Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pink just isn't my color.

A question I've been mulling over: Is the reason feminine things make me uncomfortable because I'm unfeminine, or because feminine things suck?

Makeup, for a forinstance. Am I annoyed by it because I don't like the way it makes me look and feel? Or is it a legitimate problem that women are expected to spend significant amounts of time and money masking their faces, often with an underlying message that their real face isn't good enough?

Do I like wearing men's clothes because they're generally more comfortable, practical, and dignified--or because I like dressing up in men's clothes?

Did I hate pink things and dolls as a child because boy's toys were more interesting and more empowering, or because I wanted to play like a boy?

Did I idolize (and dress up as) male superheroes and action heroes because they got all the best parts, or because they were hypermasculine?

Am I bothered by being called a "girl" because it's infantilizing, or because I don't want to be a girl?

I don't like being treated like a woman. But sometimes I don't see how anyone would like being treated like a woman, the way we treat women.

I think that it's some from column A, some from column B. Which is why I'm a feminist, and also, unrelatedly, unfeminine. I haven't yet decided on a label for my unfemininity--for right now, let's just go with "unfeminine woman."

(I also realize that my inability to distinguish has ticked off some happily-feminine people, probably even in this very post, and I'm sorry about that.)

Or... here are some things that I really haven't confessed to anyone, even Rowdy, but I guess I'll just have out with them. I've been, at home or out when I wouldn't run into anyone I know, binding my chest and packing. Just to see what it was like? And what it was like was... kinda gleeful. It made me happy. Some of that was just "I'm doing a different and unusual thing!" happiness, which I certainly do get. I don't know if it all was.

I know what my name would have been, if I were born male. I really like it.

Sometimes I pee standing up.

I don't know what this means, if anything. I'm really, really hesitant to say "hey everybody, I'm a guy now!", for about a million reasons. I don't feel strongly, certainly male. Although I'd love it if my overall body shape was more masculine--and in fact I lift weights partly for this reason--I'm fairly happy with my vagina. I've had some masculine tendencies for a long time, but this hardcore gender uncertainty is a relatively recent thing for me. And I sort of feel like I'd be trivializing trans people by taking myself super seriously when this is more like "a thing I've been fucking around with lately" than "a thing I have to do."

I keep wishing there was some kind of test you could take to determine your gender, but then I keep thinking that if I need a test and don't just know, it must not be that big a deal to me. (Also, I found several such tests, and they were all like "do you like pink and flowers, or do you like blue and trucks?" See the first half of this post...)

So... "unfeminine woman." At least for now. Holly, she, her, and retaining the ability to thunder at Cosmo, "Why, I'm a woman, and I never..."

I'm a woman, and uncomfortable with a lot of the crap that comes with that, and some of that's me, and some of that's the crap.

I've gotten through this whole post without really facing the question of what "feminine" or "woman" even mean, but that's just because I don't have any freaking idea.


  1. I'm a guy. Like completely a guy--not trans, not genderqueer really. Just a guy.

    But I like pinks and pastels. I like to drink "girly drinks" (why don't "guy drinks" taste like anything but turpentine). My favorite cartoons growing up were Lady Lovely Locks and My Little Pony--I couldn't wrap my head around the motivations of the GI Joes. I used to crossdress, but not anymore...although I do find myself watching watching videos about faking a feminine bust with tape and dark powder.

    So, I guess...solidarity?

  2. Again, love this post cause I guess I'm going through the same thing. I can't seem to work out what the definitions of feminine and woman are either, but also like you I'm apprehensive of declaring anything because I'm just uncertain at this point.

  3. I've been finding myself uncomfortable with how you approach gender. Are men's clothes really more dignified or is there a social construct that assigns higher levels of dignity to all things male? And it is a legitimate problem that women who refuse to wear makeup are often considered less "professional" looking or "put together." I wear some makeup because I like how it looks on me and still feel annoyed that I'm culturally expected to.

    And maybe you just didn't like pink. I didn't, either, and for me it's completely unrelated to my gender identity.

    I feel like I'm getting snippy, but I'm also feeling a little attacked as a somewhat traditionally feminine (though not girly) woman. Feminine things don't have to "suck" for them not to resonate with you.

  4. Trevor - The word for not trans is "cis"; trans guys are also completely guys.

    That said, I think it's interesting that someone could be drawn to feminine things who didn't "have" to be, if you know what I mean. My personal experience has always been one of masculinity being fun and femininity being a matter of fitting in, so it's interesting to see someone with the opposite viewpoint.

  5. Lisette - Well, that's the point of the post.

    I don't like feminine things, but I realize that some of that is me, and I'm trying to untangle it, rather than just declare that "yeah, it's definitely femininity that's the problem."

    However, I feel like saying "it's definitely just me that's the problem" is letting society off the hook a little too much, as you mention with makeup.

    It's some from Column A, some from Column B, and I apologize that I can't entirely tell the difference.

