June 8th, 2021

Representation

"You must be so happy to see how far things have come since your own teenage years", people often say. "Back then, nobody was talking about being gender variant, it was all either you're gay or else you're straight. Now the kids are free to just be however they are and gender isn't an issue!"

Well, there's definitely been progress, but we haven't exactly Arrived yet.

Have you watched any movies lately or read any good novels that feature femmy males who fall in love with the female heroes of the storyline, and don't masculinize themselves to become heterosexually viable?

Who are the role models to whom a girlish, definitely non-masculine male would turn if they want to see an example, perhaps somebody to emulate?

I think there are more boxes now, but people still want to put you in one of the boxes, and I don't see a box that would fit me. Or would fit the person I was at fifteen, at nineteen, at thirteen.

• Portrayals of male people who are asexual or aren't sexually attracted and don't crave a romantic and sexual relationship would not be good models. I was, and at that age it was intense and complicating my life.

• Portrayals of male people who aren't uncomfortable with the assumptions and projections that people make about male people -- people expecting masculinity, expecting a set of priorities and behaviors that are associated with boys and men, especially sexual prorities and behaviors -- would not be good models. I had related to the girls, not the boys, all through elementary school. The whole 'boy thing' was foreign to me, something I wanted nothing to do with.

• Portrayals of male people whose sexual and romantic fascinations were for and towards other male people would not be good models. I had been taunted and harassed and threatened around the assumption that males who were feminine or acted in any way like one of the girls were gay and wanted male sexual attention. I didn't have those feelings, and existing cultural icons who were male, femmy, and gay didn't represent to me someone who was like me, because sexual orientation had been made an issue for me as a sissy femme person.

• Portrayals of trans gals who transitioned from being someone perceived as male to someone who presented as female were a mixed prospect as role models, because although it was a way of saying "see, being male doesn't keep this person from finding a valid identity as a feminine person", it also tended to underline the notion that the maleness was wrong. I didn't have dysphoria about my body and didn't want to be accepted and regarded as a girl or woman just like the others, as a cisgender woman in other words. I wanted the sexual attractions and romantic hungers I felt to be mutual, and since mine involved attraction for female people, to be mutual I would need to be with someone female who had a reciprocal appetite for someone who was male. If I presented as female and got involved with someone whose attraction was towards female folks, I was going to be a disappointment. Even if they were willing to settle for me because they were attracted to me as a person, I didn't want to be settled for; and I wasn't ashamed of my body and thought someone could find it cute and sexually appealing. I wasn't going to find someone who did if I was going around presenting as female.


The correct box isn't out there yet. Some kid who resembles the person I was as a teenager, coming along now, is going to be miscategorized as transgender, or as femme gay, or as generically nonbinary and asexual, for lack of a better box.

(And yeah, I can hear those of you who are just itching to say "People shouldn't be put in boxes, just be yourself, all this stereotyping is bad, think outside the box dude" and so forth. You are right but you are wrong. People wish to be understood. First-tier understanding tends to begin with generalizing, with categorizing folks and treating them as a typical member of that category. That is NOT a bad thing -- it's only bad when people don't move past that and learn the unique things about the specific person. It's only bad when they continue to treat the person as the box, as the stereotype. You get stereotyped by strangers, whether you realize it or not. It serves you well. You package yourself to be taken at first glance as something reasonable close to who you actually are. You don't know what it's like to not have that available to you unless you have had to live with no appropriate role or notion to wear as a default identity, no stereotype to play to as a starting point. You'd have a less dismissive take on these boxes if you had to walk around without one for a few years. In other words, you might want to check your privilege).



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Do you counsel young people trying to sort out their gender identity? You should read my book! It's going to add a new entry to your map of possibilities when you interact with your clients!

My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.


My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer Stay tuned for further details.



Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page

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