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Writer looking just ridonkulously cute.
If you're wondering why I'm POSTING the "buy-me-lunch" answer, it is simply because so many people who touch my life are far away and will never get the chance to buy me lunch. And then it fit so well when I shaped it into language that I went more public with it. And then I realized I had spent all day writing it, so instead of what I planned I will add this as an addendum to my bio page. And we'll do the guest post I was thinking of tomorrow.
This first part is easy:
Imagine you live in a world with a gender binary that is rather rigidly defined. (I know. Tough to do, right?) And imagine that there are lists of what men are like and what women are like. And some people cleave to the list, but everyone knows them. And even people who think the lists are crap still work off of them for a lot of things.
(So far you don't really have to "imagine" this so much as simply NOTICE it.)
Now imagine that without dysphoria or major identity crisis you've spent your entire life noticing that your list of traits and attributes is the WRONG LIST. You are compassionate, gentle, kind, nurturing, good with kids, introspective, emotional, accommodating, passive in matters of courtship––preferring they make the first move—easily connected with people, loyal, pliant, empathetic, you enjoy cleaning (and what little cooking you can do), like jobs such as teaching and housespouse, and love doing emotional labor for loved ones. You kind of like jewelry and feeling "cute."
You eschew much of list that you are supposed to take on. Tough, powerful, "rational," competitive, unemotional, afraid of committment, unattached, aggressive (or "assertive"). Blech. Get that bullshit away from you.
You even find your own quiet, inward-focused way to be ambitious that doesn't require comparing yourself to others.
Yes these are stereotypes, particularly at their extremes, but enough people buy into them directly, and those that don't do so directly ("You're a house husband? When are you going to man up?") do it unconsciously. ("Women would like you if you got yourself a real job*, and were more assertive.") It's literally inescapable no matter how many "Very Open Minded People™" you surround yourself with.
[A "real job*." Cleaning and chasing diapers all day is not real--and certainly not for a man.]
You got the "other" group's list!
Imagine that your entire life, even your most intimate partners have said things like "He's the woman in this relationship." or "Oh you're pretty much a chick." They said it in jest, but they said it in jest a LOT. It didn't bother you....but it did make you wonder about that list. And they're not wrong. That was ALWAYS you. You wanted an easy bake oven so you could have food ready for mommy when she got home from work. You were the househusband for the two families you were a part of in your adult life. You loved spending time with the kids. You were the gentlest person many people had met, including some of their women friends.
Imagine your step-dad hated that about you and constantly told you to stop being prissy and stop being girly and quit talking about your feelings and quit being a momma's boy. And he made fun of those parts of you––mocked them ruthlessly–– in favor of cultivating, within you, his own version of boomer midwestern stoicism and masculinity.
Now imagine that you're about 38ish and you've had it up to your eyebrows with basically every assumption of the society you live in and are cheerfully blazing your own trail with everything from abandoning "proper" work to write to non-monogamy. Fuck everything they told you about what would make you happy––"they" haven't been right yet even once. (And frankly some of that shit is built on millenia of oppression.) About this time when you're throwing out every single assumption you ever had, the community around you starts to confront the social constructs of gender.
Not just its performative nature in general, but many of them reject the binary outright and begin embracing genders that are no gender or all genders or different genders on different days or different genders than they were assigned at birth. They make you think long and hard (I mean REALLY long and REALLY hard about this list and what it means to you...and about what it means at ALL.)
Imagine that your long hair gets you misgendered four or five times a week and this not only doesn't bother you, but kind of connects you to the list you DID get. You find yourself quietly pleased that there's an outward expression of this ambiguity.
And somewhere in your early forties you realize "SOD the list." "Fuck what "men" are supposed to be!" You're not feeling that shit anyway, and you never have. So you just GO with it. You just go with all that "wrong list" energy you've been doubting and fighting all your life and suddenly you feel like coming home after a long and frustrating vacation.
THIS is who you are. THIS is who you've always been. What is it? I don't know but that list sure is wrong. And the other one is way more accurate.
So I don't have a label, and I'm not shopping for one (so feel free to share your experiences, but you don't have to suggest anything). You can still use he/him or any other pronouns if you wish (I prefer they/them) and really it's all good. And I will NEVER fail to acknowledge the privilege I carry when I pass as a man or even the tremendous privilege of not experiencing gender dysphoria. And I absolutely KNOW what I look like, especially when I'm rocking a beard. But I'm really becoming more and more aware that unless this whole society upends ITS concepts of gender, that "man" thing really doesn't quite fit, does it?
It just doesn't quite FIT.
And some days you want to stand on a table and say "Men can be THIS too. Nurturing. Loving. Compassionate. Caretakers. Soft. Witness my non-toxic masculinity" and then you spray paint your teeth silver and go take care of a baby for eight hours while doing domestic chores. But other days you want to say "Men suck, and too many of them don't know how to be non-toxic and not suck. I don't want to be one anymore! Because, as I mentioned, they suck." And that's the place where you live, vacillating between the two expressions that both feel so right.
So if you held a gun to my head and demanded a ten word answer, you'd get words like "genderfluid between man and nonbinary" or "demiguy," but I really feel like they miss the flavor, so there's the buy-me-lunch answer...lunch optional.
(But if you want to buy me lunch, you can always stuff a couple of dollars in the tip jar.)
Come check out The Buy Me Lunch Answer About My Sexuality!