Thursday, April 10, 2008

Belated Reply To Cat's "Femininity and Masculinity"

i have to reply to cat's essay on femininity and masculinity with a post of my own. i loved this post, and i just can't help but have my own rant about it.

i would venture the guess that most people that deal with transness in any form find themselves questioning or at least pondering the definitions from which they feel pressured to choose. i've come to a few conclusions on this very recently that are just such a relief. this will be tangentially related to cat's post, and not a direct response or argument.

i'd like to first point out that the definition from the GVB as quoted by cat is offensive because it is primitive, and because of transgendered persons, obsolete. here it is again:
"Femininity, Feminine:
The cultural expectations and gender roles that female persons have to accept, reject or pick from. A package that sometimes looks attractive to male persons dealing with Masculinity."

my intention in choosing the word primitive is quite literal. femininity and masculinity are here defined as packages of programs and communications accessories. the offensive aspect of a definition like this is that it points out our lived habit of the ancient.

these definitions of femininity and masculinity did not happen by accident nor by conspiracy. they happened because in a world of basic agriculture, dependence on hunting, competition for water (read: oil) and other resources (competition for uteri to impregante for that matter!), masculine dominance and aggression were (are?) adaptive for the species. as is the feminine yin collection of, as cat puts it, “celebration” attitudes and behaviors. these basic, seemingly separate, pools of gendered traits make sense in connection to the physically sexed bodies they are commonly associated with because we needed to be effective killers, rapists, thieves, nurses, cooks, teachers, etc., etc. in order to survive. in the beginning, we handled all those tasks through two committees: “the dicks, and the pussies” (sorry if you don't like matt and trey. i don't blame you). many cultures have a third committee, the “neithers” or “boths,” but i'm talking about the WASP cultural dung heap that we live in as americans.

cat's proposed definitions:

Femininity: emotional, spiritual, and social/cultural expression that manifests through female energy. See YIN energy

Masculinity: emotional, spiritual, and social/cultural expression that manifests through male energy. See YANG energy

these are nice. they are also, i'm sorry to say, self-referential. defining these terms is a part of what is so toublesome about this topic. we have here one of those human quandries in which we find that the more that we discuss this, the less truth is spoken. yet, to avoid discussion would only empower the status quo, which is unacceptable. we also need to discuss because this is how we revise the stories we tell ourselves in our heads when we think in language. we are programmed in language like it or not, and so regardless of the platonic “truth” of femininity and masculinity, we are pressed to find reasonable maps and definitions so we can go to sleep with the feeling that we know what and who we are.

cat goes on to say that:

there is an underlying assumption out there that masculinity is "natural" and "essential" and femininity is "artificial" and "frivolous." ... what makes a trans woman a woman is merely clothing and makeup and heels (read: he's actually still a man). ... We cannot let the unspoken assumption that femininity=weakness and masculinity=power rest unchallenged in the larger cultural mind.

 A balanced interaction of these two modes of being requires the valuation of both modes equally by all parties involved whatever their individual ratios of these modes of expression might be.

again, i must emphasize that these assumptions have a lot of natural and evolutionary history behind them that cannot be ignored. their power is their age, and they cannot be underestimated as foes.

cat goes on to do a really nice job of rallying for individuality. my point of view is that this moment in human history has happened before, and it is crucial. we are at the point as a world society at which occupations, and the humans that perform them, have become so specialized as to render the previous two committees obsolete. civilizations have, without exception, fallen at this exact moment for failure to evolve their ideas.

when the committees became obsolete, so did the terms. hence the pain that a growing number of people find themselves in when it comes to pondering gender. the task of trying to cram yourself into a role that no longer exists, or maybe never really did, is excruciating at best. i think in a very real way, we're all pretending the gender thing is still good enough because it's too much trouble to fix and god knows what we'll find poking around down there.

on the other hand, can we stop gender from falling out of use? do we really need to do anything to free ourselves from this polarized classification? already, in the last few decades, gender-variant terms and definitions have come and gone and broadened and fallen under confusion and argument. there are a precious few terms in speaking about gender that are not laced with such connotations as to be dangerous at best. almost any term in the vocabulary means a slur to someone in the “gender community” (an offensive term to me, if you want a slice of irony).

discussion is good, and we should talk and write and explore and argue and examine to our heart's content. i believe it is very very important, though, to realize that our revolution cannot come on picket signs, is highly unlikely to be legislated, and if it is, to be enforced, and it is unlikely that mysogynists everywhere will be apologizing and putting down their terrified swollen egos any time soon.

like a stream does with a rock, we have to erode this problem. with our behavior, our refusal to apologize, with our incredulous reactions when people bring gender into things that don't have to be gender-biased, with our refusal to acknowledge that “pat” is a freak because ze's an androgyne.

no one who will listen needs to hear, and no one who needs to hear will listen. we must speak anyway, but in the mean time decide for yourself who you are, and then go live hir. as we come up with new definitions that will be obsolete or offensive next thursday, let's remember that it is through daily lived action that our definitions and picket signs become meaningful.

i am assigned gender because i have unambiguous physical sex. it looks funny to me. due to its meaning, it doesn't belong there, and i wish it wasn't there. i'm certain that the reason that i feel that way is that when i look at it, i know what i expect of myself as a “man.” that doesn't have to mean a damn thing. more and more, looking at both the world around me, and at my own self, it really doesn't mean a damn thing. the limitations are self-imposed much more powerfully than enforced from without. ignoring the external enforcement does require a thick skin, but we must be courageous enough to be willing to take punishment.

i am not yet that courageous, but i'm trying to get there.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


So, it seems that othergender has been pre-emptively acknowledged by the folks behind "is the shit." It's basically the first thing you find when you search for the name of this blog on Google. Pretty great. Check it here-



Sunday, March 30, 2008

Choosing Point of View

recently, a friend of mine and i mentally and psychically stripped for each other and found that we had some of the same stuff.  we found some festering and ugly stuff, and shone some lights and that can only be good...  eventually.

i was reminded of this painting here that i stole from the intertubes one day.  sorry, artist.  if i find you again, i'll probably buy this from you.

she's just perfect.  unafraid, unashamed, facing the light, the dark to her back, in a deliberate choice of focus.



p.s. - get ready for sapphire.  when ze and i get our act together on the project, we'll post what we learned in our drudging efforts.