  6. Holly - fuuuuuck, yes, I mean I identify very strongly as cis-male.

    And actually, I don't think I understand what you mean by "having to be drawn to feminine/masculine things". From your post it sounds like your own enjoyment of some-things-masculine lies somewhere between enjoying social transgression, exploring your inner feelings and simple "why the hell not?"

    I don't see anything in there about "have to". what do you mean by that?

  7. Your confusion with this is interesting, because although I've been sorting out where I fall on the genderqueer spectrum myself -- I actually enjoy the trappings of femininity.

    With my mentality, I'm very gender neutral. I've never been able to relate to girly girls, all of my good friends have always been either men or women as un-femme as I am. I don't feel masculine, per se, but certainly not like a woman.

    That being said, I like how I look when I wear make-up and heels and tight skirts. I enjoy it. Part of it is artistic expression -- my face is just another canvas -- and part of it is sexuality. I feel sexual and aggressive when I doll myself up. Not that I don't normally, but it's certainly something I get in a specific mood for and enjoy.

    But. Most days? I don't style my hair. I love cargo pants and t-shirts. I don't wear make-up, and think that it being considered a requirement is bullshit.

    Still trying to figure out where that leaves me.

  8. I'm a cisgender woman -- I'm just not particularly girly. I had a lot of Barbies as a kid...and they all stayed in a box in the closet as I played with my Matchbox cars, obsessively rearranged my baseball cards, and stole cardboard boxes so I could color on them and add them to my spaceship control panel. As I came to adulthood, I didn't feel comfortable in ultrafeminine clothing, but I didn't feel entirely confident enough to wear the clothes I really liked -- jeans, boots, leather, menswear looks for women.

    Before I started allowing myself to dress and act in a way that felt more authentic I really felt pretty hostile and defensive about what I saw as compulsory femininity. Now? I actually see those things as fun. Most dresses still feel like a costume to me, but hey, costumes can be fun if nobody's forcing me to wear them.

    I wrote about my own gender history in an essay, Postcards from Girlistan, and now I run Fuck Yeah Tough Girls on Tumblr, showing images of the kind of woman I wanted to grow up to be as a kid but never saw represented anywhere.

  9. I've never understood the binary breakdown for gender (and many other things). Are you short or tall? It can only be one or the other. Are you introverted or extroverted? Etc.

  10. I think this is what has always troubled me about transfolk. Not to say I dislike them, because I don't; or that I think they're wrong and their choices are wrong and they shouldn't be allowed to do that--because again, I don't. I am all for people doing what they want and/or need to do for themselves.

    But some part of me just doesn't /understand/ transgenderness at all. And I think it goes back to what you've said about: what exactly /is/ a woman? If we don't definite a woman simply as 'one who has a vagina' then what is it? If all gender is socially constructed, how can you feel you are a woman born into a male body?

    To me, that implies that womanhood, and maleness, is something more than just sexual organs, and I don't really believe that's the case. I'm a cis woman, which means I'm working off a certain set of personal experiences here, but I'm not a particularly feminine one, either, which I guess is what throws me. If I'm a woman but I don't like womanly things then how can I feel like a woman and if I don't feel like a woman am I then a man or or or ...? I don't know where the line is, either, in the end.

  11. Trevor - I meant "have to" for the feminine things--I often have felt like I had to act more feminine than I'd prefer to be accepted socially or to be attractive to men.

    Binary anon - You probably have a point. I'm a person who has a vagina and sometimes binds her breasts and wanted to be Batman when she was a kid and sometimes wears dresses, and those things all together are me, end of story, and labeling it might not add anything.

  12. To the 1:02 AM Anonymous: people can feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I think a lot of trans people just say "a woman/man born into a male/female body" because it's an easy explanation for cisgendered people. It seems like it's more a profound sense that the body they have is wrong. That there should be a vagina in place of a penis or a penis in place of a vagina.

    Personally, I'm currently very comfortable in my female body. But I struggled more with puberty than most people do (as in, it took me years to stop crying every time I had to buy bras, and wore a REALLY wrong size for years because bra shopping was so traumatic for me), and I've always, always felt like my gender is more neutral than anything else. I was socialized female, and that shows a lot, but people tell me that I have a very masculine energy, and I see that.

    I consider myself genderqueer and comfortable in my body. I don't identify as trans, though technically being genderqueer means I could.

    Don't know if that clears things up any! I'm not even 100% sure that's right. Gender is COMPLICATED.

  13. I have always been really uncomfortable with my female body and being female. Things men are interested in are so much more interesting to me....and I really can't stand anything that relates to feminine things...

  14. Holly, have you considered the possibility that there's more than one of you in there? More than one person of different genders, threaded together to make up "Holly"?

    It isn't something to be afraid of.

