Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Male? Female? (It's Complicated)

Not that this is anything new or surprising, but this gender identity business is confusing. It's amazing to think that for most of the population it is so cut-and-dry. But it just doesn't feel right to call myself male, and there are complications in calling myself female also. Every time I think I'm starting to figure myself out, I realize something I've overlooked, and it just gets confusing again.

I generally consider myself to exist somewhere under the broad umbrella of "transgender", but I've never really felt like I identify with the transgender experience, which seems to revolve around this process of transition. It seems tied to the gender binary - you're born one way, and eventually become the other - and places too much emphasis on the need for one's body (i.e., physical sex) to match one's mind (i.e., gender). My belief is, why can't a female inhabit a man's body?

So sometimes I feel like I can relate more to so-called "cross-dressers" - who don't take hormones or seek surgery, but just simply like dressing and behaving like the opposite sex. Except I don't think that does justice to the depth and sincerity of my identification with the female gender. My interest in being female is certainly more than a sexual fetish, and it's not just a costume I put on during the weekends.


Lately I've started warming up to the term "bigender", since it seems to encapsulate the simultaneous (or adjacent) masculine and feminine qualities I have, without feeling the need to force every part of me to conform to either one or the other. But then I realized that maybe I just like calling myself bigender because it makes me feel more comfortable about taking advantage of the male privilege to walk around in public without a shirt on.

In truth, I'm still not dressed as a guy when I do this - the shorts I wear were bought in the women's department, after all. And it's not like when I dress like that, I feel like I'm male. My underwear drawer is split between men's and women's underwear, but not because there are some days I feel like being male and other days I feel like being female. Everyday I want to be female. The only reason I have (and wear) men's underwear is because my body is male, and women's underwear isn't always up to the task of supporting my anatomy.

The topless thing involves a similar situation. I could jog those trails in a sports bra, like I've been thinking of doing, but the truth is, I don't have the breasts women have that warrant them wearing sports bras. I also don't have the breasts that make exposing them a scandalous affair like I would be if I were physically female. I like to wear as little as possible, but that's not strictly why I go topless - if I were that dedicated to dressing female, I'd wear skimpy bikinis to the pool; but again, my body won't allow it.

So it really all boils down to that dichotomy between my physical sex and my mental gender. Maybe I'm not really bigender at all. I'm just female-gendered in a male body. But what sets me apart from your [stereo-]typical transgender person is that instead of wanting to make my physical sex match my gender, I'm more or less comfortable the way I am. The goal of the typical transgender individual is to stop being transgender - i.e., to become cis-gender (but the opposite one they were assigned at birth). But I'm more or less proud of my transgender status, and I have no strong desire to change it. Which, I think, is probably even harder for the mainstream to understand than someone who was one sex/gender and decided to become the other.

So if homosexuals make up a minority of the population, and transgender individuals are an even smaller minority, then I'm an even smaller minority of that transgender minority. Unless there are a lot of other people out there like me (to various degrees - and I suspect that there are), who simply haven't figured out that this is where they stand. But I guess that means that I'll go on being a confusing mix of male and female, at least until the rest of society learns that physical sex and mental gender aren't the same thing (and don't necessarily have to be forced to match in all cases).

And in the meantime, I'll do my best to navigate the pitfalls of a cis-gender binary world, which is frequently not easy to do - for example, I'm still not sure which bathroom I should use, since some people insist that your sex (i.e., your plumbing) should be the determining factor, whereas others allow for you to congregate with the gender you identify with. I'm still not completely comfortable in either one, though.

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