Masc Or Fem
Over the past month, I have been trying out the dating scene. I’ve been set up on blind dates, met folks at bars, chatted on Grindr, and talked to old flames. A common point of inquiry concerns my gender expression: Are you masc(uline) or fem(inine)? I never know what to say at this point. How does one define ‘masc’ or ‘fem?’ I have read enough Judith Butler to know that gender is a performance. I typically find that the other person wants a masc partner. I have meditated over how I would categorize myself. Then I realized: this is sexism & transphobia! Typically the fem is viewed as weak or a traitor to gay men. If one is super-fem then there is a typical retort: why don’t you just transition?
I have a gender identity of male and typically express this through male fashion. Outside of fashion, I am at a loss over how I express myself based upon traditional ideas of gender expression. I drive a late 1980s manual transmission Bronco, which seems pretty butch. I majored in Studio Art, which some may consider fem. My family owns a farm and I work there when not in school, which could be considered macho. I don’t own a comb, mirror, cologne, make up, or beauty products. Based upon traditional gender roles ideas, I should fit into masc but typically get pushed over into the fem category due to my voice, lack of sports knowledge, and mannerisms. Folks categorize me as a fem gay boy. Yet this fem gay boy can gut a deer, paint a portrait, drive manual transmissions, cook, separate the whites and colored clothes, cut off a cow’s testicles, shoe a horse, and plan a protest.
In my case, the internal struggle to categorize myself and my inability to do so has led me to question the system, which assumes labeling is necessary to begin with. This process has led me to better understand the complexity around gender, gender identity, and gender expression.
The social constructs around gender are just that — artificial and malleable. I have decided not to allow myself to be constructed but instead to deconstruct this binary. Using the masc/fem paradigm to decide someone’s strength, worth, and importance places value onto those socially constructed categories and stereotypes. This paradigm continues to reinforce our society’s sexism, which devalues femininity and women. Gay men may complain about the lack of ‘manliness’ amongst fem gay men but straight men make the same complaints about any gay man. Aren’t we all gender rebels, benders, and traitors in some way?
Dorothy Allison recommends that “class, race, sexuality, gender and all other categories by which we categorize and dismiss each other need to be excavated from the inside.” Therefore, let us mediate and reflect about how we choose partners and the basis for our judgment systems.
Jon Henry comes from the small town of Washington, Virginia. Xe finished xes degree at the University of Richmond and was named GayRVA.com's Out.Spoken. Richmonder of the Year for 2011. When not in class, xe is either in the studio or rabble rousing with other queer activists. Follow xem on Twitter.
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