  15. just out of curiosity what exactly does genderqueer mean? I can't seemt of ind good defeinition? Like if I am female bodied but really wonder what its like to be male, hate romantic comidys and love action filsms, perfer talking with men, love science...does this make me genderqueer?

  16. Hmmyep, gender's a tricky thing. I remember when I was really young, my parents dressed me rather 'tough', with loads of denim and faux-leather (people mistook me for a boy when I was a baby because of this), but when I grew a little bit older, I only wanted to wear princessy dresses and shiny things. I was very girlie despite my parents' trying to raise me neutrally.

    But when I got a little bit older again, I started liking both 'girlie' and 'boyish' things, such as princessy lego and spaceship lego, adventure comics in which women didn't even excist, and loads of other things, but I still definitely felt like a girl.

    And I still do now, even though I sometimes bind my chest and wear my boyfriend's clothes and wonder what it would be like to have a penis. For me, I'm definitely a girl, and I'm fine with it, even though there are still so many gender inequality issues that need to be solved.

    Thing is, it definitely is different for everyone. And it doesn't matter, as long as people are allowed to do what they feel comfortable with.

  17. So, I'm going to link you to a couple posts that I was reading and that really helped me figure out my own gender identity even though they may not answer precisely the question you have here. Unfortunately, I took a sleeping pill and am too drowsy to write further on this in a coherent fashion. discuses the idea of being a-gender, which might be something for you to ponder as I'm seeing similarities between the way you describe yourself and this person describes their self. this one is about getting away from seeing gender as a 1 spectrum kind of thing and androgyny

    Hope this might help you a bit!

  18. Hey, Holly.

    Have you ever wanted to be mistaken for a man?

    I only ask because I really relate to this post and I'm not unsure about my gender at all. I had really long hair as a child and an oral fixation which ended up with me sucking on my plaits all the time. When my mother got it all cut off, I was horrified that I might be mistaken for a boy.

    So although I always wanted to be able to play like the a boy and I hate makeup and I like wearing men's clothes and as an adult I have really short hair because long hair is annoying, I've never wanted to be even mistaken for a man.

    Alternatively, I don't see why your gender (everyone's gender) couldn't be in a state of flux. If masculine and feminine are social constructs, then how you feel on a particular day should push you more to one end of the scale than the other and perhaps you're just closer to the middle than most people?

  19. I wore a skirt for a while, partly to challenge people, partly to challenge myself, partly because it made some people happy, partly because it made some other people angry.

    In the end I went back to trousers because I like having pockets and I like to able to go up ladders and sit any way I like.

  20. I'll be honest - apart from knowing one person in my hometown who dressed like a woman, up until a few years ago I thought you were either male or female, and if you got the wrong body you had a sex change and it was all good. I know better now of course but growing up all I knew was male and female.

    Boys played with boys toys, wore blue, hung out with boys, didn't wear makeup, had short hair and wanted to be a pilot or a footballer. Girls wore pink and played with dolls and makeup, wore dresses, had long hair. And so on.
    So as a child growing up I didn't feel I fitted in as I played with toy cars and soldiers, most of my friends were (and are) male. I like computers and am a total geek.

    I went through a phase of wanting to be a boy for a time, and my mother and family were horrified.

    I'm 29 now, and think I've it figured out :) I identify as female, and look female(including huge boobs which piss me off). I like wearing makeup and dresses, and I am growing my hair long.
    But I also like wearing 'male' clothing, jeans, trainers, hoodies. Converse are my favourite shoe. I rarely wear heels or 'girly' shoes unless I'm dressing up.
    Most of my friends are men and I get on better with men - we can talk geeky together and I'm into sci-fi and gaming whereas most girls don't seem to be.

    My fiance tells me I think like a man at times, or see things as a man. That doesn't bother me and in fact I think it makes me a better friend as I can see a male and female perspective. And the way women 'traditionally' act I find annoys me a lot.

    So basically what I'm saying is...I'm a female, who has a lot of male traits but still likes knitting, baking, wearing dresses, as well as gaming, air-softing, and guy stuff. And it's ok.
    It's ok to be male and female, fluid if you like. Most people I think are (if they admit it) a little fluid and have male and female tendencies. Like my (male)fiance who wears eyeliner and cries at soppy films :)

    I don't think you need to label your gender if you don't want to or can't. Just enjoy it as it is :)

  21. Well, as a cis-woman, I can't say I really have a clue how to define "woman" any better than anyone else here. For me it's mostly a feeling I have. I have a strong feeling that I'm a woman, and I guess that's what makes me one. My body feels like a woman's body to me, maybe because it's mine and I feel like a woman, and my mind feels womanly to me most of the time. Most of the time I feel that I'm only slightly feminine, but other times I feel high femme. It really varies. I mostly dress practically, which equates to stretchy form-fitting jeans and shirts, plus a pair of good walking shoes. But I also love to dress flamboyantly sometimes. Occasionally I cross-dress (I have a lovely tie collection). I like power tools and leathercraft as much as I like nail polish and jewelry, but I don't feel like one of those is a woman thing and one is a man thing. I feel like they're "me" things. So I guess I feel like my femininity in it's varying degrees is a part of my personality, my being a woman is also a part of my personality, and my interests are part of my personality. My self-image is hanging out in there somewhere. They all interact with each other, but they don't necessarily define or depend on each other (though they could sometimes). However it works, I feel like a woman when I'm strong and smelly AND when I'm pretty and delicate. I'm not sure I know what a woman actually IS, just that I feel like it's part of what "me" is.

