Gender follows me everywhere!
Yesterday I attended a lecture of the (in)famous artist Jeff Koons. I only went because my cousin gave me the ticket as she herself could not attend, and I thought it was a good idea to spend an evening not watching crap TV for once.
I didn’t dress up or even think about my attire, because it wasn’t an official sort of thing and I really didn’t care whether I loked pretty or not, acceptable yes, but definitely not pretty.
We had to wait for ages, standing in the white-washed hall in front of tiny video screens that were supposed to communicate Koon’s words to the audience (who hadn’t paid as much as the others). Luckily it wasn’t too crowded, and the crowd seemed quite diverse and well-behaved.
I found my little space at a table near one of the screens. Unfortunately I didn’t have my flag with me to tag it as completely mine, so in the end, people ended up sharing the space with me. Normally I would have been extremely annoyed at having to come into less than 1 metre contact with a stranger, but these days my shyness is slowly dissipating more and more.
What really annoyed me, though, and I still don’t know whether I should be angry at myself or the person who said the words, was the fact that, this person who started to talk to me realised that I was ‘female’ (that I had female anatomy)…He just so nonchalantly said those words that made me realise, I’m not stealth in my gender yet. Eventhuogh I recently had my breasts removed, he apparently knew I had other female anatomy, for he used female titles with me…WHY?????
Then, on the way home, there was a couple of people in the tram (a coupl?). The guy let the woman go in first, and I was standing right behind them, waiting for them to get going so I could find a seat. The guy turned and looked at me and said: ladies first and urged me to go ahead. I was startled, because, on the one hand, I found it nice that wanted to let me go first, but on the other, I was annoyed that he assumed that I was a ‘lady’ (and thus female). Once again, I couldn’t fathom how these people could tell, since even my own family and I myself sometimes don’t know for sure what I am…
I actually responded to that guy that I wasn’t a lady and urged him to go in front, instead. He did, and I don’t know what he thought of me. I hope he realises that his behaviour was not necessarily patronising and wrong as such, but with the wrong kind of person, his behaviour did not have the result he probably intended his action to have. I was a bit torn at how to respond because I wasn’t prepared for this and did not want to give the wrong impression, In the end, I decided to try to communicate my feelings by denying this man the right to be ‘a gentleman’, as I believe I have the right to do so. For he explicitly said “ladies first”, thus his niceness and gentlemanly behaviour was only directed towars a female gender (lady), thus conditional. It gave me the option either to accept and thus accept the gender he was adressing, as well, or decline, and thereby not receive special (nice) treatment.
I think this might be a dilamme that I will continue to encounter in future. I hope my responses will help communicate to people that my gender is not normative or at least make them think before they use those gendered words so carelessly and thus put the person who is adressed in a gendered and restricted box full of unspoken gender norms. I am using all my limited social skills and temper control to avoid that box, and if I am put there by mistake, I will find a way to crawl out, again!
The above stories also make me wonder, if gender is really so much about organs and biology, and not other things: body language (how one carries oneself), and energy (what types of ‘vibe’ one sends out). I think there’s a lot more work to be done to live ‘stealth’ (fully and constantly) in my own gender role. Considering that my gender is non- it is especially hard to escape being polarised into the one or the other gender, but I’ll try to continue, because it’s a need of mine. I want to increase my quality of life, and just like others, I want to be validated and accepted as my gender.
I am only afraid that if I try to communicate my gender, I will start acting again according to what I believe a non-gender would act like (according to other people). I would probably do things that I think other people whould associate with being non-gender, instead of just being me (even if that sometimes means I will be mis-gendered).
What are your thoughts on this?