June 28, 2012

No, you get off the elevator: gendered body language

Hi there gender blenders,

I hold my arm toward the doors indicating to the man on the elevator with me to exit first. He does the same, no you first. I want to continue the argument, but the doors are threatening to close. I give in, feeling a little ruffled--
  • He was closer to the door.
  • He was carrying more stuff.
Logic follows that he should go first. But I am read as a woman. The social rules of gender therefore make itimperative (at least in U.S. society) that I exit first. (What's the elevator going to do? Eat me if he leaves me on it for a second?)

Now, I'm not someone who feels righteously pissed off about the whole male courtesy thing--not exactly. It's more of a private annoyance. I personally want to break down the binary of gendered behaviors, which sometimes manifests in wanting to invite men to get off the elevator first and women too. Women will accept this from another woman because they are expected to accept it as a general rule. Men, in my experience, will nearly always refuse the offer from a woman. Does it threaten their masculinity? What about my masculinity? Do I not have equal right to mine? Must I defer to the importance of theirs simply because I am a woman?

It's about more than deconstructing gendered behaviors for me--it's also about public recognition of my gender identity. Just because I answer to female pronouns and am socially read as a woman should not mean I always have to get off the elevator first. 

June 27, 2012

My gender in two faces

Oh hey there gender blenders,

This morning when the alarm went off I sat up and announced, "I had a dream I was an androgynous person!" I don't remember the plot whatsoever, but I do remember by body being split head to toe with one side feminine and the other side masculine. Having a visibly split gender, one femme grrl and the other dapper/fancy boi felt really liberating--that is the sense I was left with upon waking up: gender liberation.

I don't have a static dream persona--I tend to shift between "actors"/"characters" and am rarely actually myself. So to be myself literally wearing the two faces of my gender identity simultaneously with a body that was still distinctly mine felt like coming home.

Dear reader, you may be asking yourself how it's possible to have two genders. If I'm honest, I have to admit it isn't possible to have only two genders. Gender is always already performative, and because no two performances can be identical in content, it follows that an individual will take on a constant fluctuation of gendered meaning. Identities function a little differently in that they can represent a range of gendered performances; but they aren't particularly stable either, and definitely not satisfactorily inclusive (hence my need for at least two gender identities).