    I guess my point is that this stuff is all highly individual and really hard to define. The best thing you have to go off of is how you feel. It's okay not to know for sure. That's just as valid as my feeling of being a woman.

    Re trans people: from what I've gathered, some trans people feel that their body is not the one they're supposed to have, and some don't. Some trans people have intense body dysphoria, some don't. Some are perfectly happy with the genitalia they were born with but still know that they are not the gender they were assigned at birth (there are men who love their vaginas and women who love their penises). Buck Angel coems to mind. And I know some trans people dislike the phrase "male-/female-bodied" or "man/woman trapped in a woman's/man's body" because they feel that because they are a man or woman, their body is that of a man or woman, respectively, and it's the gender assignment they were given at birth that was wrong, though that doesn't preclude the possibility of wanting to change their body nonetheless.

  22. I'd like to add a slightly different voice here, since I'm on the other side of the spectrum from many commenters: I love femininity. I absolutely relish it. It has problematic societal implications, and I'm not upset by anything that you've said--I don't even disagree with you. But I think someone could make a comparable list of "problems with 'masculinity.'" Nobody likes all the things on either list, or even the fact that there is a list, unless their name is "Barbie" or "Rambo."

    I've always had more female friends. I've always loved to read about fashion, and if I won the lottery, one of my first thoughts would be of the magnificent shopping spree in my near future. I don't like pink at all, but otherwise I hit almost every mark you could think of.

    Since I love these things, for better or for worse, I don't spend much time worrying about whether or not they're good for me or good for society. I don't think high heels suck at all, even though they objectively do. Expressing my femininity makes me feel happy, safe, calm, comfortable (even if my dress technically isn't, I'm used to the tight-fabric sensation and it's worth the inner comfort). Venturing out into the world without my feminine presentation is something that I'll do pretty frequently, but I don't particularly enjoy it. I'm annoyed when I wake up late and don't have time to put on make-up the way I like it, because then I have to go out looking how I don't want to look. There's nothing at all wrong with the way I look without make-up, but I prefer the way I look with it.

    It's because of society's horrible blah blah that I feel this way, but my local deprogramming facility doesn't take my insurance; therefore, all that matters in my life currently is that I do feel this way. I do want to look like this.

    I've questioned all this, since I've identified as a feminist for many years and long since beaten the required reading list into submission, but I have found that nothing can break my deep affection for my most so-called "traditionally" feminine inner self.

    If you've got a problem with femininity, then I do, too. We have opposite problems with it, it seems.

  23. I like being mistaken for a man on the Internet. It makes me feel like people have decided that something I've said or produced was really worth listening to in some context other than gender.

    But I just realized that my biggest issue with being a woman is one that identifying as genderqueer or ANYWHERE else on the gender spectrum other than "feminine" would not alleviate. It's that I have to think about gender WAY more than I want to. Obviously loudly adopting another mantle would exacerbate this.

    The true advantage of being a woman is that, even in my current situation (male dominated industry, male friends, masculine interests), I still have to worry less about gender than a man who decides to transgress traditional boundaries as much as I have.

  24. P.S. @canary, Barbie transgresses gender boundaries pretty hard! She's a computer scientist now. (And she's been an astronaut and President! Don't dismiss her just because her lab coat is pink.)

  25. I always find the idea of a two point spectrum to be ...offensive? Maybe not the word I want. Not condescending, but closer. I don't think being a boy or girl has any bearing on what you do/don't like, more how much you are influenced by society. When you think about the plethora of cultures with their own standards of behaviour, there is NO WAY any of these things can be defined at birth alone.
    Stop telling yourself you like "mens'" stuff. You like "stuff". I like "stuff". The stuff I like tends to a certain aesthetic, sure, but this is informed by my cultural understanding. I dislike blues in winter because they make me feel cold but in summer I like that they don't feel harsh to my eyes. It's how I understood things whilst growing up and it has coloured my perceptions but I don't have to stick with it if I don't want to.

  26. "But some part of me just doesn't /understand/ transgenderness at all. And I think it goes back to what you've said about: what exactly /is/ a woman? If we don't definite a woman simply as 'one who has a vagina' then what is it? If all gender is socially constructed, how can you feel you are a woman born into a male body? "

    The kind of gender that is socially constructed is not the kind of gender that transgender people feel is different from their sex.

