Gender and Genderqueerness

If you’re here for the talking about books, this post is going to bore you. Fair warning.

I spent part of the weekend at Octocon, the Irish National Science Fiction Convention. (It was supposed to be the whole weekend, but I got home on Saturday night, slept 15 hours straight, and woke up still unsure which way was down. I think no one would have got any sense out of me on Sunday.) I participated in four panels, and had an immense amount of fun with all of them – even the last, “Genderqueerness as a Marker of the Other,” about which I was perhaps excessively anxious.

That panel was very interesting. It also brought me to a realisation about my own attitude to gender, my own relationship to gender identity. It is really weird talking about gender, and gender identities, because I can’t escape the feeling that other people experience gender-as-a-property very differently than I do.

Because for me, gender is not an inherent property of selfhood. It doesn’t inhere in the body, but neither does it attach to any other part of being. It’s a social construct, not an objective entity; a performance whose rules change over time and from context to context. When I think of myself, I only think of gendering myself when it involves interacting with a social context that requires a kind of performance, that genders bodies. Gender is play. Gender is roleplay. (Performing femininity – now that’s a role whose rules I’ve never been able to figure out.)

I speak of myself as a woman because the social context is unlikely to ever open up to me the role of man. (I don’t particularly want to perform manhood, either.) And it’s still easier to chafe at the confines of woman-as-role than to define myself as different to either. I don’t want to have to define myself in gendered terms – even if those gendered terms are “I reject your categories entirely!” – in order to live as myself.

(Let us do away with all the fraught baggage attached to gendered roles! Be rid of it completely! Let us tear down the patriarchy and default to singular-they.)

I don’t know how common this view of gender is, or selfhood. I don’t know how odd this makes me, or if it’s more ordinary than I know. It’s something the panel brought me to articulate to myself about how I see the world and my place in it, though.

5 thoughts on “Gender and Genderqueerness

  1. I think this kind of discussion takes a lot of back and forth, and picking at details before people can even understand how they’re misunderstanding each other. There was a thread on Making Light a few months ago(?) about many ways in which people understand their own sex/gender/orientation/whatever where I felt able to try to articulate my own understanding of my place in the world. But it took something like that, in a group where productive, kind conversation is a religion, to feel I could even try, because my own self-experience underpins some of the difficulties I have in understanding other people’s experiences. And somewhere along the line I made a personal pledge that I would try to prioritize kindness over understanding, when push comes to shove.

    (For me, the short version is that I’ve always felt quite comfortable as a biologically female entity, quite furious as a politically female entity, and entirely bewildered by any definition of “feminine” that was not arbitrarily “pertaining to the entire range of things female entities do/are, i.e., minimally different from ‘human’.”)

  2. It is something that not infrequently bewilders me.

    (I have to work at feeling comfortable with my body, but how much of this is because of the things I am told about biologically female bodies, and how much is me wishing for the experience of other bodies, I do not know.)

  3. I am here for the books, but I’m also here because I like what you have to say about the books in regards to gender/gender politics. And I like what you have to say in this particular blog post.

  4. I have felt these feelings before. I remember talking to my partners about gender and how exhausting it was to remember how I was supposed to act when and why and them getting this look on their faces, this weird look. They were like, no that is not how it is for us. We just are. It just…mostly fits ok. Like, yeah, it’s performance, etc, blah blah blah, but I don’t think about it all the time like you do. I don’t have to force it like you. It just, like, encoded correctly for them. And it didn’t for me. For fuck knows why.

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