Monday, 14 June 2010

It's time to come out

I think the time has come to talk about my own gender. I have talked about being a woman in a man's world. I have talked about masculinity in the workplace, both mine and that of my male colleagues but I have never actually made a concerted effort to write my own gender, to narrate, if you will, my own gender identity.

So here goes.

I'm scared.

I have always had a pretty strong masculine side. It was always something I both revelled in and was ashamed of, aggressively ramming it down people's throats to cover my own shame. All the time I secretly thought it would be something I would grow out of, once I'd sorted my head out, and grown up, that kind of thing.

But the fact is, I am in my mid-30s, pretty happy and sorted in life but it's still there. I stopped doing a manual job a couple of months ago and since then my upper body has got weaker, I am losing my muscles. I started to think, maybe that's ok, maybe I don't need them any more, maybe that phase is over. But I decided at the end of last week that no, it's not ok. I swam a mile on Saturday, kayaked for 2.5 hours on Sunday and am planning a session on a rowing machine for Wednesday. I want my muscles. I get a kick out of being strong.

I also get a kick out of having long curly hair and hour glass curves.

I could go into the psychoanalysis but I'm not going to. It doesn't matter how I came to be here, this is where I am and that's fine. It's not about fighting men. I like men, I fancy them and when I'm in a relationship, I like to feel like I'm the girl. Very few people have ever suggested that I am a lesbian. It's not about sexual orientation.

It's just that the gender binary doesn't work for me. I don't like my behaviour and my choices about how I earn my living or spend my time to be defined by society's perception of what I should do because I have certain body parts. I don't like the conflation of femininity with incompetence in spatial tasks. Spatial awareness is a skill that can be learned like any other. Professional male cricketers can't catch as well when they first start at school as they can after years of training. Builders don't put up shelves as well when they are apprentices as they do after 20 years on the job. Truckers of either sex are generally rubbish at parking when they first start. So you learn.

I recognise that the male and female minds and bodies are different to a certain extent for evolutionary reasons but they are nowhere near as different as society deems them to be. They are nowhere near as different as society wants and needs them to be. The binary is convenient for society, it's that old line in the sand thing. You're one of those, I'm one of these so we need to act like this.

It may be convenient for society but it isn't very convenient for me. I'm me, I do me things and I act in a me kind of a way.

I don't really attach a label to my gender identity. I don't really know what labels are out there, I'm quite new to this whole debate (I was going to grow out of it remember!). I tend to just think that I am a strong woman, both in body and character, who is in touch with both the femininity and masculinity within her.


  1. That's a brilliant post, Jenny. Thank you. Can we put it on the Fauxmos site? For fauxmos, not fitting into a binary gender identity, is not a pre-requisite but it is very much accepted and appreciated. Thanks again for finding us!

  2. Please do! Do you need me to do anything? I've just sent the url to @fauxmos on twitter. I wouldn't have written it if I hadn't found you!

  3. Awesome post! Never be ashamed of being 'manly' - I'd die to have more upper body strength. Very few people fit into true 'binary' gender distinctions or even gender orientations. It's nice to see it written about :D

  4. Love this. Why should anyone have to conform to society's stupid stereotypes? And I am proud of being a female physicist who's actually really good at parking!! ;)

  5. I like this Jenny. Am I right to be rather ashamed of conforming to many of the gender stereotypes? Except my driving... when I drove an ex-boyfriend for the first time he commented admiringly that I 'drive like a man'.

  6. This is a great post, Jenny. Intelligent, thought-provoking and a real show of (feminine) strength.

    Most of my life, I have been so enraged by the popular perception of what it is to be 'feminine' that I even considered I might be a lesbian, for some time. But I like men, and I date men. Like you, though, I think muscles on a woman are sexy. I think a woman that can put up her own shelves, and build her own shed, or drive an arctic lorry, is a proper woman.

    Perhaps that's why I thought I could bring up a child on my own too? Well, sometimes my overly fierce sense of independence screws me over rather than helps me.

    The men I have had relationships with have often said I drive like a man, and that I'm 'blokish' in many ways. I tend to take this as a compliment. Is that strange? But it doesn't mean that I don't feel like a woman.

  7. Thanks Sam. It is interesting what you say about taking being called 'blokish' as a compliment. I think it probably depends on the circumstances and how the person saying it perceives blokishness. I certainly think most blokes are being complimentary when they describe a woman's driving as being like a man's but I have received comments in the past referring to my 'blokishness' that definitely weren't complimentary!