    It kind of annoys me that all the many different types of gender get lumped into the same word. At least the gender/sex split helps a little but it's not much.

  27. "I don't feel strongly, certainly male."

    When I started my transition I certainly didn't feel certain about my gender. I certainly didn't feel entitled to be able to call myself female. I didn't even really feel like I had a right to call myself transgender. All I knew is I was unhappy with my life living as a man.

    It all pretty much came down to realizing that I was fundamentally unhappy being a man and that I needed to do something about it. I wasn't sure what to do about it and I did a few silly things in the mean time (like come out as a gay man when I was only interested in girls) but ultimately it was a leap of faith. I wasn't at all certain I'd land safely.

    When I transitioned I wasn't even comfortable calling myself transgender because I wasn't sure I really owned the label. It took a trans-bashing and being almost-disowned before I felt like I'd "earned my stripes."

    Since taking the plunge I've gone through a lot of growth regarding my gender. Nowadays I know I'm not a woman, either. I'm genderqueer! I'd never have gotten there without trying.

    I know I'm not the only trans person who feels this way.

    I'm not saying you absolutely ought to transition, that's something you have to come to on your own. I do want you to know that not being absolutely, positively, 100% sure you're doing the right thing is something that's normal at this stage of your transition (if you so decide transition is something you want to pursue).

  28. @Debbie "Just out of curiosity what exactly does genderqueer mean? I can't seemt of ind good defeinition? Like if I am female bodied but really wonder what its like to be male, hate romantic comidys and love action filsms, perfer talking with men, love science...does this make me genderqueer?"

    I don't know. Are you genderqueer? ;)

    @Anonymous "To me, that implies that womanhood, and maleness, is something more than just sexual organs, and I don't really believe that's the case."

    Neurologically speaking you couldn't be more wrong. The human brain is highly sexually dimorphic. Furthermore, because of the mechanisms involved in the sexual differentiation of the brain and the genitals during development it's extremely possible for the brain and genitals to develop along divergent paths (and/or differentiate incompletely).

  29. I haven't read all the comments, I only read the OP and the first couple.

    But I have to respond with something BASIC. You said:
    I'm really, really hesitant to say "hey everybody, I'm a guy now!", for about a million reasons. I don't feel strongly, certainly male.

    Before anything else Being a guy and being male are two very different things. This is, in fact, how transsexual people can exist and to talk as if

    guy = sex
    male = gender

    [or guy = male, because then at least one of the other equations would have to be true AND there are other problems as well]

    is to imply that transsexual people do not in fact exist.

    You will always be confused until you not only know the difference between sex and gender, but also learn to use language carefully enough that you say sex (and sex words like female and male and intersex) when you mean sex* ...
    ...and you say gender (and gender words like man and woman and genderqueer and drag queen) when you mean gender.

    I might feel motivated to write more later, but honestly, none of this discussion is going to mean much to you until you get sex and gender down in a way that you clearly don't have it down yet.

    I hope this post doesn't come across as insulting or belittling. You clearly have a problem distinguishing sex from gender, as do some of the posters I read near the top. This is an issue of education and a result of living in a society that deliberately attempts to conflate sex and gender and deliberately attempts to keep people from distinguishing them. Surveys ask, "Gender: circle Male or Female" all the freaking time.

    I'm not saying your a bad person for also confusing the two. I'm just trying to provide information because none of this will make sense without distinguishing the two...and I don't mean reading a definition and remembering, when it comes up on a test, that sex is biology & gender is psychology & society. I mean really having it down so that your brain simply wouldn't produce a paragraph that implies that guy and male are anything at all like the same thing.

    You should be able to say that transsexual people include male women and female men. Without such linguistic tools, it is impossible to tease apart and understand important human experiences. Including, it seems, yours.

    *Transsexual is not easily categorizable as an experience of sex or an experience of gender, so it is not listed with either set. When you get sex and gender terms down in such a way that it is not something you have to think about, the right term just comes out of your mouth when you need it, then you will be able to describe when you are using transsexual to discuss experiences of gender and when you are using it in discussion of sex pretty much automatically as well. But as a primer, to be transsexual is to locate the most important goings on (the "problem") **in your body**, while to be transgender is to locate the most important goings on **in your psychology and/or society**.

  30. To the untoward lady:

    The brain is NOT "highly sexually dimorphic". Not. At. All.

    I ***dare*** you to look at two brains, one from a non-trans, female woman and one from a non-trans male man, that have been removed from their bodies during autopsy. I dare you to look at them and then tell me which is the brain from which person. Go ahead. Try.

