My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Buy-Me-Lunch Answer About My Gender

Image description:
Writer looking just ridonkulously cute.
I wasn't going to write this post. Honestly. I had a totally different plan for today. But then it was National Coming Out Day and I sat down and before I knew it I had used up three hours of my writing time and written a post about gender. So rather than just beat myself up about how shlub I'd been on the writing front today, I took one of those deep cleansing breaths, and Upper Forebrain Supervisor me reminded my inner taskmaster, "Hey, Chris just spent about 3 hours on a 750 word post about gender and some political thoughts over on Facebook, so Leave Artist Chris alone! LEAVE HIM ALONE!"
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, kind, nurturing, good with kids, introspective, emotional, accommodating, passive in matters of courtship––flirty so they come to you but rarely making the first move, easily connected with people, loyal, pliant, enjoy cleaning (and what little cooking you can do), like jobs such as teaching, 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.]

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.

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 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.

A lot.

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!


  1. I’ve often been “the guy” in my relationships. I’ve had readers absolutely sure I was a he and still often get called he in reviews. Now, my list is kind of a mixture of both genders but I’ve never truly felt like I was the average woman. Luckily for this 40-something, having a couple masculine traits wasn’t a big deal. The same can’t be said of the other side of that coin. I can’t imagine having to face the ignorance of those trying to stuff you into the box they felt you needed to fit. Stay true to who you are—without bounds ��

  2. Good on you, Chris. I have 3 sons and while they are all comfortably straight and male they challenge so many stereotypes and ideas about being male, and always have. They are three of the most excellent human beings I know and are wading through adolescence determined to be themselves - not into football, shooting shit or scratching their balls. They are kind, gentle, thoughtful and loving and yes they are 13, 15 and 19. I’m incredibly privileged to be their mum. They appreciate meeting other people who challenge rigid ideas of their gender and gradually it’s becoming a new kind of normal. You’re awesome and I love what you do in the writing world xx

  3. Excellent. Most excellent.

    I was raised in a fairly gender-neutral household (though I didn't realize it at the time), but not during a time when that was even a thing (the 70s). I got a lot of conflicting messages. At home, I could be any way I felt like being. At school, at my dad's on alternate weekends, at my grandparents, everywhere but at home, I had to behave and dress as people expected a girl to behave and dress. In first grade, when I took my shirt off on the playground like the other boys had, the teacher hurriedly told me to put my shirt back on. What? Why? It was hot out. We were playing. And I looked just like the other boys. But I wasn't a boy, I was a girl. I had to put my shirt back on because I was a girl. I had to put my shirt back on because of what was in my pants (or, what wasn't). I looked the same on top, but not on the bottom, which I didn't even know at the time.

    I'd like to say that things made more sense to me as I got older, but they never have. All I know is, people have expectations of me and I can't or don't meet them. I applaud you for letting go of the feeling that you need to meet those expectations. I don't know who I would be if I weren't the person who failed to live up to expectations. I'd have to find a new identity. That might be worth pursuing, though, even at 51 years old.

    1. imagine though, re-writing your own story just the way you would like it to have turned out - wouldn't that be just fab.

  4. Hello Chris, I wanted to tell you how much I relate to this post so that the first time reading it made me really emotional. I'm amab and when I was younger and sidn't know about more categories, I just accepted what I was told in which category I would be, but there wasn't an affirmative feeling behind it, just "If you say so." Later when society started piece after piece giving me the list, the rules from the handbook, "Men do/are/want/like ...""A real man does ...", it didn't resonate in me, didn't feel like it talked about me; I hadn't the urge to fulfill counting as a (real) man. When what society tells me is a man, then I'm not that. Here especially the last part hit me: "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." I mean if it changes what man means, someday it might mean me.
    I hesitated about far conclusions because I was sure I wouldn't be a woman instead. Only when through contact with nonbinary identities in the lgbt community I learned I could also be none at all, I found what I could be when not a man. So, although I don't feel dysphoria, still use he pronoun and often male terms because I won't be out, for myself I started identifying as an agender person.

  5. I thought I was open minded until I read this. Lists . Scripts .It's so true. Thank you for opening my eyes to a way of simply being

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  7. Thank you for this. It's only now, in my mid-thirties, that I'm finally getting the language to describe my own discomfort with gender and the "norms" ascribed thereto. It's so reassuring and, frankly, relieving to learn that so many others are maybe also not so good with basing their personalities and life choices on their genitalia. Having more open and frank discussions about the ridiculousness of "gender norms" will hopefully help more people who don't have the language to better understand themselves, too.

  8. I amble through life in my 'safe and secure' (dull?) bubble, oblivious to things like this, not through lack of caring about it, but through lack of attending to it, posts like this are helpful but my opinion of you doesn't matter, your opinion of you does. Go forth and be you, you are more than enough as you are x

  9. As someone who’s nonbinary this really speaks to me. Thank you.

  10. Thank you. I consider myself gender-fluid between female and non-binary. My pronouns are she/her, but probably only because I've been living with them all my life and I'm used to it. I rock short hair and a ballcap, so get called "sir" all the time. I just fire back with a "you're welcome Ma'am" (if from a guy) or "you're welcome Sir" (if a female, it's usually men tho). You do you, Chris.