AKA: “If I stay in bed by myself forever I’ll never have to put my gender back on.”
In my Theorysplosion post I mentioned that I’d be writing another post about gendering, and as promised, here it is.
I’ve been trying to write this post since long before I promised it to you, and I’ve put it off again and again, and now I’m in a significantly different place then I was when I initially set out to write this. Before, I felt trapped by the gender binary; particularly by the way other people’s interactions with me imposed their assumptions about (my) gender on me. I felt like I was frantically obsessed with it because I couldn’t escape my assigned gender, but was also beginning to feel that my own preoccupation with gender was holding me back. As a good friend of mine would say, “You can only experience freedom from the position of freedom,” and my fixation with the precise nature of my own oppression, was keeping me bound beneath the weight of it and preventing me from moving towards liberation.
Somehow or another, when I took a step back to stop thinking so neurotically about my gender and just live in it I found my way into momentary positions of freedom. These were the empty spaces, the gaps in the social enforcement of the binary where I could be temporarily liberated. It was only when I let go of my desperate, anxious grasping, after I quit trying to think my way out of the cage the gender binary put me in, that I found freedom or began to notice and appreciate it where it already existed.
My relationship with my partner has always been my “safe space” so to speak, even when I felt confined by the gender binary I never felt gendered by them. We’ve never imposed genders or gender roles on one another, in fact, that’s kind of a cornerstone of our relationship. And now that I’m taking the time, I’m noticing that I have lots of interactions with people in my community where I don’t feel gendered. (granted, this likely has something to do with the fact that I live amongst and keep company with mostly anarchists and other radicals).
I don’t gender people. I just let them be people, which in a way, allows me see their genders just as they live them. Not gendering someone is different from not seeing gender, however. It means not imposing preconceptions about (their) gender on them, thereby being able to see them as they are, including their gender as defined by them. It means having no expectations, not trying to cram them into a box, but never ignoring the realities of privilege and oppression that are created by the rigid, codified system of gender enforced by the dominant culture.
The assertion that gendering is inherent in human interaction is clearly false. Human interaction does not necessitate the imposition of gender on one another, but it is necessary in order for gendering to occur. In other words, gendering is a social phenomenon and cannot occur in isolation. When I’m by myself, gender is just an imaginary construct, with no more meaning or impact on my life than what Kate Middleton had for breakfast. It’s only when I go out and interact with people that it affectively becomes real and grows teeth. In social situations, this imaginary construct has very real effects and consequences because everyone believes in it and acts accordingly. Its social construct imposed on me from the outside, whether or not I believe in it or fulfill in the roles mandated for me.
So, among other things, I’m learning to see solitude as a safe space, learning to find empty spaces where I can, and snatch brief moments of freedom from the jaws of the gender binary at every given opportunity. And little by little, I’m moving towards a position of more permanent liberation.