woman

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 17

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.]

A Portrait of the Artist as a Queer Femme | Radically Queer

…my gender exists somewhere between squishy shy alien creature and calm, helpy robot. It’s not really something I can represent in physical space. I am drawn to things coded feminine and to queering them, so I experience delight in the color pink, in spoonie communities of care, in fannish frivolity. Many of the things I love can most easily be interpreted through a femme lens—except, I sometimes fear, for me.

One Year Out: Of course I was trans | Gender: Awesome

…when it comes to gender especially, I have found it very difficult to verbalize my feelings at all with anyone. I can WRITE about it for days, and I’ve done that: blogging, Facebook posts, published articles, spoken word poems – some people might see that as me being open about my transition, and sure, it totally is.

But writing, performing, and posting on social media are different from actually saying something to someone directly.

Femme, Adjective or Noun? | Femme Feminism

I’m a dyke who wears dresses and skirts 98% of the time, who almost never leaves the house without makeup, who has her shoe collection in a display case and her boot collection hanging from racks on her walls. But “femme” as an identity has always puzzled me. I don’t object to it, I totally support people who use it — it just doesn’t resonate with me. I’ve often said that I’m “femmey, but not a femme.” For me, femme is a description, not an identity; an adjective, not a noun. And part of the reason is that I don’t really grasp, intellectually or instinctively, what that identity means.

What My Body Means | themagicspaceship

(CN: discussion of body shape, and ~curves~)

Today I put on a dress and it made my boobs look good. It fit perfectly on my waist and hips, as if designed for my body shape. I had not internalised the fact that clothes are supposed to fit. The last time I tried a dress it did not fit and left me convinced of my failure as a woman. Today it fit, and I no longer cared about being a woman. In that moment, in the fitting room, trying, purely for fun, a dress I had no intention of buying, the dress wasn’t a performance of femininity. The dress had nothing to do with femininity. It was an ungendered piece of clothing that fit my body, and made no demands of it. My chest was an ungendered body part that for once, somehow, didn’t seem to stick out awkwardly. My curves were an ungendered body shape that is how MY body happens to be shaped. And it felt… nice.

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?

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 11

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.]

Disrupting Gender: A Cisgender Experience | everyone is straight until they’re not. Finding authentic gender expression and sense of self as a cisgender person.

I was fortunate enough to witness several of my friends’ transitions from female to male, and the way they blossomed into happier, more confident, truer versions of themselves is truly inspirational. I feel almost blasphemous for saying this, but I am a little jealous. I remember walking home one night and looking at the stars (I do that a lot when I am contemplating something big), and I thought, What if I am trans? How do I know I am a woman and it’s not just something I do out of habit because that’s what I’ve always been told I am? It was just a passing thought which I immediately dismissed and didn’t speak of out loud until that conversation just before a drag party. But really, how can I achieve that transition into a happier, truer version of myself without the actual act of transitioning my gender?

Let me tell you how.

Gender Talk | Myscape. Being cisgender while also defying gender binarism.

For a long time now I have been struggling to articulate why I feel so certain of being “female” or a “she” despite my genderqueer habits/presentations and my desire to be androgynous and defy gender binarism.

I feel like I am female because 1) I have the expected body, 2) all the people I want to be are female (who I identify with), 3) I do present/perform in some “feminine” ways, and 4) even when I present/perform in “unfeminine” ways that is acceptable. So even though I wish I truly considered myself genderqueer/nonbinary (in the depths of my mind and heart), I feel comfortable being a “female.”

What I mean when I say I am genderqueer | Gender: Awesome.

For me, it began with questions, not answers:

Am I a woman? Do I feel like a woman? How does one ‘feel like’ a woman? Do I feel like a man? Have I ever felt like a man? Have I ever felt like a woman? Do I feel in-between? Do I feel like something else entirely? How do I feel when I am completely alone? Do I have a gender then? Do I have a gender at all? What is gender? Is it my body? Is it my social role? Is it my clothes, my hair, my voice? Does gender even exist? Do I want to have a gender? If I could be any gender, what gender would I be? How do I like to express my gender? Do I express it through appearance, through mannerisms, through roles, through my body?

