Category Archives: questioning gender

Queerness Quarantined

For the May edition of the Carnival of Aces: Quarantine.

It seemed, one day to the next, the queer spaces I used to go in various personas had been taken away in one fell swoop. At home, at home I was private. What did I have to express there?

I forgot, for two months, I need to express gender to myself, as well. As much as thoughts sometimes need writing down in a journal to take their full form, though they already existed inside my head.

As the shade of the plague shows the first signs of waning, I start with jewelry. Only what is ambiguous, chunky or functional I keep out. All femme decorations I pack up for the year.

Clothes are selected to leave me only what is comfortable and what crosses gender lines in my eyes. The rest I put into boxes. I corner myself on the queer end of my gender spectrum, where I’ve been hesitant to go.

For the pièce de resistance, a proper binder. It arrives in the mail on the tailcoat of May. I unroll its not-quite-too-much tightness over my shoulder. It suits me ill, a too-short crop top, until I discover I need to do some repositioning for an even distribution of squashing across the chest.

Just to try, I button a shirt over it. Perfect. I can at least experiment with this while all I can do is zoom.

It’s a highlight in what has been a dark time. While it’s hard to be horny when I’m both on the asexual spectrum and indifferent to the having of sex, my skin has ached since the first press conference announcing we needed to keep a metre and a half distant from one another.

This time has shown the sharp contrast between the fulfillment of aesthetic attraction – that draw towards a person that is assuaged by the sight and sound of them – and the more sensual, which I have no way to indulge with anyone, platonic or romantic.

It has also revealed the importance of a desire – sometimes attraction, sometimes not – for which I have no name – for the actual company of those I like and love. It is a desire that is no respecter of relationship categories. More than ever, I see why love is mostly just… love. From the first inkling for new persons to the bedrock it’s for those I hold most dear.

Lingering Among Lingerie

My cross purpose
Among the padding
To seek the opposite
For the days when less
Is right

We are guided to think
I discover, by selection
If a majority shouts pretend
To have larger breasts
Women will

I can’t forage for bargains
Choice is no longer spoilt
Instead you are precious
I, a treasure hunter. New
Role to play

Revealed in the practice
A body chafes, sweats, itches
Needs care in the fabric
That dresses her in their
Other form

I feel freshly apprenticed
Finished the introduction
This shopping trip only
Chapter two of much
Studying

Gender expression, even
Broken into body parts
Is scales, not binaries
I seek to buy inbetweens
Today

Days curves displease
Flesh resists the binding
Form and comfort meet
In layers of cotton
Compromise

I happen upon you
One department over
Advertised as sportswear
But I will buy you to sleep
Easier

On A Roll

A/N NOT comfortable.

I do this in parts
On the quiet days I can fall apart
It’s the weekend. It’s the morning
It will be hours until the dawn

My face can drip dry
As dishes do
In dark of night

I sit in tailor’s pose
Call it cross-legged
Knees and elbows out
The impression of a man

Belly up
Crotch exposed
Back curled over them
Gaze starts at the navel
Down

Roomy underwear
In washed-out black
Faded cotton that forgives

Sweat runs down saturated cotton
Dampens even the place I sit because

This roll of socks?

No.

Time for a heel-turn
Back to the drawing board
Toss these tainted things out
To be purged in a hot white wash

What Masculinity?

I come across a mental barrier in my exploration of gender. Namely, that when I ask myself “how about exploring masculinity?” my brain comes back with “what masculinity?” and throws up a handful of examples of toxic instances of masculinity I do not even wish to touch. Yet, this is the road I see before me, to pick up elements of masculinity to see if they suit.

Riley J. Dennis mentions in her “Everyday Feminism” series* that the word ‘gender’ comes from the same root as ‘genre’. This was a productive thought for me, one that I brought me a little further in this dilemma. Genres, after all, have some characteristics that would be well-suited to helping me understand genders as non-binary:

  • They are distinct, but not mutually exclusive
  • They are based on, but not limited to, a set of tropes
  • They are suited to telling, and classifying, particular stories or experiences
  • New ones may be introduced
  • Existing ones often evolve
  • These categories are constructed for the market, the classroom and to talk about sets of stories
  • They can be subverted or critiqued
  • They have gatekeepers

If masculinity, or rather masculinities, is a genre with a set of subgenres, then one may be found that I am comfortable exploring and it would add to, rather than contradict, the rest of my sense of gender. However, I think about gender as genre and complications immediately come to mind:

  • Stories often present a rigid binary
  • Essentialism prevails
  • Classifications are prescriptive, not descriptive of lived experiences
  • Modern masculinities seem not to exist, in stories
  • Existing masculinities do not seem allowed to evolve
  • Gender is presented as ‘natural’ and conflated with biological sex
  • Any subversion or critique is met with hostility and violence
  • Online, the alt-right is setting itself up as the one true gatekeeper

Note that the above describe my personal experience through the lens of this particular conceit, not fact. But I do believe it is sufficient to illustrate a trend. One that I find singularly counterproductive, dammit.

The irony is that I have started to see surprisingly parallels between what’s prescribed for ‘woman’ and ‘man’, among self-proclaimed defenders of binary gender roles, especially that of ‘man’. It’s perhaps most easily illustrated by their attitude towards sexuality. The campaign for control over women’s bodies is matched by a campaign for control over men’s bodies by other men. Centred on forbidding masturbation and forcing sexual conquest, rather than forcing reproduction and forbidding sexual activity. Hatred of the other, whether that’s women, queer persons, persons of other countries or religions, is matched by self-hatred.

Can you see the inversion of the great commandment (love others as you love yourself), or the golden rule, if you will?

This leaves me hesitant to even enter that politicised poisoned mental minefield.

Feminist thought isn’t much help, since it seems more concerned with circumscribing traditional masculinity than proposing a new masculinity.

Neither does circumspectly asking men what being a good man is like, since the answer often boils down to “I grew up and became less of an impulsive idiot.” A surprising problem with straight, white men (which all of the ones I can ask are) being the default is that they regard their lived experience as just that of people, not men. Which means it doesn’t tell me much about where their stories may be distinct.

So here I am, the trailing end of the spectrum of my gender in hand, unexplored territory ahead of me, with no good map for guidance. I cannot leave these thoughts alone because I have first-hand stake in this now, even if it’s only with a part of myself, even if it’s new, even if it’s small and secret and private.

So I keep asking, what masculinity?

*I do not remember the particular video, but it’s an educational series: https://everydayfeminism.com/author/rileyd/

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