Let’s Talk Gender identity
Over the past few months, it has become a thing for people to refer to me as a man/boy anytime they see me in a hoodie, sweatpants, snapback, or fitted hat. Anytime I am not in makeup and lipstick suddenly my femininity isn’t something visible enough for me to still be a woman. It’s gotten so annoying because when I think about it there are so many other things about me that are masculine that could make this a valid argument, but people just aren’t that creative or detailed in their assumptions.
Gender Identity is defined as a personal conception of oneself as male or female (or rarely, both or neither). This concept is intimately related to the concept of gender role, which is defined as the outward manifestations of personality that reflect the gender identity. That means no matter what I’m wearing, I am a woman if I say I am. If I have not said today I identify as a man then that is not the case. These misconceptions stem from the ideology that to be a woman means to always be feminine and soft, and if you know me you know that is hardly ever the case, even when I am in heels. In New York, it is not uncommon to see a woman in both heels and a fitted and not assume that she is anything other than a woman in heels and a fitted. In Doylestown, it is assumed that anytime I am not the feminine that they are used to, I have to be something else. It is not that I am offended by being called a guy because I’m not when it’s an accurate statement. It’s the assumptions that are really annoying and the selectiveness of those assumptions. I am still “one of the guys” when I am not in Timberlands. It means my gender expression is fluid, so you probably shouldn’t label me, especially when you don’t even know me. Gender fluid is a gender identity that refers to a gender, which varies over time. A gender fluid person may at any time identify as male, female, neutrois, or any other non-binary identity, or some combination of identities. I am always a combination of different identities.
In 2014, I cut off all my hair. When I did every time I went into the city people assumed I was a “dyke”, or “butch”, when I wasn’t assumed to be a cis-man. Any of these assumptions are problematic to assume or label someone and is also exceptionally dangerous. My mother was always concerned about making sure that people could tell I was still a girl. That I wore big earrings and form fitting clothes, that I was never mistaken for a black man or a black lesbian. She was so worried that one day I wouldn’t make it home, and it’s a valid fear. The problem is very rarely do people actually ask you how you identify. More times than anything they assume based on what they see and societal expectations of their respective communities. Which is to say, if you are from a community that doesn’t see women step outside of traditional gendered ways of appearance than you automatically categorize anything other than as masculine. It is time to step outside of that. It is time to understand that woman isn’t always defined in the same ways, and a woman can have as much masculine energy as she chooses and still be a woman, regardless of what you think of her. It is the same with men. We assume men can’t be emotional or highly feminine without that making them less of a man and it’s just straight up inaccurate. Everyone has masculine and feminine energy within them. Everyone has days where one of those energies is stronger than the other and embracing that doesn’t change their gender. Everyone isn’t this easily mis-gendered or labeled. The farther we step outside the stereotypical idea of bodies being white and slim and cis-gender, the more we feel the need to label people. Gender is a social construct, in the same ways that race is a social construct used to confine people and establish them as definitively outside the norm.
Mislabeling someone is never not political; it is never not steeped in the idea of making assumptions about a person’s identity whether consciously or subconsciously because ultimately it shouldn’t matter. Ultimately it is privilege that makes people label at all, is it the underlying knowledge that no one fits the norm anymore that makes us want to point out how someone else doesn’t, because why does it matter at all? How is my being a girl or a boy affecting you, if you are not the person I’m sleeping with? Why because my skin is a certain color do you assume I’m African or Jamaican, why can’t I just be black? When we mislabel people we are telling them the parameters they are allowed to live in. Instead, stop trying to do it for people you don’t even know. Ask questions. Ask yourself why it’s so important for you to comment on my attire today. Ask yourself will it change your life? And if it doesn’t, maybe you should just walk away, quietly.