I upset quite a few people the other day with that Nail polish post. Some of the people who were upset are, frankly, assholes, and they can go ahead and be upset, but a lot of them aren’t, and I’m sorry I upset those people.
I didn’t like or agree with everything in that Elinor Burkett article, and I skipped over most of them – but maybe I should have said I wasn’t endorsing the whole thing.
Someone in a Facebook group recommended this tumblr post cis by default, and I found what it says resonates with me a lot. It starts with some body discomforts, and then moves to the social.
I also just had a lot of discomfort with the more social (not physical) aspects of gender. And this admittedly did start from a lot of conversations about trans and variant gender identities – partially because they made me realize that everyone else did not, in fact, think about gender the way I did. Hearing both cis and trans people talk about how they had this mental sense of gender confused me, because I never felt that way. I identified as female, yes, but only because I I had the traits that defined that category – the same way that I was seen as [mostly] white (another whole issue) or labelled as upper middle class, it was just a role that was assigned to me based on how society organizes categories. And I could deal with that.
That’s just it, you know? It’s a fact – that is, it’s what you’ve always been told. That doesn’t necessarily make it something you identify with. The more I read about this and have conversations about it, the less convinced I am that I’ve ever identified as being female – but I haven’t (mostly) rejected it either. It’s just there. I deal with it.
But when people talked about what it meant to them to identify as a woman, and things like that, I felt left out in the cold. Because for me, while I’m fine with the fact that I have certain physical traits, and thus fall into a certain category, if it comes down to that sense of “me” that makes my core mental personality…there’s nothing about being a “woman” there.
Yeah. There isn’t.
Or at least…not very much. Other things loom much larger.
On the other hand I do identify as a feminist. That’s one of the things that looms larger. And being a feminist does in a way cause me to identify as a woman more than I otherwise would. And that makes me think about what it would be like to be a woman if feminism didn’t exist…and I can’t wrap my head around it. Everything I try to think on the subject is itself feminist, so it breaks down. “If there were no feminism I…I…I would be frustrated and angry.” If there were no feminism what would I be frustrated and angry about? It’s hard to think about. At any rate the idea of being a woman with no feminism in existence is bleak.
But there have been women in that situation since forever, and there still are. Yes, but that’s a different world. I grew up in this one, and it’s what shaped me, and that one would be like air to a fish.
What if there were no feminism but there were trans people, and transitioning were totally mainstream and unproblematic?
I don’t know. I can’t tell. I can’t tell if what I would feel in that situation is gender dysphoria, or something much milder. I suspect it’s the latter, but I really don’t know.
So eventually, even though I had questioned myself for a long time, I ended up just staying as “cis” because it mostly worked, even if imperfectly; and for the most part I don’t usually bring up my discomforts unless it’s with people who I think are worth opening up to about it. I’m aware that I still have a privilege over trans people in many ways since for all intents and purposes, the world still sees me as cis. (Even though when I’ve had some bits of worse dysphoria, and craved to have someone see something other than “cis girl”, it’s never happened, and I’ve sort of just given up on that. Although it still makes me a bit happy when someone accidentally says “sir”, even if it’s a bit disappointing when they immediately correct themselves. But that’s still relatively minor compared to what other people have to deal with.)
It works for me too, but that’s because I have a lot of room to be eccentric. If I didn’t…I don’t know, I can’t even imagine how I would function then, because that would be a different person. I’m a cis by default weirdo; that’s my identity.