Saturday, January 12, 2013

Boys and Girls

When I was little, nobody asked me whether I wanted to be a boy or a girl. Most people assume (even if they accept that there are exceptions) that gender is determined by anatomical sex. It's not that I felt like I wanted to be a girl and nobody let me - the thought never even crossed my mind (well, maybe every now and then, but it was a passing fancy and not something I paid much heed to).

I followed the conventional line of thinking and assumed I was a boy - there was no question. I never considered the fact that I might fit in with the female stereotype more than the male stereotype, because I didn't really fit in with anything.

There wasn't much experimentation, either, because I was infected with the mainstream fear of crossing gender boundaries - "boys must never be girls". And because I was and am physically and emotionally attracted to girls, it never occurred to me that being a boy was somehow "wrong" for me.

Isn't it funny how people mix up gender identity with sexual orientation? I guess that's a symptom of heteronormative thinking - guys like girls and girls like guys. If I were a girl, I'd still like girls. That neither makes me gay nor straight, because both of those terms assume two things - both what you are and who you're attracted to.

I know who I'm attracted to, but I'm really not quite certain what I am. And I don't think it's necessarily clean-cut. It's easier for me to describe myself as both male and female, rather than just one or the other. So, I'm kind of gender fluid, yet I'm still pretty conventional, sexually. The one doesn't presume the other.

What is gender, anyway, if we separate it from anatomical sex? How much of it is physiological, and how much of it is sociological? This is not an easy question to answer comprehensively. But it is clear, in my experience, that gender is not equivalent to anatomical sex.

Can a person's internal gender really be male if they prefer to express themselves as female? If they identify more with femininity? Even though they were born with a penis? Even if they don't have any desire to get rid of that penis?

I wonder how many lesbians wish they were born as straight males, or how many would delight to have a penis attached to their feminine body. I am sure it would not be all of them, though, for that presupposes once again the heteronormative framework - that girls who like girls must want to be guys.

There is such a great diversity in both sexuality and gender. Let's celebrate that diversity instead of trying to stuff people into prefab boxes. Instead of criticizing and ridiculing people who crawl out of their socially-designated boxes. Okay?

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