I’ve been thinking quite a bit about gender recently and my gender identity in particular.
Once upon a time I had no idea that gender and sex were separate. The possibility that ones gender (I like the short definition that gender is what’s between your ears and sex, what’s between your legs) might be different from ones sex. After all most folk use these terms interchangeably. Passports, researchers, the Inland Revenue and the NHS etc ask for gender, whereas they really want to know ones sex.
It took me forever, until my 6th decade anyway, before I had any inkling I was anything other than male by sex and gender. I’ve always thought of myself as being a pretty sensitive man and unlike most of the men I’ve known. I’ve never been into ‘men things’ really. I’ve often fancied trying on a gorgeous dress or skirt, but never had the courage to do so openly or to broach the subject with my loving wife. It was only when a transvestite (his preferred term) joined my wife’s Morris team and was so completely accepted that I felt emboldened to admit my interest. I’ve written before how I initially thought myself ‘just’ a cross-dresser, only to realise that there was something much deeper to explore.
So over the last year or so I’ve been trying to understand who I truly am. And for four months now have been taking hormones to have my body reflect more fully the person I feel myself to be. I love the changes that are happening already.
Last week my wife asked me if I wanted to live full time ‘as a woman’. Do I? I am not sure what that means.
I described myself to my GP and to my Gender Doctor as 60-70% female. I don’t know why that feels about right nor what it would mean if it were 100% or 40%. Like many here I don’t accept the idea that gender is binary. I also think gender is something that varies over time and as society changes and of course means different things in different societies and at different times. In the UK today, I think what it means to be a man is wildly different to how it was for my father growing up in the 20’s and 30’s. And so for a woman. Hell, a century ago, respectable girls were still being chaperoned.
But what is ‘being a woman’. What is ‘being a man’.
There are life events that only happen to one sex. Like menstruation or being cursed to shave each day to ward off the monstrosity of a beard! But sex isn’t the same as gender surely. Can I ever be truly a woman if I haven’t experienced menstruation?
Or can I be a woman because I love ‘women’s things’like feminine clothes, soft fabrics, bright colours, shopping. Conversations about people and feelings, listening, girl company not boys (awful creatures). If I compare myself with most of the men I know, even those I call friends, I am not really like them.
My wardrobe now consists around 85% female store bought items. Sometimes I fantasise about being forced to choose: Burn the ‘boy’ clothes and forever live as a woman or burn the girls and live forever as a man. No contest. Without a blink of an eye, the boys clothes would be gone. But does that make me a woman?
Maybe I am a woman because that is what I chose to be. How about you?