    There exists portions of the somato-sensory cortex that process information from the clitoris in females which does not process information from a clitoris in males. There also exists portions of the brain that have size curves that overlap but have their medians and means in different places when comparing the brains of males and females. But "highly dimorphic"? In fact, in the four lobes of the cerebral cortex there's never been a single statistically significant difference in shape or size across sex boundaries. The corpus callosum evidence for more connections in female brains than male brains was poor to begin with and appears to be contradicted by an even greater body of evidence that there is no significant difference. The midbrain and hindbrain haven't yet show any differences, though there's some possibility of difference in the midbrain, but a) not enough to be obvious or we would have proved it by now, and b) even inobvious differences may not exist.

    There are tendencies to use our brains differently and some differences in average abilities in some specific areas, but this does not translate into sexual dimorphism.

    I say again: Not. A. Chance.

    We are **far** more alike than we are different across the boundaries of sex.

  31. Sex !=gender - Different people use the adjectives "male" and "female" in different ways. It's a matter of preference, not education. Trans people include female men and male women, yes--but they also include people who define themselves as male men and female women.

    Honestly, I just said "male" because it's an adjective form. But whether "male" refers to "XY chromosomes," "testosterone-shaped body," or "a guy" is a matter of usage, not of me being OMG so dumb and offensive.

    I know the difference between sex and gender--and I also know there's a lot of slop and overlap between them. Do I bind my breasts because I want people to see me as flat-chested, or because I want to have a flat chest? YES. And maybe neither of those things means that I'm trans anyway.

    It's also a bit insulting to be told that I'm so uneducated I'm not qualified to talk about my own sex/gender, for Chrissakes. Do I have to go to some sort of special school before I'm allowed to have emotions about this?

  32. @Lily, I feel the same as you do, and I like your tumblr a lot!

    Personally, Holly, my advice to you is to go for what feels viscerally right and not worry too much about sorting your aesthetic choices into male/female for a while. When I did this, I surprisingly started to gravitate toward some really girly stuff. Like, sheer peach blouse with a big bow on the front, girly, and I always hated pink as well.

    I do think that some of my early "straight-girl-butch" phase was conducted under the influence of internalized misogyny. I'd always been taught that things like makeup and pretty clothes were a sign of both successful feminine performance, and shallowness / stupidity / wastefulness. The kind of attitude that leads some women to want to be "one of the guys" and proudly declare that we don't get along with other women because women are total bitches. You know? I'm not saying that this is the case with you, but at the time I was definitely a declared feminist and inwardly, a very harsh judge of other women and of myself.

    Once I'd worked through that, I became a lot more comfortable with my identity as a woman. Both my interest and disinterest in performing femininity are OK for me now.

  33. Also, Holly, I was just wondering - you seem to be able to talk about "masculine" (body shape, clothes, toys)in a fairly definite way. But then at the end of your post you point out that you find yourself unable to define "feminine" and "woman" in a definite way. Does masculinity seem like a more ready-made, easy to slide into set of characteristics somehow? I'd be curious if you had any thoughts on that.

  34. f. - I do wonder about internalized misogyny. There's a third reason to not want to be a dumb ol' girl.

    But mostly I'm leaning toward the "act how I want, don't worry about labels, don't worry that if I wear a dress sometimes that makes me less legitimate or if I act super manly that makes me trying too hard, just act how I want" school of things.

    And no, I don't have a definite definition of "masculine" any more than I do "feminine." They're both things that I can sort of describe as long as I don't think about it--weightlifting is masculine and aerobics is feminine, right?--but as soon as I start thinking about the whys involved there, I have no idea at all what those words mean.

  35. Oh, I see.

    Yeah, when I was struggling with this stuff a lot myself, I eventually ended up shrugging and figuring that gender is a game we play. I mean, there aren't any "true signs" one is trans* or cis, male or female... I remember researching just how common it is for people to be intersex in some way, I think that was the moment when I finally just threw up my hands and thought "whatever, male/female binaries MUST be bullshit!"

    I do sometimes wonder if I remain firmly in the ciswoman corner because being straight and cis is easy in so many ways. And it can be deadly serious to play an unconventional gender game, so perhaps my position, which focuses on aesthetics rather than identity-definition, is one that reeks of privilege. Who knows.

    All I know is that even having this stuff on one's mind will make life richer and more nuanced - if also a little overcomplicated at times. :)

  36. Oh, and I did end up having one imperative for my identity. I had to make peace with my curves and start eating enough again. If I hadn't, I might have died by now. So maybe "women have breasts, women have thighs, women have bellies" WAS one thing I needed femininity for at one time. Clinging to that may have kept me from realizing that, well, men have curvy bodies too! But that mantra that my curves were OK was never something I could play games with. It was about survival.

  37. Very cis woman here. I wear nothing but skirts, love flowery things, wear makeup everyday without fail*, have always felt entirely at peace with my body and femininity and I couldn't tell you what "woman" means. I haven't a clue.

    I don't think it's defined by having a vagina, because I've met people with vaginas who were very unhappy with being "woman" and people with penises who were very happy with being "woman", so I don't think that's it.

    I don't think it's skirts or makeup or frilly things, either. Plenty of women comfortable with being "woman" don't like or do those things.

    I'm as frilly as they come and I like power tools and video games and love action movies and hate chick flicks.

    So, I guess I can't help you, other than to say maybe it's a bit irrelevant. Maybe instead of being "woman" or "man" you should just be Holly. Easier said than done, I realize, and maybe a definition is necessary for you personally, but like I said, I haven't a clue.

    *Then again, I don't have eyebrows, so without makeup, facial expressions are a bit difficult. "Are you surprised? I really can't tell."

  38. I would never try and tell you personally how to feel about your gender identity, but in general I wish women could be more proud of being women without having to be feminine first. To say to a man 'be a man!' can of course be used to try and goad a man into violence (and is often followed with 'don't be a sissy girly' or something along those lines) but it can also be used to mean 'face up to your responsibilities, do the right thing, be proud of yourself' and good things like that.

    My female friends often say they are going to 'man up' or 'be a man', in a jokey way but also because we know that it carries the good associations of the 2nd meaning. Sometimes I really wish I could hear the phrase 'be a woman' more and have it carry the good associations of that 2nd meaning too. I think I heard it said ONCE on TV, and saw it written once in a book. Ever. But those two times it made me feel inproportionately happy. You're right: being a woman is barely ever linked to anything in our society that isn't about the image of looking super feminine and the accepted character traits that go with that, most of them to do with being submissive, keeping the peace etc. Women who break out of this are mocked, for looking like 'a man in drag' (when they are not even wearing men's clothes but just non-figure hugging clothes, or even just for having a large, tall or less curvy body) or acting like a 'laddette' (which basically means not acting like a proper little lady). It's no wonder being a woman who doesn't want to be feminine can be frustrating.

  39. Thought I'd add in my point of view, as most of these seem to be from people who identify at least to some extent with their assigned gender.

    I remember thinking through this stuff. It was thoroughly confusing at the time, especially because I kept finding myself thinking "well, I don't like *insert feminine thing here*" and then remembering that gender expression didn't need to have anything to do with gender identity, and that there are plenty of 100% binary men who like dresses and make up and pretty things. Even things like "I want a body like a cis-man's" didn't make me entirely sure, as some butches want flat chests and yet identify as women.

    In the end my conclusion was based on the fact that I once I'd allowed myself to, I couldn't stop thinking of myself as a guy. How male pronouns felt utterly right (and female pronouns made me wince), and how much I wanted to be a brother and a son rather than a sister and a daughter. But I have heard of people who transitioned because it was wrong for them to have the physical sexual characteristics that they did, and yet had no gender identity issues as such.

    In short, it's bloody complicated. I hope you come to a conclusion that's right for you. Oh, and by the way, I'm a trans man who's perfectly happy with having a vagina. And I'm certainly not the only one.

  40. I'm a cis (god this word is ugly) woman. I know I'm a woman because I have a vagina, breasts and it's written so on my birth certificate and id card. But it's my sex, not my gender. I never was a "feminin" woman, never liked "feminin" stuff, I never wore make up (though it's probably partly because of my laziness. I could never do that stuff every day) I wore heels three times in my life, and the first time was for a murder party evening.
    I don't think I ever really felt as a man, or wanted to be one, but I did felt jealous many time. Because of their more comfortable clothes, their ability to pee standing (very useful for hiking), their toys, the lack of expectation (or at least the bigger fluidity on the matter) on their looks.. I deeply hate pink, and I'm pretty sure it's mainly because of what it stands for.

    I don't call myself a man, but calling me a woman is both a true and meaningless as calling myself a aquarius or a dragon or a blue eyed person. I consider all this gender stuff as a disguise. How can I consider real something that depends so much of the time, place and family in which I was born? My disguises are made with what I wear, the way I act and a lot with what people project on me. My disguise isn't the same when I work or when I'm at home or when I actually "disguise" (rpg are great) I try not to disguise too much, so that I am always visible underneath.

    But hey, gender mind fucking problem isn't my biggest problem for now, since I've yet to come to term with my sexual orientation (am I straight? bisexual?) and my sexuality (sex toys haven't really helped so far)

  41. Pink... the Ugandan protesters don't like it much either

    link to story

  42. Mac: Man, this whole thing is real interesting to me. I've gotten campier and campier over time, so now I guess I'm a femme-y cis guy, and Ro's a butch trans guy.

    Rogan: (Don't try and throw the body into this. Your head will explode. Just smile, nod, and quietly swallow down that a cis man and a trans man can have the same body.)

    Mac: See, I actually LIKE heels and stuff. I haven't worn them much, because Ro has to work so hard to be called 'he' in the best of times, and I feel like putting on heels and fishnets would just make it harder for him. Putting on pointe heels don't make me feel constrained or stupid; they make me feel like the almighty Queen May, because they make me so tall. (Even if I can't stand in them for long, never mind walk.)

