November 29, 2011

Why Do I Call Myself a Man?

I call myself a man - a male adult.

Most of you probably won't be surprised by this. The only reason I bring it up is that, in the last year or two, I've been able to give more thought to gender and sexuality and - through the wonder of the internet - have been able to connect with people across the personhood spectrum. The vast majority of people tent to cluster around certain 'types' of person and so we are able to form categories of people: man, woman, homosexual, heterosexual (or androsexual and gynosexual, if you prefer), etc. Categories are a very human way of looking at the world and this corresponds to the way our brain works to deal with sensory and stored information.

However, lots and lots (and lots) of people don't neatly fit into these categories and most of these people might identify as being trans or genderqueer (I'm going to try and use language carefully here, because I'm still something of an ignorant cis person), which is kind of a catch-all bracket for people who don't find they fit into the neat boxes we already have to label people with. Either that or they feel their bodies and their identity don't correlate in a way that I guess we might consider 'typical'.

Anyway, all this is just a prelude to a blogpost all about me. Sort of. See, after all of my explorations - surface scratches, really - I found myself asking why it is that I call myself a 'man'. The obvious answer is that I've already been pre-ordained with such a category and I just went along with it. Perhaps the slightly more obvious answer is that I have a penis and that I'm over 18, but considering many people with penises wouldn't consider themselves 'men', that reason half goes out the window.

There are people who are born into a particular gender (bodily) and ultimately find a disagreement between their own personal gender identity and the gender that biology would tend to classify their bodies. Some people might feel they are women, but happen to find themselves within a male body, others might feel they don't fit into the binary gender classification. Whatever the case, there is something these people feel within themselves that gives them an inherent sense of gender identity and I tried to consider my own gender identity as a person who's never actually consider themselves 'misplaced'.

And I couldn't really find one. I wasn't sure what it was about me that I considered male. I mean, it's useful to be able to refer to myself in ways that everyone can easily understand - that's a benefit of cisgender...ism, but in terms of actually finding a reason to think, 'yes, I am male', I couldn't think of one. I mean, I have my genitals, but really we can forget those. Spend five minutes engaged with the transgender community and you'll soon realise that genitals can be largely irrelevant. What else then? Well, I fancy ladies, but then so does Ellen DeGeneres and she doesn't consider herself a man. That's a ludicrous reason to determine your gender. Do I go with the traditional traits of masculinity? No - and for two reasons: firstly, I don't agree that strength, valour, chivalry, domination (or whatever) maketh a man and secondly, I don't actually possess most 'manly virtues'. I'm kind of a meek, gentle, ponderous type who muses about beauty and art and shit. I don't care much for sports or beer or wolf-whistling or bringing home the bacon (all of which are ridiculous things to associate with men, anyway, as women are just as likely to do any of these things).

I wouldn't even necessarily say that I "felt" like a man, either. Not in my bones or nuthin'. I find I get on a lot easier with women, for what ever reason. But then, I wouldn't say I felt like a woman either. Perhaps I feel gender-neutral? I don't feel particularly strongly about that, though.

I guess what I'm saying is that gender doesn't particularly have any affect on my identity. Or it could just be that being a cisgendered, white, male-bodied, heterosexual, middle-class, well-educated western person has meant that I'm lucky enough not to be bothered by such things. All my cards came up trumps, so why would I care?

A corollary from this is the very question I'm kind of asking to the aether: if you are transgendered, what is it that makes you feel that way? How does gender enter into your identity, while simultaneously I would argue that very little separates men from women non-bodily (the whole essence of gender equality)?

I guess this is just a post from ignorance and naivety, but I'm a-ramblin'