Saturday, January 12, 2013

Beyond gender identity

I never doubted my gender identity.  Perhaps that is a reason why I never felt compelled to embrace the models of femininity placed before me.  I knew who I was, so I didn't need to try to prove how feminine I was.

I don't remember liking many female characters when I was a kid.    I think in those days, we didn't have so many good female characters presented in our culture.My brother loved Star Wars.  When we played Star Wars, I had to be Princess Leia.  I never liked Princess Leia.

There was a boy we played with who memorized and recited Monty Python.  He thought we should act out Monty Python skits, and that I should play the role of a female character.  This character apparently spoke in an abrasively high voice, and made some comment about cooking, which was not something I've ever been particularly interested in.  I believe that in the original skit, this character was played by a male actor, acting out a caricature of a woman.  The character I was supposed to play because I was a girl certainly did not seem to have anything to do with me.

In school, I was mostly a loner, but when I was with other kids, it was girls I hung out with, because that's the way it was done.  I didn't feel I had much in common with them.

But the neighbor kid was a boy, and at the two places I regularly traveled to for family visits, the kids my age were also boys.  So I played with my brother, and I played with other boys, and that always seemed right to me.

The neighbor taught me to climb trees.  That was one of the highlights of my childhood play.

When I was a teenager, I read a lot of books by Madeleine L'Engle.  Female characters written by a female author.  I could relate to them.

I think it was one of those Madeleine L'Engle books that said we don't call female doctors doctresses, so no point in calling female actors actresses.   I agreed, and still feel the same way.  I don't like words that make distinctions based on gender, words like princess, queen, or waitress.

I've also never embraced causes that are female-oriented.  The causes I'm most passionate about don't include feminism, breast cancer, rape, abortion, and pornography.

My outlook focuses on the universal.  Sure we should end rape, but we need to end violence of all kinds.  Sure we should end sexism, but we should end discrimination of all kinds.

I don't like to wear high heels.  I don't like pantyhose.  I don't wear make-up now, though I have tried it in the past.  I wear a little jewelry -- one ring most of  the time, and earrings usually at the office but not so much when I'm not in the office.  I don't like shopping.  I don't like cooking.  I don't like knitting, crocheting, or making things in general.  I don't squeal when I see photos of babies.  I do like to talk about people though, I remember the names of your kids and the names of your siblings.

I do like clothes.  Not all clothes, and not necessarily the most feminine clothes.  I like tie-dye and rainbow colors and fleece and clothes that have pictures of trees.

I do wear skirts and dresses in the summer.  Only long ones, because at the office, they might expect pantyhose with short ones, and out of the office, it's hard to sit on the ground in short ones.  And in the summer, on workdays, I usually do sit on the ground every lunch hour.

When I was a kid, the other kids I played with were boys, and that has never really changed.  The college I chose to attend was formerly an all-male school, and you could kind of still sense that in some of the traditions and culture.

My boyfriend's family thought I might be spoiled because I didn't jump up to help them with cooking.  Then I helped them with roofing.  Hopefully after that they realized I wasn't spoiled.

Of my college friends, there were five I cared about enough that they kept a place in my heart after college was over: four male, one female.

Since college, my groups of friends have been either about equally male and female, or else predominately male.  My one-on-one friendships have been more with men than with women.  At my job, the majority of people are men.  In my free time, I love Morris dancing, which was traditionally something done only by men.  I'm a druid, which is based on a male archetype.

I don't embrace the extreme end of the masculine stereotype.  I don't like drinking beer, watching sports, and guffawing at dirty jokes, nor do I like being around people who do that.  I don't tinker with car engines.

The men I'm close to are usually, like me, people who don't fit the extreme end of their gender stereotype.  The men I'm close to tend to have a lot of female friends, and tend not to be interested in sports.

I like to be around men, but I've never felt like I was a man and never wanted to be a man.  Reading fiction, I most readily identify with female main characters written by female authors.

The ideas we have about what is typically feminine and what is typically masculine aren't just things made up by our culture to oppress us.  Among three-year-olds, you'll find boys fascinated by trucks more than you'll find girls fascinated by trucks.  There are trends.  In general, there are some things that women are more likely to be interested in, and other things that men are more likely to be interested in.  But each one of us is an individual.  Each one of us has our own unique combination of interests, values, and outlooks.

And so, here I am: druid, Morris dancer, wearing blue jeans and rainbow tie-dye socks, reading books, going on nature walks, paddling kayaks, frolicking with children.  Stereotypes are irrelevant.  I am woman, and I am uniquely me.

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