Today I want to write about one of the ones that often falls through the cracks: PRESENTATION.
It isn't gender identity. It isn't physical morphology. It isn't sexual orientation. It's how you market yourself, appearance-wise, to the rest of the human community, to be seen as a certain gender. It's also your success or failure in doing so: how you are perceived by others, largely as a consequence of your presentation.
I happen to be wearing a skirt tonight. No particular reason. I own skirts, I like them. This one is a Talbots, denim, in my size (15), and I am fond of it because it has back pockets and belt loops. For a person who wears jeans a lot, having skirts that accommodate the same pocket and belt paraphernalia is a plus.
And I do wear jeans a lot. I am femme, I am gal, and I look good in jeans. I patch my jeans when they age and make an art project of them. I don't cease to be femme or cease to be gal when I'm in jeans. Cisgender gals are still gals when they're in jeans, so why shouldn't I?
I have facial hair. I didn't grow any until I was 15, but then my body's hormones made them. They were soft and natural and I liked them. I have no issue with my body. It's the one I was born in. It makes hairs in places where most girl-people don't get hairs. Yeah, look: I'm not required to try to pass as a cisgender woman in order to qualify for my gender identity. If the majority of women grew hairs here and it was the boys who didn't, they'd cultive them, they'd adorn them, they'd make sure you saw that the had them. My body grown hairs here.
I'm femme, or girl, or gal. I don't owe you or anyone else physical femaleness. Any more than I owe you XX chromosomes.
There are two parts of the presentation phenomenon:
a) My efforts, and how I think of them, to elicit from you and the rest of the world a gender assignment that comes close to the truth; and
b) How it goes over, how it is perceived.
Both of these belong on the gender unicorn. They are a part of what makes us us. They're different from our gender identity itself, although they're usually affected by it. They're not necessarily the same value as what we were assigned by birth, although they could be, for those of us who are cisgender.
Presentation is social. It's like marketing. How one brands one's self. Look, see, I have physical male characteristics that I could choose to get rid of, but I also choose garments and adornments that most people who identify as "men" would not wear. My selections are made with an awareness of other folks' possible perceptions.
We're all limited by the possibilities that are in other people's heads, although we can riff on themes that people are familiar with. None of us is 100% free from the matrix of gendered expectations and the array of gender identities that people think you and I might have.
You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!
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.
Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page
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