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When I screamed my way into this world twenty-eight years ago, I imagine a doctor yanked my slippery little body from my mother’s womb and announced that ‘it’ was a girl.
It happened to grow up to be a writer and a drinker and a joker. It became an athlete, an activist and a registered Democrat. It developed a coffee addiction and seasonal allergies. It changed majors and addresses. It wore different uniforms and answered to names and numbers. It had long blonde hair – until it cut it all off. It made friends and lost lovers. It traversed ages and heights and weights, injected ink into its skin, and altered states of mind with chemicals to its brain. But of all the identities it traversed with ease, it was always a girl. Even when it didn’t act like one or throw like one or dress like one.
There’s no denying that with one’s sex comes expectations. We are expected to behave a certain way because of the sex we were born into, but the truth is, sometimes, we behave badly. And sometimes, that feels really good.
The presumption is that a body is born a sex – physically, biologically, chromosomally, whatever – but one’s gender is actually independent of that, or it should be, anyway. Gender is the expression of a sex, but our society is sexist, and our language is gendered, so our whole lives are spoken of and built between the high-walled constructs of male and female. His and hers.
So what’s an assertive, tom-girl to do? Tear down the walls, of course. Or at least scale them and tear off its unisex t-shirt in celebration of each mount along the way. Who made the rules anyway?
Who cares?! Let’s bend them ‘til they break!
The two-gender assumption has consistently proven to be inaccurate and inadequate. If gender is not sex, then why is it being bound by the same binary framework? Why is it one or the other? It isn’t. There’s a spacious and free-wheeling middle ground that’s dying to be accounted for. It is wide-open and inclusive and until it is acknowledged, gender bending is not some radical expression, but rather a diplomatic proposal to become evolved and complete human beings.
Historically, the female body and its differences from the male body have been emphasized in order to defend the psychosocial differences between men and women. Our feminine essence supposedly accounts for emotional preconceptions, power discrepancies and corporate salary gaps. But what if the female body was de-feminized? Would androgynous expressions change the social roles and dispositions they have come to expect and many of us have come to assume? Maybe we could finally prove that a person’s sex, gender and sexuality cannot be expected to fall in some sort of starry alignment.
It is delusional to think that a person born of the female sex will naturally exhibit characteristics of femininity – whatever that elusive, although always lady-like enigma really is.
We are tasked with the challenge of cutting ourselves as human beings free from department store classifications of sex and gender. So, when asked why a nice girl like me would spit in the face of social norms, I will tell them that I want to be who I am, not what I am told. I will tell them that I deserve to be comfortable in my life and make myself at home in my body.
Lastly, I will tell them that I am me, and I am OK.
Mary Buckheit can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org