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.