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The man I'd be...

I have become more and more certain and comfortable in my genderqueerness over the years. I don't think I've gotten commensurately easier to read as such, though. If anything, the opposite. I tell people, and expect them to respect it, but without that it'd be under the radar or incorrectly identified by many, much of the time. Many more than would've read me semi-accurately at times in my past.

I mostly credit feminism for fixing the rift between my masculine and feminine sides, in as much as it's fixed. That's where I learned the skills to analyze the stuff I was reacting to anyway, found the context and space and people for conversation, gained the tools to start consciously fixing some of the more thoroughly fuckered parts of my brain. I was saying earlier today that my Mom says I've been intensely sensitive to power dynamics and imbalances since I was a toddler.

I never could be told what to do, says Mom, it was just faster to reason with me and enlist my voluntary cooperation. It's still true, and shows a lot in my work life, where I'm vehemently loyal to bosses who treat me and my coworkers with respect, but itching for a fight with those I perceive as unjust or abusive. I chewed out one boss in my first meeting with him for making my coworker cry. It's amazing I've never been fired, given how easily I hit raging righteous indignation (especially when manic; saved a union that way)

I'm highly cooperative, deeply loyal, and not even a little bit obedient by nature. Threaten my sense of autonomy and I react. Outside kink play, I'm hardcore egalitarian, near-anarchist philosophically. Defanging involuntary, unjust, nonconsensual, and abusive power dynamics is what I do. The consensual, negotiated, analyzed power dynamics of the kink community are a blessed haven from the vanilla world even if I personally rarely play with the D/s side of things because it's so potently charged for me.

Nothing will bring out the enraged bear in me like bullying, on any social scale, personal or institutional. It is my nature to physically defend (and that feels somehow related to my territoriality about space, and my need to be able to care for my people). I often gravitate toward activism and action that involves physically using my body to protect, support, or comfort others.)

And I know I've wandered far afield, but I always ramble, especially when high (another reason to be a stoner, not a drinker - trying to type drunk is monumentally frustrating), and I think I am somehow getting back to the gender question.

So, I'm sensitive to nonconsensual power dynamics. And in our world gender is at the core of such monumentally fucked and nonconsensual dynamics that it's pervasive almost the the point of invisibility on every scale. I was raised in a very feminist, egalitarian way at home (Dad deserves so much credit here, for always supporting and encouraging my freedom. I was never his little princess with fetishized innocence). As I've mentioned, My Parents=Awesome. And every time I left the home I ran smack into the mundane sexism of 80's rural Michigan, telling me how I was lesser, or should be limited by my sex. It was the contrast and conflict that made me who I am. That made me certain I didn't deserve that crap, and equally certain it existed in spades all around me.

Since I was a tomboy, I also had reason to be more sensitive to gendered expectations than a girl who fit more of the standard expectations. I was getting in my first feminist arguments with teachers in first grade (and I won, thank you). And it's the old story with tomboys; having to be tougher than the boys to keep my place, constantly on guard against any betraying indication of despised femininity that could be used to shove me back in the "girl" box. Having to double down on the hating of all things girly or risk being seen as one of the enemy. Kneejerk defensive misogyny. I am bone-deep certain of the problem of sexism because I've felt it from both sides, how it twisted both the masculine and feminine in me. It has taken many years and a lot of work to rebalance things inside me.

I did try out performative femininity some as a teen. Partly out of curiosity, and because it is a part of me, after all, but mostly because I didn't know how else to conceptualize romantic relationships with boys. Outside my groping and rough-housing with my guy friends, didn't I have to be a girl to attract guys? I hadn't seen much evidence otherwise.

In college, in really analyzing gender stuff, I decided I was done living in that kind of reaction to the world; it controlled me just as much. And feminism called me on a lot of my toxic crap, made me see how I was recreating many of the same toxic, defensive forms of masculinity I couldn't stand from cis-guys.

I've gotten about equal benefit, personally, from feminist critiques of masculinity and of femininity. I more often saw myself in the bad behavior more commonly attributed to men than to women, and I was ashamed. I have a lot of cultural privilege in my life in general, and in social situations I often behaved, especially toward women, with the equivalent of male privilege.

I started thinking about what I would actually want to be like, if I were a guy. About the men I respected, about my Dad and my friends and my lovers. What kind of guy would I be if I weren't constantly engaged in trying to yell my identity over the cues my body sends? What's actually true to me, and not just a reaction?

What kind of men do I love and respect? Men who respect women, men who don't denigrate femininity. Men who don't fear their own feminine side. Long-haired gentle hippie men, creative, thoughtful men. Men with the confidence not to be defensive. Those were the kind of men I wanted to be like. I wasn't.

I'm more that way these days, and since I've mostly stopped using toxic but clearly gendered signs to yell my identity at the world, I'm less clearly read as masculine-of-center unless I intentionally communicate that through costume. But many of the guys I love and respect have no fear of wearing dresses, and I've used their example to find my own comfort. I'm still touchy about gender stuff, still too easily feel threatened and defensive. Still working on that, still exploring how far into femininity is natural to me, too.

And I want to fix that. Partly for my internal wholeness, but also for my smutty, smutty fun. Although I desire many feminine and androgynous people, masculinity has special power for me sexually. And that's a whole other giant post. Maybe tomorrow.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 20th, 2015 04:02 am (UTC)
I've missed your long, thinky posts and am glad to see you back here.
May. 21st, 2015 04:52 am (UTC)
Thank you; it's a tremendous relief to be writing substantively again.
May. 20th, 2015 04:26 am (UTC)
I'm pleased to see you posting again. Also, this post meshes interestingly with some of my own thoughts about how I deliberately work to seem non-threatening and that if I was female, I both would not only not need such behaviors, but continuing to engage in them would render me entirely socially invisible and irrelevant, much like the reverse of how when my friend Aaron transitioned and went from being seen as a woman who was sufficiently outspoken that most people took them seriously to being seen as (with the same behaviors) an overly aggressive and intimidating man.

Also, from the PoV of attempting to balance my own different sides is that while I see a wealth of negative things about our culture's images & expectations of femininity, outside of sissy/fop image and associated social role and the overlap between sissy and nerd, there's very little of masculinity that I don't find to be either alien, toxic, or both.
May. 21st, 2015 05:03 am (UTC)
*nod* The interaction of perceived gender and behavior interpretation is endlessly fascinating to me.

On toxic masculinity -- something I never quite got to in this post was talking about why I react to queer masculinity so differently from straight masculinity. The same markers come across as hot for me in one, theatening in the other. Being masculine-identified in our culture generally comes with a lot of defensive homophobic/misogynist bullshit attached. I don't trust masculine men who haven't looked at that closely and rejected it, because if they haven't, it's likely still lurking. One of the things that most reliably pushes men into that examination is ending up on the wrong side of the cultural pressures in some way, liking things that aren't coded as masculine (liking other men, liking anal play, liking gender play in bed, etc). Men who've come through that processing haven't magically erased all the crap in their heads, but at least they are more likely to understand the context of my reality. (this is different from male-bodied people who reject masculinity in general, like you, but the necessity of self-examination can be similar, and create a similar sense of common experience.)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )