I had a gender once, but I got over it.
Last week, I read a zine sent to me by one of its writers, j. The zine’s name is
Null & Void, or, bathrobes: a conversation about gender (or the lack thereof)
and I suppose you can buy one by contacting j. via their blog. You should definitely read it, this is good stuff.
One of the things mentioned in the zine is being “post-gender”. I fell in love with the concept immediately. Like Chris, the zine’s other writer, says,
“i want to be ‘post-gender’. I want to not have a need to engage with the concept at all when it comes to defining myself.”
These two sentences opened into something new and wonderful in my self-perception. It’s like I’ve been looking at things in a different way since reading them. In a way, I feel I’ve come a full circle from where I was a couple of years ago, but have grown and changed in the process, so that the old place seems changed too. I’ll try to explain, but I’ll need to think first.
You know how there’s a difference between doing something because you can’t imagine not doing it (not knowing options exist, maybe), and doing the same thing after you’ve learned there are options, carefully weighed them, looked around for more, and then, still, decided to do like you were going to in the first place?
For instance, from the age of 2 until maybe 18, I was a vegetarian because I was brought up as one. Then I began questioning my un-choice, began to taste different kinds of meat, found out I quite like many of them – and then went back to being vegetarian, nowadays vegan most of the time, this time because I’ve chosen it to be so.
I used to think gender doesn’t matter to me at all. Then, by my studies, discussions with friends, personal experiences and all the other things that life has brought, I was taught to see the intricate webs of meaning, power, and violence, that my being brought up “according to” my assigned-at-birth gender has tangled me in – and how so many things I’ve thought “natural” to me really come from being taught from an early age on.
In trying to extricate myself from the web, I became aware of the consequences of (hypothetically) succeeding in the attempt: I realized that a total detachment from society’s grasp always comes with the terrible price of complete freedom. For a time I tried it, feeling I stood alone in a world of white under a burning sky with no shelter but my own pride, and I learned the hard way that as much as the world of language needs me to keep going the power relations of oppression and indoctrination, I need it to be able to resist it, and shape myself in doing so. And so I put away and forgot my original idea of gender not mattering to me, and tried instead to find a gender labeled in a way I could have as my own.
But reading Chris’ words last week, I realized that what I had really been looking for wasn’t not having a gender label forced on me by others, or even being able to define or leave undefined my relation to gender – it was not needing to or have others think about “my gender” at all, “not have a need to engage with the concept at all when it comes to defining myself” – just people doing things together and giving each other shelter in whatever storms life might bring.