking for something from someone else, and they could turn me down or laugh at me (not that this has ever really happened, evil ex’s pathologization of my needs aside), and regardless of how legitimate or central to my sexuality the request may be, it always feels trivial in that moment for some reason.

So I guess, yeah, I totally acknowledge that every single one of us possesses our own combination of traits that society defines as feminine, and others that are defined as masculine, and I’m not trying to suggest I’m anything special in that regard; I’m really not. But I like the idea of making explicit the fact people don’t actually fit these categories – not least since so many people actually really think there’s something wrong with not fitting in certain ways.

My most favouritest comment I got in response to the various comings out I did a few months back was this:
“…retraining neural pathways on gender & requiring frequent thinking about it seems inherently desirable, really”

Yes. That.


  1. That exactly!

    And you have every right to ask folks to refer to you by an “unexpected” pronoun – it’s not a silly thing to ask at all, and if they laugh or turn you down then they are the ones being douchenozzles and making it awkward by not respecting your self-definition.

    (This from the woman who recently changed her name and is too much of a coward to ask her mom to start calling her by the right one…. *sigh* You pick your battles, yeah?)

    1. Aw, yeah, I haven’t decided what I’m going to do about my parents yet… I’ll have to have some kind of conversation with them at some point before hubby an I start parenting, since I’m not going to want to be called “mom” (and how do you explain that to your mom, exactly?) Bleh.

      If it makes you feel any better, though, my husband also changed his name not too long ago, and hasn’t told his parents yet, either. I tend to think that if you’re using it for a while and everyone else is calling you it before you tell them, it’ll be harder for them to try to pull an “it’s just a phase” thing on you.

      And also, yeah, all of my friends have hands-down been pure wonderful about my gender stuff. I almost wish I could come out more often, since the response was such an outpouring of love and support :D

  2. I think the vulnerability is a common human thing, just everyone’s not as honest about it with themselves or others. Some people don’t even recognize it’s the source of them “not feeling right.” When it comes to gender, I’m pretty much open to respecting whatever people choose for themselves and it’s really not much of an issue to me either way. I do like catching strangers by surprise because many people expect you to fulfill certain roles or stereotypes if you look a certain way [light skinned, “you’re hispanic??!”; young looking, “you’re the teacher?!!”]. Anything that jolts people into actively absorbing information about others and their surroundings and interpreting what is actually in front of them instead of some ready-made societal construct is a total win. Plus, it’s fun to see the looks on their face. I think it’s hilarious. Gets ’em every time. :)

    1. … I was going to do a pull-quote, but then I realized that it’d wind up being almost your entire comment, so I won’t. The whole thing about making people do a double-take/stop and question/consider whether gender is as easily identifiable as they like to think, or whatever other social constructs they’ve assumed were stable, is a big part of what I love about fucking with my gender presentation. It amazed me how something as simple as the first time I cut my hair short (and seriously, that was the only appearance change I was making at the time) made so many people give me double-takes when I went into a women’s washroom. It’s weird to see how ingrained these things are for some people.

      And it’s also just tons of fun sometimes, too :D

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