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exploring gender diversity

April 25, 2013

For years and years, I thought my dreams were trying to tell me about my waking-life relationships with other people. When there was a character in my dream who looked like my father, I thought I was (potentially) learning something about my relationship with my actual father. This confused me, because characters in my dreams that looked like people I knew often acted very differently than I’d ever seen them do. For that matter, I acted very differently. And of course, dream situations themselves are often rather fantastical.

Some of my recurring dreams seemed to be flashbacks (from my PTSD), but often the situations were slightly different than had actually occurred. Still traumatic though. Those dreams were generally long and involved, and I remembered a great many details when I woke up.

Other dreams were equally long and involved, but filled with people I’d never met, doing things I’d never seen done . . . but wanted to! In fact, the people (and settings) in these sorts of dreams were people I would love to meet in waking life. I gradually realized that characters in the these kinds of dreams were just as recognizable as the characters in traumatic dreams. I named some of them, and tried to sketch out their personalities, whatever was distinctive about them.

Most of the characters in my dreams that are most memorable and that have occurred the most often are either male, or I don’t know what their gender is. My point of view character is probably an indeterminate gender the most often, occasionally female, or nonhuman (where gender isn’t relevant). Other characters are female.

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Jung says that women have an animus (male) and men have an anima (female), which often appear in their dreams. I tried to figure out which of my dream characters could be my animus, but there were way too many to choose from. Plus, most of my dream characters — and definitely the ones I really really liked — either didn’t have a gender, or were a gender I didn’t know how to categorize. A third gender, if you will. So where could these characters fit in Jung’s schema?

As it happens, I have always despised polarities, dichotomies, and dualities wherever I find them. For any schema to feel valid to me, there have to be at least 3 options, but preferably more. Complexity with its inherent tensions makes way more sense to me than simplicity (or, gods forbid, unity).

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When I was 10 or 12, I read something about how really smart kids were more likely to hold unconventional ideas about gender, both their own and that of other people. According to this study or whatever it was, really smart kids tended to not think they had to shoehorn themselves into gender stereotypes.

Reading that was reassuring, up to a point.

The thing is, for me on the inside (not social me), my gender seemed completely irrelevant to . . . well, everything. Which was good in a way, because I didn’t know what gender I was. But everyone around me did seem to know not only what they were, but what everyone else was. Everyone else was very sure. And there was some way they could tell, just by looking at you. Well, usually.

I don’t remember it happening all that often when I was a kid, but since I became an adult (and therefore, am dressing myself according to my own preferences), I am occasionally addressed by strangers as “Sir”. This has happened when I was wearing a skirt and jewelry. (Also when I was wearing pants.) I’ve spent years trying to puzzle out why it happens sometimes, but not other times. I’ve never actually tried to “pass” as male.

I feel like I’m a person first. Why does my gender matter?

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The usual kind of transgender person was raised as a girl, but feels they are a boy inside; or was raised as a boy, but feels they are a girl inside. I’ve read that trans women are way more feminine than cis women, and trans men are way more masculine than cis men (on average). All of these people, though, still seem to be part of a gender binary: a person must be male or female. No other choices.*

I think parts of me (in the internal family systems sense of ‘parts’) are female, and parts are male, but most of my parts are neither. Which means I can’t use “majority rules” to decide which of 2 allowed genders I am.

Beyond that, though, I hate hate hate models that simplify complexity so much that it’s completely unrecognizable. Having to pick one gender identity, for me, does that. I’m not one of anything.

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The coven I was part of when I was still a Pagan ascribed to “complementary” deities: the Lord and Lady. I couldn’t even bring myself to say the prayers because the whole idea was so oogy. (Although marginally better than the Catholicism I was raised with that only allowed a male deity.) As a female-appearing person, I was supposed to most-strongly identify with the Goddess, or some of her aspects, usually female. I had mixed success with that. Conventionally-masculine gods were no easier for me to identify with.

The gods I really liked the best were tricksters. Like Loki, who had been a genderbender.

I liked deities that were a Divine Child. Those were mostly identified as male, like Hermes, but to me, they seemed . . . something else. Something more like me (whatever that is).

I liked Medeine, the Lithuanian goddess of forests, because I experienced her as not exactly gendered. Again, like me.

But any deity that was very-definitely-one-gender (and only one gender), I felt like parts of me had to be lopped off, or at least denied, to fit with them. That was a price I wasn’t willing to pay.

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Everything I’ve read says that gender identity and sexual orientation are 2 totally-distinct phenomena. And I think I understand what they mean by that. But it’s not strictly true, at least for me. (And other people like me, if there are other people like me.)

“Homosexual” and “heterosexual”, as commonly used, assume a gender binary. And, as Hanne Blank pointed out, these terms characterize you not by what you are, but by what the people you love are. If you’re female and you love other females, if you’re male and love other males, you’re homosexual. If you’re female and love males, or vice versa, you’re heterosexual.

I can’t be completely certain if I’ve ever even met someone who is the same gender as me, so I can’t be homosexual. But if I’m a member of a third gender, how is Spouse my “opposite”? If I had a girlfriend, how would she be my “opposite”? So I guess I’m not heterosexual either. But then, what am I?

I’ve only fallen in love with and had sex with males. But I’ve had crushes on females. Does that make me bisexual? What if I met, and fell in love with, somebody who was a third gender — would that make me trisexual? What if it turns out there more than three genders? If I realized I only wanted to have sex with males, and people like me, is that bisexual? Or something else?

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This week, I’ve come out as nonbinary to two sets of people. The first set didn’t even blink. The second set had a lot of questions. And one person asked me why I wasn’t just a tomboy who grew up to be a slightly-weird woman.

If someone truly honestly thinks that a gender binary is the best description for human beings, I can see why, from their perspective, it makes more sense to shoehorn anomalous people into the binary, even when they massively don’t fit. Because otherwise they’d have to rethink their entire worldview, and who wants to do that if they don’t have to?

I have tried that route. It didn’t work.

How many anomalous people do we need before we can consider that maybe the gender binary doesn’t work?

I am something that includes girl, boy, and other. I can’t be the only one.

What if we could all just be ourselves, whoever that is, and leave gender out of it?

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*Complicating the picture are intersex people, whose genitalia are indeterminate, and so, at birth, may be arbitrarily assigned one or the other gender, but may actually be both, or think of themselves in some other way.

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