Gender Cafeteria

I had an interesting conversation with my therapist Myles (Oh Lordy, you say, not one of those conversations! But wait, give me a chance before you run screaming.) So I had an interesting conversation about gender and my feelings about having one. After a year of actively pursuing gender transition, how did I feel about it?

I said I wasn’t sure I really had a gender. Maybe gender just wasn’t part of my self-identity. I was making these changes to myself to make the world interact with me from a different set of gender assumptions, but that was still externally imposed gender, not something springing from within. When I do perceive myself as having a gender, it’s male, and has been as long as I can remember, but I have to think about it to be aware of having a gender at all.

Was I genderqueer? Myles asked, but I shook my head. Genderqueer seems to me to come from a place of blending essential gender features, some from menu A and some from menu B and some from menu C, etc, as opposed to my hands-in-the-air, maybe-I-just-don’t-have-a -gender, maybe-I’m-agender placeGenderqueer is a gender-positive thing, and I was feeling pretty gender-negative.

But Myles pressed me a little. He said in the year he’s worked with me on transition, he’s seen me become more sure of myself and centered the more I’ve adopted and inhabited and claimed for myself male as a gender identity.

So I thought about it a little deeper. And I realized, he’s right.

By the time I started transition, I’d mostly convinced myself I just didn’t want a gender. I mean, I’d spent my entire life with the uncomfortable “this is wrong” feeling about being female without any sense that there was any other option available, so I think, in an epic show of sour grapes, I took the whole concept of gender and said, “Screw that, I don’t want one anyway.”

It was like being in a cafeteria line and finding out there was one option and it was squash. Faced with that, I told myself I wasn’t all that hungry anyway, and did without.

gross, slimy, overcooked summer squash

Gross, slimy, overcooked summer squash

But then it turned out there were actually apples, too.

So Myles said, “See how you feel about it when I say this: Zach, you have a gender.”

And it was kind of surprising, because what I felt was giddy. Elated. Excited, like a little kid on his birthday opening a present. And I realized the thing was, maybe it wasn’t that I didn’t have a gender so much as I’d come to believe I wasn’t entitled to have a gender, since the gender I wanted wasn’t a match for the body parts I came with.

I think it’s going to take some practice, feeling like I’m entitled to have the world perceive my gender the same way I do. But I’m starting, little by little, to think “sir” is my right, not some precious title bestowed by a stingy world. And “ma’am” is an error, no matter how high my voice goes when I pet a cute dog, no matter how delicate my eyes are, no matter that I can tell you the difference between cerise, mauve, and puce.

I’m a grown up: I don’t have to eat squash if I don’t like it.

I think I’ll have apples.

yummy fried apples with cinnamon

Yummy fried apples with cinnamon. Om nom nom!

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~ by Nezu on 30 March 2012.

6 Responses to “Gender Cafeteria”

  1. Such good work. *high five*

  2. Now I want grilled apples after dinner.

    Sir is not just right, it’s polite and should be used often. You should feel very entitled to it as we are all entitled to common courtesy. However, remember that ‘dear’ from me is gender neutral please because you are a dear person. It’s just the way I talk and not intended as a poke at a sore point. I’m glad you have a good therapist.

    • I’d never take offense at you calling me ‘dear’, or ‘hon’ or ‘sweetheart’ or any number of other endearments, not only because you are my dear friend, but because you’re from Texas. Southerners get special dispensation 😀

      Thanks, Telos.

      And seriously about those apples.

      p.s. Did the new little one arrive?

  3. That makes sense – the feeling of being left with nothing if you refuse what you’ve been assigned. But I mean, that’s a lot of effort put into making the world interact with you as male if you don’t have a gender… it seems like you have been motivated to do all that, no?

  4. That metaphor makes a lot of sense to me.

    Also, I really really love slimy and overcooked summer squash. And, of course, I love apples, too. 🙂

    • You are welcome to every bit of my life’s allotment of slimy squash! I might make you share the apples, though.

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