Pondering gender identity

Two blogs in the last week or so have really got me thinking about gender identity issues. Read them, they are awesome. http://www.wildyoga.co.uk/being-an-ally/ https://locksley2010.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/magic-and-a-thing-called-gender/

I find gender identity difficult. From the outside I look simple enough – born a woman in a woman’s body, mum, married to a guy. Except… gender has never been the primary focus for attraction. I fall in love with people. Since I hit puberty, I’ve found this body a weird and alien place to inhabit. I didn’t much like it as a child, but it made more sense then than it does now with curves and hormones. And yet, it also made sense to me when I was pregnant, a rare patch of feeling some coherence in myself. I find anything around binary gender difficult, and women’s mysteries remain a total mystery to me. I tolerate my body, uneasy in it, accepting it as best I can.

Back at uni, I dabbled in psychology, and played with tests, and confirmed beyond any shadow of a doubt that I am psychologically androgynous. Whatever that means. Most of the time I feel like I have no idea how to be female. Some of that is about culture, and personal experience, but the truth of it is that I do not identify much with my gender. I have no desire to be male, either (except occasionally on long walks where the need to pee generates a bit of penis envy).

In my heart of hearts, I often wish to appear genderless. On reflection I think this is primarily cultural. It is because I do not want people to relate to me in terms of my gender identity, or what they assume my gender identity to be. People who cause me to be conscious of myself as biologically female are, generally speaking making me uncomfortable, either because there’s something sexually predatory, lecherous etc, or because I’m being confined to some kind of gender norm. Equally, the people I feel happiest with enable me to feel like a person. It’s much easier to bring my head and heart into connection with someone else’s head and heart when who has which reproductive organs isn’t much of an issue.

In my ideal spaces, how I dress and the shape that I am makes no discernible difference to how people relate to me. I feel more comfortable with people who relate to my ideas and actions, who do not read intention into clothing or consent into skin.

My sexual identity, my gender identity, the social identity I want, is ‘person’. This is hugely important to me. But, binary approaches to gender, and the way in which social ideas about how we construct male and female identities, make that difficult. I don’t want to undermine anyone else’s identity, I know that the gendered aspect of identity is really important to some people. I don’t want to be genderqueer, I’m not asexual, because these are both labels that come back to gender and sexuality and I do not want to be labelled on these terms. To resist being defined by my visible femaleness without offering some gender-orientated alternative tag for myself, is nigh on impossible. But here I am, nonetheless, wanting something that is not a gender identity. It’s taken me a long time to get here.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

11 responses to “Pondering gender identity

  • cassandralathamjones

    I so identify with what you’re saying here Nimue! I get so fed up trying to work my way through other people’s interpretations of me based entirely on appearance and gender identity.

    I am who I am and I approach others in the same way. I find that this confuses others who insist on some kind of label. I’m a person – not an article of clothing!

  • Rebecca Willson

    A wonderful post 🙂 One I can relate to massively. Whenever events call for me to “feminise” myself or wear a dress, I feel as though I am being asked to put on drag.

    This made for an interesting adolescence. As with most people who don’t quite fit in, I did receive a fair amount of ridicule, which in turn made me overly aggressive as defence. I started to resent and despise “girly girls”. I viewed all effeminate women as brainwashed into accommodating a male fetish. It never occurred to me that anyone could enjoy it. As far as I was concerned, it was so they could coast by on their looks and never have to work hard for themselves, just rely on men.

    It wasn’t until I read more about being transgender, the idea occurred to me that people COULD feel more female or male. I myself feeling neither one nor the other had assumed that everyone was the same in that regard, and society had done the rest in moulding people into their gender roles.
    Yet here were people who felt so strongly that they were at odds with their body, it could drive them to depression or worse suicide.

    It was pretty undeniable at that point that my previous assumption was very wrong. Not everyone was androgynous internally. And people had a right to be feminine, masculine or neither if it pleased them male, female or other.

    It all feels so obvious now, but I’m not sure I would have ever come to this realisation without listening to trans people talk about their struggles and trying to see from their perspective. Something I am eternally grateful for. I like me much better this way.

    I always like to hear other peoples perspectives on the matter, so thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you! It interests me how often assumptions of similarity turn out to be problem causing. How much distress it causes when we expect people to think or feel or act in the same way, and they don’t. I wonder sometimes if assuming everyone else will probably be a bit weird and alien might be a safer opening gambit.

  • Kaylee

    It sounds like you are agender, that is preferring to be neither gender. Of course, this is just a guess based on what you wrote. It is up to you to decide.

    I am a transwoman. I love being a woman and wish I had been born in a female body.

    There are so many ways of being a woman, man, both, or neither that I can’t figure out how people keep trying to pigeonhole others based on something like anatomy. What’s worse, is seeing that type of thinking in the pagan community.

    • Nimue Brown

      yes, I think whatever we’ve got in our identities, if we meet each other as souls, as people, first and foremost and don’t worry about how to categorise each other, it all gets a lot easier.

  • crowjudith

    I completely agree! I believe that the reasonable next step is for everyone to be ‘a person’ and then refine that according to inclination or activity anyway the person chooses— but I am resigned to that being so far outside normal as to be invisible. Nize to read the same kind of attitude 🙂

  • angharadlois

    Great post, and great links – I keep forgetting to read Theo’s blog & am always glad when I do 🙂

    My gender nonconformity started when I was quite young, reading children’s books where almost all the characters were boys. It felt quite natural to identify with them, and therefore with a more boyish sense of identity. The roots of my feminism can probably be traced back to the early teenage discovery that I was not going to be allowed to identify with the boy – protagonists any more, and that what I was going to be offered instead (restrictive clothes, make-up) were quite frankly nothing I particularly wanted.

    Gender identity is something I’ve grown into, and I still think of it more as unique to me than indicative of any particular ‘type’. I’ve learned that I am irredeemably heterosexual, whether I like it or not! I’ve learned that, unlike some of my friends, I am happy in my woman’s body, but I am not happy in my woman’s social role. And every day, every new encounter, brings something new to that sense of what my gender means, as part of who I am. Stories like these are wonderful because they give us space to reflect on the fact that these hard and fast definitions exist only in our minds.

  • landisvance

    Last night in the States I watched an interview with Bruce Jenner about his gender identity. He kept having to explain that gender identity and sexual preference were two unrelated things. It occurred to me then how language shapes our perceptions and societal norms, and our language does not have any mechanism for describing things except by binary this/not that.

  • Psyche

    This really resonates with me too, though I’ve never been a parent. I’m more comfortable being (mis)identified as female, but often get mistaken for male online. I actually identify as genderqueer. Might be worth looking into?

    • Nimue Brown

      it’s an interesting label, but it comes back to the same point of language – genderqueer is still the language of gender. If it makes sense to anyone on an emotional level, then its a good word for them, but it doesn’t answer what I’m looking for.

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