I find my gender is more complex than I ever imagined. My gender is play, performance, lived experience, utter seriousness. My gender is straight-leg jeans and crew-neck t-shirts with a flannel thrown over the top. My gender is short hair and no makeup except when I feel like it. My gender is gentlemanly, shy, loving, opinionated; my gender is baking zucchini bread and chopping wood; my gender would rather wear a suit but is a sucker for a vintage dress; my gender wears nail polish for the hell of it, prefers dressing butch but mostly identifies as femme…

Bravery | It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way. When people call us “brave” simply for existing.

“You’re so brave!”

This is a refrain that many trans people hear with some frequency. I don’t know how to respond when people tell me this.

Thanks?

I am brave the way someone might run through a field of thorny rose bushes to escape a forest fire. I’m just trying to live my life.

Identical (A Slam Poem) | Genderweird. When you’re trans and your identical twin is not.

…the lines blur and we’re still identical, sitting in
identical classrooms until suddenly we’re not—our bodies
are separate but our minds cannot be untwined. We
swapped fifth grade struggles like our friends swapped
Pokémon cards. We thought we were ready for puberty,
that magical time in a girl’s life when I start to understand
maybe I’m not a girl—that maybe I’m in the “wrong room”

The morning of college graduation I changed
from Stephanie Michelle to Brannen Skyler and I watched
your vision blur when you asked me, “Why?” Identical to
how others ask “Why?” when I still sometimes talk about
myself in the first person plural…

Genderqueerness and the inadequacy of language

One of the major stumbling blocks for me in conceptualizing and discussing my gender identity is the way that terms like “women” and “men”, while they are assumed to represent very straightforward and solid groups, get used in a variety of different contexts with different boundaries – sometimes we intend to include (or should be intending to include, if we thought about it) different subsets of humanity with the same word.

I’ve touched on this concept a few times in the past, but I want to take a moment here to consider the different ways we use words like women/men, male/female, and feminine/masculine, and how it can really complicate the discourse. I’m going to approach this discussion through the lens of my own self-concept as a genderqueer person, but please don’t assume that you can generalize from any of the personal experiences I talk about here to any other genderqueer people, who may experience their gender identities very differently than I do.

Yes, these symbols are inherently connected to the biological definitions of men and women.

Biology: men are people with penises, and women are people with vaginas

Honestly, if it was as simple as this, I would be perfectly comfortable identifying as a woman. I have the good fortune of never having had any major body image issues, and I have no dysphoria around my body at all, so if this were a valid way of defining “woman”, I’d be on board with the category. But I hope it’s obvious that these definitions of “women” and “men” are cissexist and inherently disrespectful to the lived experiences of a great many trans and intersex people. And I’m not going to really bother refuting them; I think that most people these days understand that even if it makes them uncomfortable to think about, these definitions don’t hold true for all people. They are an approximation of the groups women and men, and as far as accuracy goes, they aren’t terrible (most men do have penises, and most people with vaginas are women, and all the vice versas there hold true as well) so I understand why most people sort of use this definition as their jumping off point. And I even understand how this results in people sometimes talking about women and men as if these definitions hold true.

Any time you hear a discussion about “men’s health” or “women’s health”, what’s really being talked about is the health of people with vaginas/penises. Issues affecting pregnant women are almost always relevant to pregnant people in general. And to make matters even more complicated, when we talk about things like breast cancer as a women’s issue, we are even erasing the experiences of some honest-to-goodness men-with-penises who have breast cancer. But we use the words anyway, even though they aren’t strictly correct, and even though they implicitly erase people who don’t fit into the strict biological definitions of the gender-sex binary.

I really think it would be useful to find a words to use for the categories of “people with penises” and “people with vaginas” instead of the approximately correct ones we are currently employing, but since even Ozy’s crowd-sourced request for this terminology (zir blog seems to be down, hopefully only temporarily, but I will add a link here when I can) turned up no viable alternatives, I’m not really sure what to suggest. For lack of a better alternative, for the remainder of this post, I will be using the terms “femaleness” and “maleness” in discussing the state of having a vagina and having a penis, respectively.

Which do you look more like?

