after a long week, i super was happy to have some time this
morning to catch up on my favorite blogs, and finally get back in the
habit of posting here again.
in the process of interweb cruising, i came across a great article on feministing
from thursday written by jos. the article is about the concept of
gender friends, and if you’re not familiar with what that means, jos
does a great job of explaining:
a gender friend is someone i feel comfortable talking through
gender issues with. i’ve got a range of gender friends, from folks i
like to have nerdy theoretical conversations with to a few folks with
whom i talk through incredibly personal issues. they’re people who share
some important common understandings about gender, who i know i won’t
have to explain basic concepts to when talking about something i’m
struggling with or excited about. they’ve helped me process my feelings
and experiences around gender, helped me explore my genderqueer identity
and then come out as a trans woman. and i’ve helped friends through
my gender friends don’t necessarily identify the same way i do –
in fact, my best gender friends are genderqueer and trans guys, and i’ve
got cisgender gender friends. but they are people who know me well, who
think seriously about gender at a political, cultural, and personal
level, and who are great, compassionate listeners who are also willing
to open up. we don’t always see eye to eye on everything either, but
they’re the kind of friends who care about me and can support me where
i’m at. i first had this sort of conversation in a genderqueer
discussion group at college – some of the members of that group are
still close gender friends today.
this article got me thinking about my own gender friends who, like
jos’, do not necessarily identify the same way i do. it is through
conversations with gender friends that i have come somewhat close to
realizing my own gender identity. being cisgendered
obviously makes processing my gender not as complicated as it is for
people who are trans, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming, but it’s
still taken me a long fucking time.
during adolescence i remember struggling with mainstream concepts of
femininity, and a lot of time was spent figuring out exactly how i was
going to circumnavigate the usual trappings of make up and tight,
revealing clothing and still maybe possibly get laid. turns out
thrifted men’s polyester slacks were not the answer, but damn it if they
weren’t surprisingly comfortable.
i also remember having debates with my mom over make up, and how the
establishment was trying to suck our money away and make us feel bad
about natural blemishes at the same time, so why give in to that.
she made the argument, one that i’m now pretty on board with, that if
wearing make up makes you feel good and empowered, there’s nothing wrong
with it, outside of all of the dangerous chemicals they put in that
i was fortunate that my best friend, kara, was much like myself in
that we were both clueless about “girly” stuff. so since neither
of us were particularly interested in that, i did not feel like i was
extra weird for my inability to do my hair or apply any sort of
my man feet, which i have already talked about in depth on this blog, were also a hindrance in me figuring out what looking like a lady was going to mean to me.
once i got to college, i still fluctuated quite a bit with gender
presentation, especially with make up and whether or not i would wear
it. my one fashion constant from late-high school to mid-college
was that my wardrobe was mostly filled with vintage t-shirts, and the
most flattering jeans available to a girl stuck between straight and
the real shift came, not surprisingly, after switching majors from
linguistics to gender, women, and sexuality studies, where a veritable
department of gender friends was now my everyday reality. there
was lot of talk about reclaiming make up and sexy threads for the sole
purpose of feeling awesome about yourself, and not in order to drive the
men (or women) wild or to suggest that women need make up in order to
be attractive. these conversations definitely helped me work
through a lot of the reluctance i had over wearing make up or
provacative clothes in spite of wanting to.
my discussions with gender friends have not shifted my gender
presentation to any specific look. now i just wear what i feel
like on that day, and wear make up if i want to and know it’s not going
to melt off my face, all of which is possible daily because I can wear
whatever what I want to at my wonderful new job. it’s a major step
up from the requisite, soul-strangling khakis and polo that i donned at
a previous job for so much of this last, long winter of ours.
on friday morning, after picking up the a/c that alison has
generously given me, i had to run across the street to ace hardware to
get an extension cord. i intentionally picked the cashier who is
soft butch/genderqueer/gnc, not because of that, but because they’re
super nice and really good at their job. i decided to sign
up for the ace rewards card, because it’s right across the street from
me and eliminates my need to ever go to target by a whole bunch.
when i was filling out the form, i was kind of bowled over by the fact
that they include a box to check male or female. i was going to
write about how stupid this is, and why an interest in tools should not,
even more so than just about anything else, require you to disclose
your gender identity. but that post will have to wait for another
i asked the cashier if they knew why this was on the form, because it
doesn’t make any fucking sense, and they said they didn’t know.
after a short pause, they told me, “but you could mess with them and
check both boxes.” i replied, “good idea,” and proceeded to do so.
i encourage anyone and everyone to find a gender friend. even
if it’s not to discuss your own identity, you could find someone who has
a different perspective than you on the role(s) gender plays in our
lives, and what actions we all can take to keep gender from limiting our
lives. and believe me, that is worth discussing.
happy 4th everyone.
find a super gender friend today!