GenderSlip

But what I find it hard to get my mind around is what it feels like to describe yourself with both male and female pronouns. I want to know: how does your body lead you to describe yourself that way? Or is there some kind of disconnect, and what caused it? What does “genderqueer” really mean?

How can we possibly tell someone who feels that their gender is centered in their body, who feels normatively sexed/gendered what it feels like to be liminal, living on the threshold, in neither one space or the other, but in both spaces at the same time?

My knowledge of who I am doesn’t shift much, but I have learned that my performance of gender has to shift depending on the point of view of the observer. How they see us defines how they understand us, and so we need to formulate some assumptions about how others see us.

Those assumptions, though, have to created though the experience of stigma, and stigma is a tool that authorizes abuse & dismissal.

When we are both he & she are we saying that we are two different and contradictory things? Or are we saying that we have the experience of being two different and contradictory things?

Until you have seen your gender shift in the eyes of someone you are engaged with, like when the police officer sees your driver’s liscence and stiffens, well, you don’t know what it’s like to feel the gender slip.

It’s so easy to gender slip for us, with another part of our experience or biology coming to the fore, that we know it is impossible to be one thing or another. The Guy-In-A-Dress Line, you know?

So is it any wonder that with that gender slip experience so many of us feel like we are both? Isn’t that better than feeling like we are neither, even if both feelings are a reflection of how we experience liminality, being on the threshhold?

“I was man, I was not man, I was woman, I was not woman,” Kate Bornstein said. You can’t not be something until you have been it, because you have to have been married to be divorced, have to have been immersed to be separated.

“The great thing about getting older is that you are still all the ages you have ever been,” said Madelaine L’Engle. And when I told that to Kate she immediately said “and all the genders!”

How does it feel to be both? Just a little better than it feels to be neither.

4 thoughts on “GenderSlip”

  1. How does it feel to be both?
    Just a little better than it feels to be neither.

    This line struck me because it brought up the issue I have had with Kate Bornstein's interpretation of gender.

    In one of her books zie has a quiz that includes the question "How many genders are there?" The answers, with cute comments designed to show the sort of person who might take such a position (definitely a tongue-in-cheek quiz) run something like a. two, b. three. c. five, d. as many as there are people.

    What hit me was that no answer said none. None can be a state of freedom beyond categories.

    However–and here's the catch–I think it must be something we ourselves get to by traveling through gender, especially through the "true" gender of our sense of who we are rather than the one assigned to us by society on the basis of our bodies.

    Callan, you say that we cannot stop being a man until we have been one, and I would add we cannot stop being gendered until we have claimed fully the gender of who we are. From the very beginning of my own gender journey, some 35 years, I had a clear vision that it was never about restrictions or roles, that I could take off and fly beyond the limited view society had of what a woman is, but only if I took off from the true ground where I could stand as myself, the ground of being a woman.

    Callan, what you write about above in "Just a little better than it feels to be neither" is having gender, and thus self, stripped away. What I envision is leaving gender behind through one's own liberation, and these are very different things.

  2. I am human, and as such I live in a gendered world.

    I have had my gender stripped away, and I don't like it. Since I believe that gender is at root a system of communication that enforces roles, like race or class, if I have no gender I feel as if I have no voice in that system.

    You make the point that to move beyond man we have to have been man, and after thirty-five years you have moved beyond being woman. I think I have learned to live outside the system of gender in many ways, and I think I don't like it, I still feel like I am missing the expression of a big part of me, and that feels like a big part is missing.

    The original point of this quote was how it felt for people to claim both genders, expecially young people, and if that was something odd in the body. I was responding to that by moving to the next point beyond feeling firmly gendered.

    I have written "The road to enlightenment leads right past gender," and I think we agree on that.

    But I do believe in gender as a system because it not only offers us ways to communicate and connect, but it also enforces adult roles, especially around reproductive behaviour of breeding and child rearing. That's important to society.

    Might there be a place where we can be liberated beyond gender in this embodied life?

    Yes, I admit there might be.

    But it strikes me as a very, very lonely place.

    Thanks very much for your comment, Ms. Rachelle.

  3. You make the point that to move beyond man we have to have been man, and after thirty-five years you have moved beyond being woman.

    Oh no. I didn't say I had done that, just that I have a sense of that being a possibility.

    I like being woman.

    I also like the sense of a universe beyond such identities, and the power of feeling that universe.

    But I know what you mean about systems of communication, and how cut off we are if we are not part of that.

  4. I just wrote a reply to your post. But here I’d like to comment that I don’t really see the point of being “liberated beyond gender.” I’d rather people make a space for themselves within gender, but I agree, it’s a lonely undertaking to try to expand definitions.

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