internalized misogyny

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 14

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

On Gender Expression, or None Gender with Left Girl | The Gay Divorcee Chronicles
The author discusses their struggles with gender boxes, dypshoria, and their identity of “Vaguely Genderqueer But Mostly Female”:

That female box may be what is most appropriate for me to check, but it really doesn’t cover it.

It’s definitely not all of me, and it makes me extremely uncomfortable to check that box. It limits me, confines me, suffocates me. When I was trying to earn money on a survey-taking site, I actually had a bit of a breakdown at one point because I was so infuriated by the fact that I HAD TO CHECK THAT DAMN BOX.

Gender Peformance | Sighs and Sprites
A genderqueer femme discusses their struggles with internalized misogyny and anti-femme bias.

I said to a friend that I feel like a drag queen sometimes, performing femininity because it makes me feel attractive and powerful, to which she pointed out that all gender is performative. That hypermasculine dudebro’s, with their utes and beer are performing masculinity to feel attractive and powerful as well.

I understood the point she was making and I agreed fully but it wasn’t shaking this icky feeling that I had inside. Like I wasn’t really genderqueer because I’m AFAB and dress femme so often. As if there were some kind of gender non-conforming checklist of criteria that I wasn’t measuring up to. I knew this was bullshit but I didn’t feel it.

Standing on the Wrong Mountain | quizzicalsloth
The concept of evolutionary “Fitness Peaks” makes a potentially useful analogy to gender transition and identity.

I feel like I’m on peak A: I’m fairly happy with myself (most of the time) but if I think about being somewhere on peak B I feel like I would be even happier. The problem I’m seeing at the moment is that to get to that point I’m going to have to go through a time where things aren’t so good.

To Justify and Identify Gender | my love, my loathe
An intensely personal exploration of gender identity, with no definitive answers (i.e. my favourite kind, really :P)

I’ve been pondering – specifically the question of gender. Does one have to pick a single identity to truly convey what they feel? Does dysphoria, or lack there of, set a person’s identity in stone? Does dissatisfaction with the social expectations of your gender truly mean anything beyond being different?

Sexual agency and bafflement

I had some weird, not-really-the-point reactions to a recent Captain Awkward letter (TL;DR is that the letter writer is in a romantic and sexual relationship with a woman who does not engage in any kind of penetrative sex, and is averse to semen generally. Their sex life involves him getting her off usually without reciprocation.) The actual advice and comments provided to the letter writer are great (she gets to have her boundaries, but you also get to leave if you’re not happy and that’s ok) and I have nothing to add.


But the thing that really strikes me, hard, when reading this letter (and I have read things like this before and had a similar reaction) is how completely impossible it seems to me that anyone could ever possibly have the wherewithal to express the kinds of preferences and boundaries this person’s girlfriend has put in place. If it was me, I would have never felt like I had the right to expect these kinds of needs or preferences to be respected. I would have assumed that I was the problem and compromised the shit out of my boundaries and suffered quietly and tried to suck it up.

Because I was raised to believe that there are certain things you just have to do if you are going to date a man. Because I was raised to believe that if you dared to ask for a compromise or to slow down on those things, and if the man involved was gracious enough to grant you their patience, they were going above and beyond the call of duty, and you probably owed them one to be honest.

This is a key part of rape culture, for the record, and it is something I was very clearly and explicitly indoctrinated into.

I was fortunate, therefore, that my first sexual relationship was with a woman, because that messaging didn’t come into play for me there. I am sure that foundation is part of what prevented me from being sexually traumatized by my relationship with my first boyfriend, to be honest.

Because that, as I have written about before, was something else. With him, it was all about the explicit pressure. But to be honest, he didn’t need to work all that hard – a little hinting was all it took for me feel like I was being unfair or unreasonable or that I was over-stepping my rights to agency. So when we made out for the first time, and didn’t go an further, and he said “You can’t keep doing this to me” (the *first time* we made out!), I didn’t run away or tell him off or anything. I just let him go further than I was ready to next time.

And thus was our pattern established.

It’s been a long time since then, of course, and it’s been a *very* long time since I had a partner who had also internalized these toxic ideas about what is simply required in a sexual relationship. It is intuitively obvious to me now that people get to have and express whatever boundaries they want. And I’ve learned to set my own boundaries somewhat, though I’ve also just had partners who are caring and attentive and able to read me well enough that those things haven’t always needed to be explicit.

I do still sometimes have to fight an uphill battle against myself, and the fact that I still instinctively respond to my own awareness of my partners’ desires with an internal pressure to perform. It is sometimes difficult to pull apart my genuine drive and desire to please other people because I enjoy it a fuck of a lot from the more damaging drive to self-obliterate against other people’s desires. I have to remember to stay in tune with myself, and that is easier some days than others, but I am honestly really good at it now.

But still, reading something like this letter, from a person whose attitude is so naturally “well, is the person I’m with doesn’t want the thing, then we don’t do the thing” that it doesn’t even need to be explicitly stated, when that attitude is just the way he seems to live and breathe his approach to relating sexually to other people, it actually kind of blows my mind a little.

Because, of course, that should be obvious. But to so many people, it really, really isn’t.

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 6

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I hope to curate writing by people with a wide variety of gender identities and experiences, talking about their gender, what it means to them personally, and what it means for the ways in which they move through and interact with the world. Basically, this is where I point out that I’m not the only person in the world who has complex thoughts about gender, and that there as many ways to be Trans* and/or genderqueer as there are to be cisgender (and yes, there are many different ways to be cisgender). Check out the rest of the series.]

Today, I bring you a mixed bag:

  • Thoughts on what it means to “transition” as a non-binary person

    It used to stress me out, thinking about having to prove to people that I am transgender and that I am transitioning. But I’m starting to realize and truly internalize that I don’t need to do anything to prove that I am trans, especially if it’s for the benefit of other people and not myself

    I feel like transitioning isn’t quite the right word for what I do. I reify my gender through these actions and in my actions every day. It isn’t showy, its components change daily, and it will never be finished.

  • Angi Becker Stevens examines her life growing up as a tomboy, and the internalized misogyny that was a part of her experiences.

    …to view all girlhood acts of gender non-conformity as necessarily positive strikes me, now, as an oversimplification.

    All these years later, when I look back on my adolescence, it seems that rather than being progressive, it was actually quite anti-feminist.

    After all, it wasn’t as if I had liberated myself from caring what the boys thought of me.

    On the contrary, my entire life centered on proving myself and gaining their approval.

  • Rimonim discusses the “Man Enough Trap” from his perspective as a transgender man.

    Sometimes I get sick with the fear and shame of not being man enough. Is my dick too small? Is my body too weird? Are my gestures effeminate? My line of work unmanly? What really sticks in my craw is the sneaking sense that as a transsexual, I am somehow permanently inadequate, a poor imitation.

    Yet this sinking feeling and shame and fear lie at the very heart of what it is to be a man in my society.

  • Jens talks about beginning to pass as male, and the complicated experience of being complimented on seeming like “real” boy.

    Of course, I AM a boy, and yes sometimes I’m more intentional about my behavior and appearance to appear more masculine, but I also am a boy even if I put on a dress. Just because I’m medically transitioning into manhood does NOT mean that I wasn’t a boy before, or that pre-t photos of me are not photos of a young man.

    To “suspect” I might not be a cisgender boy is to question my identity and expression. It lowers the validity someone is giving me. To think to yourself “Oh, [he’s not a boy] he’s trans!” is sad for me. Yes, I’m trans. But I’m also a boy. I can be both, and I am both very earnestly.

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 5

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I hope to curate writing by people with a wide variety of gender identities and experiences, talking about their gender, what it means to them personally, and what it means for the ways in which they move through and interact with the world. Basically, this is where I point out that I’m not the only person in the world who has complex thoughts about gender, and that there as many ways to be Trans* and/or genderqueer as there are to be cisgender (and yes, there are many different ways to be cisgender). Check out the rest of the series.]

  • “I Do Not Know What My Gender Is”: James Warwood talks about transition, uncertainty, not fitting into the classic trans narrative, and acknowledging that everything from his early years as a girly-girl to becoming who he is today is a part of himself. And all of it is authentic.

    How does a child who was perfectly content as a girl grow up to be a man? Even those who are familiar with transgender people know that there is some amount of internal struggle that leads to transition. Some sort of sign that this had been there all along.

    On this one point, I agree with my stepmom. I had been a girly girl, and happily so. I can only assume that I could have continued on and maintained some level of contentment with my life. There isn’t an easy way to explain why I transitioned or to describe my gut feeling that it had to be done. I’ve only begun to come close to understanding my gender identity by expanding my understanding of gender: that is, by accepting that gender is not a binary.

  • “Do I Pass?”: Alex discusses the complexities of what it means to have passing privilege (particularly masculine passing privilege) as a genderqueer person who doesn’t want to pass as anything.

    I’m going to try to make this as clear as possible, right here, right now: I DO NOT WANT TO PASS AS ANYTHING.

    I am genderqueer. I am not a man, I am not a woman. I present one way or another at times because that’s what I feel like doing that day but I shouldn’t have to pass as anything.

