A conversation with my wife this morning, one in a series on gender identity and the binary, pointed a bright spotlight on an area of my personal identity journey my wife has serious issues with: Â my male identity.
OK, it’s more complex than that, so I’ll try to unpack it and maybe I’ll learn something in the process. Â My wife isn’t fond of labeling characteristics male or female. Â She’s very much into her female appearance, has some characteristics that could be labeled masculine or traditionally male — mostly in communication style and attitudes about sex — but she doesn’t label them male, she sees them as not belonging to men, but being available to anyone equally. Â I don’t disagree, it’s a very feminist way of looking at it and I approve. Â When I tell her that, she kind of jumps on me and not in a pleasant way.
her: Â you talk all about being against the binary but here you are labeling parts of yourself male and female. Â How is that getting away from the binary?
me: Â you’re right, I’m not post-gender, I’m still very attached to gender.
(continuing) me: Â and also, I’m not labeling the stuff I like to do, or how I dress, or any of those characteristics as the male or female parts of me, I’m not dividing it that way. Â Those are separate elements of identity. Â The part of me I see as male vs. the female part are not split along the lines of who enjoys ‘male activities’ vs. ‘female activities’, especially when I don’t see things in terms of male or female activities.
her: but there you go again, using the binary when you say you’re against it. Â I don’t understand why you need to use male and female and why you don’t just say, this is me, and not use male or female at all?
me, attempting not to let my brain get clouded by my urge to shut down and go non-verbal: Â Look, I get that it’s hard to understand and I have a hard time communicating how it feels on the inside, but that’s where I am.
My wife is very opinionated and not super gentle in how she communicates. Â And this is one of her things, that she doesn’t especially like all the labels and vocab I’ve been trying out in an attempt to understand myself and the world better. Â She has this idea that I should just be aloof to all that gender shit and be some happy blend that doesn’t need to declare itself in any way other than my name. Â I’m not saying that’s a wrong way to see the world, but it pisses me off to have her push me without compassion, or much expressed interest, about what I’m going through. Â She doesn’t seem to have the patience to listen as I try to explain, either. Â If I start to lay out the map of how I see myself, the elements of identity I call my own, she just wants to jump to her conclusion.
Thankfully, there are a people in my life who will take the time to listen and work toward understanding, they are precious to me because they don’t get bored halfway through my sometimes long and drawn out explanations. Â There are others who don’t require too much explanation but accept my truth as I present it. Â Then there’s my wife who seems to want to fight me every step of the way because I’m not doing the way she would. Â And since I’m not going to roll over and stop doing it my way, I guess we’re gonna keep having that conversation.
I will continue to argue against the restrictions and assumptions of the binary while simultaneously embracing gender as a way to express and explore my self. Â I do not think that is contradictory or hypocritical. Â Asking that we not restrict people based on the gender binary and our perception of where people fit into that system is not the same as saying, no one can use genders from the binary ever, ever, ever. Â I just want the freedom to choose. Â I want you to have the freedom to choose, as well. Â I don’t think any of us should be telling the others what they can or cannot do or think with regard to gender identity.
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