Society: men are masculine and women are feminine

Ok, I actually don’t think anyone uses this definition explicitly, though gender policing against people whose level of masculinity or femininity doesn’t match their perceived gender is a very real thing. So, many people certainly believe that men *should* be masculine, and women *should* be feminine, even if they can’t actually ignore the reality that this isn’t so. I actually find the fact that we, as a society, are readily able to incorporate the idea that, for instance, butch women are still certainly women (even if some people will denigrate them for failing to be good at being women, it’s rare that it will be outright denied that that is what they are). I do think this points back to out general dependence on the biological imperative of sex being of the utmost importance, even to those of us who may strive to avoid biological determinism in our language.

The really interesting upswing of society’s acceptance that people needn’t necessarily have gender presentations that mesh with either their biological sex, (or the gender-sex they identify with, as the case may be) is that it can sometimes be a struggle for people with less recognized forms of gender non-conformism to get read the way they hope to be read. I get the impression that transmasculine people who opt against major medical interventions like hormones and surgery very often get read as butch women, often by extremely well-meaning people. On a recent episode of the Masocast, Brant MacDuff discusses exactly this phenomenon, where he gets misgendered by people who really think that they are doing the right thing and being affirming by recognizing that even though he’s wearing a three-piece suit, that doesn’t make him any less of a woman to them (ouch, right?).

It seems that the successful decoupling of femininity and masculinity from maleness and femaleness, though certainly as step in the right direction, has ultimately exacerbated the issues raised by the continued linking of womanhood to femaleness and manhood to maleness.

The real problem is that we use the words “men” and “women” to cover both of these (somewhat related, but very imperfectly correlated) binaries: that of biological femaleness/maleness, and that of femininity/masculinity, when we should be using them for neither. I mean, I’ve chosen the terms I’m using carefully here, and I hope it’s clear that what’s really happening here is that the two categories of “men” and “women” are being forced to fit into the spectra (or multi-dimensional spaces, depending on your perspective) of male-female and masculine-feminine in a mutually exclusive and exhaustive way. And they are utterly inadequate to the task.

Men and women are perfectly functional identity categories, but they are adequately defined neither by the characteristics of biology nor those of gender presentation. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that “men” and “women,” as categories, are not sufficient to express the diversity of people’s experiences of their gender. And honestly, I think a big part of this is that we’ve decoupled the binary of man-woman from the mappings of male-female and masculine-feminine about as much as we can without rendering “man” and “woman” devoid of meaning. Because really, what would it mean to identify as a man if it had nothing whatsoever to do with societal concepts of masculinity or maleness? At some point, the category becomes arbitrary and meaningless, if there are truly no characteristics that are associated with it.

I dunno, man. What are woman-ness and man-ness, if not socially defined categories that depend on those other factors?

And, I mean, I’m not sure if this would be a good thing, or a bad thing, or just a neutral thing. A lot of people depend on recognizing and valuing certain characteristics that are associated with maleness and/or femaleness (or with masculinity and/or femininity, or with whatever characteristics still cling to and define the categories of “men” and “women”). This is one of the tangles I was trying to unravel in my head when I asked for monosexual people (people attracted exclusively to men or to women) to try to figure out what the fundamental characteristics were that defined the boundaries of their attraction. But a lot of us are also just kind of sick of the whole system, and the ways that sex and identity and presentation get conflated in the everyday we talk about people, and for some of the people that feel that way, genderqueerness is a kind of refuge from the whole unravel-able mess.

Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote even go so far as to describe themselves as gender-retired. And I think the sentiment of gender retirement is one that I can get behind. Yesterday, I came across this remarkably concise definition of “genderqueer”. I think it might describe precisely (probably a little *too* precisely) the internal processes and unspoken desires that motivated the formation of my own genderqueer identity. I balk against it, too, because it feels a little too pat, and overly simplified. But the most concise way I’ve ever been able to come up with to explain why I reject the gender binary is simply that I am much more comfortable and happy with my own self-concept when I remove the framework of “female” from the picture. I feel more free to be just me, unencumbered, when I’m not somehow failing at the indistinct and moving target of womanhood.

So instead, I choose to make myself an indistinct and moving gender target, undefined and impossible to police. What I love about One Multiple Code’s definition is that it precisely defines genderqueerness (as I experience it) in terms of its inherent imprecision. What could be more fantastically linguistically ironic than that?