    In a perfect world, I would never want to pass. I enjoy masculine-looking things at times but ideally I would be able to look androgynous at all times. It is seriously painful to me sometimes to look in the mirror and see a man. Assuming the fact that I can easily pass and access certain privileges because of it makes me any “less trans” or however you feel like spinning your position is nothing more than a cheap attempt to police my gender. At the end of the day, though, I often come off as cismale and I would be lying if I said I had never taken advantage of that before.

    So the real question to me becomes “do I pass as queer?”

  • “Moving into my gender”: CaptainGlitterToes delivers a really beautiful essay on the experience of self-exploration and discovery on the journey toward a gender identity and expression that fits.

    Hearing my right pronouns, or hearing someone call me by the right gendered words, is ice cream melting in my mouth. It is the feeling of hot chocolate pumping warmth through my veins. It is as if my whole gut was a rock warming in the sun, filling my body with solidity and lightness all at once. It is a fitting of that last puzzle piece. With the right words, I suddenly become more solid than I knew possible, and yet more ready to skip and twirl at the same time. My wholeness takes its rightful place, from my gut to my elbows. I am simultaneously as excited as a hummingbird and as unperturbed as a smooth lake.

  • “Me, My Gender, and Internalized Misogyny”: CloudNoodle writes about how overcoming internalized misogyny was an important come of coming into their own as a person comfortable with a genderqueer identity that made space for their feminine aspects.

    I was not like other girls and that was very important to me.

    That was all I had words for. I had no concepts of ‘transgender’, ‘gender identity’ or ‘genderqueer’. My native language uses the same word for sex and gender. I didn’t know of any people who weren’t straight and cisgender. I didn’t know that I could be something other than female since that was what everybody saw me as, that’s what they said when I was born. But thing is, I did feel somewhat female and perhaps it was the worst part. Because, quite unconsciously, while separating myself from everything to do with ‘other girls’, I also developed a sense that being a girl meant being worse or lesser – less serious, less able, less lovable, just less.

  • “Decoder Ring”: The writer of It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way describes the path of denial and resistance he went through before coming to recognize, accept, and embrace his male identity.

    After spending approximately 30 seconds considering the possibility that I was transgender, I roundly dismissed the idea. After all, wouldn’t I have already known that by now? (Hahahaha! Good one!) Besides, I had no desire to be a man. I resented most men in general for obliviously oppressing me as a woman. I was busy trying to open doors and expand the female gender box. I couldn’t be a man.

    I set about trying to squeeze myself into any other box. I tried on ‘butch’ as a label in my head. I thought maybe I could be genderqueer. I searched the internet for women who liked to bind their chests, but who were still women, to gather more evidence that it was possible. Anything but needing to change my name and pronouns, I pleaded with myself. Anything but that.

    I thought I could decide. I was trying to decide that I wasn’t male, that I wasn’t transgender. That didn’t work out so well.

Genderqueer Perspectives – Vol. 1

Given the rarity of genderqueerness, it’s one of those identities where many of the people in your life may never know another genderqueer person. And that means that for a lot of people, I may be the be all and end all of what it means to be genderqueer, and I’m not terribly comfortable with that. So to combat this in some small way, I’ve decided to occasionally pull together links to other genderqueer people talking about their experiences and the ways in which they parse their own identities. Check out the rest of the series (now titled “Gender Perspectives” and encompassing a wider variety of gender identities and expressions!).

Here goes:

This anonymous post on Black Girl Dangerous deals with the tensions that come up between feminism and genderqueer identities (i.e what does it mean when you reject womanhood?) and many, many other things, including intersections among race, disability, and gender.

I’m a black, disabled, queer, working class, non-binary person who has an attachment to the femaleness with which I was born but can’t abide the language that surrounds it. I know that for many people – those who buy into the false gender binary and even those in trans* communities – this does not make sense.

I know also that many people will see this as a statement of internalised misogyny or self-hate. I know, too, that this sense that is rooted deep in my chest and my mind is in fact none of those things.

On the perils of defining genderqueerness at all.

…people can define genderqueer in an indefinite number of ways. None of which I can say, without exposing my reasoning to fault, is “wrong”; I can clarify however, that there are definitions, several of which presently do not fit me as a genderqueer identified person.

s.e. smith discusses ou experiences growing up genderqueer.

All my friends seemed so sure they were girls and boys. So confident and assertive. They never had that doubt, they didn’t stand in front of the mirror at night thinking about cutting their breasts off or wondering why they didn’t have penises.

I didn’t know what I was because I didn’t have a word for it. There were girls and boys and men and women and I wasn’t any of those things, even though sometimes I liked being a boy, having people think I was a boy. I couldn’t imagine being a man. I definitely did not like being a girl, I can tell you that.