    I was pretty butch before I got kicked here, and I find letting it go pretty liberating. I like that I can read Cosmo for the fun of it and nobody looks at me funny. I like that I can strut and put on clothes that I would NEVER have found in my size before.

    I'm not a woman. I'm just fabulous.

    Rogan: I, on the other hand, will never willingly wear a dress again, except at the behest of one of my dress-preferring system members. I only associate it with being forced to fake something and have my identity erased. But I also have no interest in packing, or going on testosterone. I feel very, very strongly that I'm not a woman, and though I've experimented with disavowing gender entirely, I've got to fess up to being male.

    Do I know what being a man means? No. No definition has ever satisfied me. All I know is that it's ME. It is a meaningless, undefinable word, but it is MY word. I don't feel like I'm part of a brotherhood, or that I fit the stereotypical masculinity, or that my body should always have a penis. But I am a man.

    Sneak: I believe that gender is whatever you say it is. You can change it every day if you want. It's very complicated to a lot of people, but it's always seemed kinda simple to me. "I think, therefore I am."

  43. PS: Have you ever read Bornstein's "My Gender Workbook," Holly? It might be useful to you. Or confuse you more. Or both.


  44. Here's what I think can be off-putting about these posts (although I love them!): I do have a strong female gender identity, and it has nothing to do with batgirl or the color pink or other supposed gender markers.

    For example, I hate driving in cities. As a result, when I go somewhere with my bf, he always drives, like we're a couple in some 1950's car ad. But that doesn't make me feel like a woman, it makes me feel like I hate getting cut off by asshole drivers and trying to parallel park in a space 2 inches longer than the car. I also almost never wear makeup. But my face still looks feminine and even if it didn't, I would still be a woman.

    I know you may be different, but when I read these posts I feel like you're gender-policing yourself to the highest degree. Even wanting to bind your breasts - I've known self-professed women who wear sports bras every day, just for comfort.

    I'm not saying you're wrong to experiment with these things, and I'm excited to read about your guy-for-a-week experience. But maybe batgirl isn't the issue?

    also, @sex != gender, yes, sex and gender are different concepts, but the idea that they're completely irrelevant from each other is itself a culture-specific definition. Practically speaking, I think sex and gender are like "ice cream" and "a la mode" - not the same thing (not even the same part of speech!), a lot of assumptions going on, but you're going to be hard pressed to give comprehensive definitions of them without refering to the other.

  45. As a woman with several traditionally-masculine hobbies, I have probably spent a measurable percentage of my life giving lengthy and thoughtful answers as to why I might be interested in motorcycles or military history or shooting or whatever.

    Because my time on this planet is finite, I am resolving right here and now that in future I will answer such inquiries with "I like [hobby x] because fuck you." ;)

  46. Dammit. I had this huge insightful thing and it got erased by the Internet before I could post. I guess when it comes down to it, my two cents is this:

    You can have whatever gender identity you want. You can display masculinely, or neutral, or femininely. You can be a woman who crossdresses as a man, or you can be a man, or you can be a person who has a vagina but sometimes also wants to have a cock. You can be a man for a day and a woman the next. What that does to your gender identity is up to you. The minutia of how you dress and carry yourself from day to day have very little to do with the PROBLEMS with gender. And by that, I mean sexism. And by THAT, I mean...

    Gender display and performance, while they can be a commentary on the social construction of "man" and "woman," should mostly be about doing what's comfortable/interesting at the time. Your identity as a feminist doesn't change, because that is about things like workplace inequity, the "battle of the sexes" BS, the attribution of certain personality traits or abilities as masculine or feminine (and the valuing of one above the other), and generally the idea that "men are x and women are y; this is the nature order of things and can never be changed". The only times I really feel upset about people seeing me as a women is when they are being sexist about it. It's more useful in those cases to set aside my "well, I don't really identify as a woman, or with any gender really, so your comment doesn't apply" reaction, and just refute the sexism, because no matter how strongly feminine a person is, they don't deserve to be seen as less of a person than anyone else. And half the time sexists don't really care how you're presenting - if you look like you have a vagina, you're going to get the "women don't fart" comments and the "you must want to have children some day" comments and the "wanna see my penis?" comments (I'm thinking of the Internet now)...

    Suffice to say sexism against men also rarely has anything to do with gender display (although it's a little more apparent because while females in masculine clothes is pretty acceptable, males in feminine clothes still isn't really). If you have a penis, you're probably going to get those "uncontrollable male lust" comments and the "don't be a pussy" comments regardless of how you identify and display your gender. And I think THAT's the real problem.

    I think this made more sense the first time around. Sorry.

  47. I'm posting this without reading any of the above comments, so forgive me if I'm repeating what has been said before. I'm a transguy, and I started out a lot like what you're describing. I was both girly and tomboyish (if that makes sense) up until I was about ten or eleven. Then I started being really uncomfortable with being a girl and being expected to do girly, feminine things. I identified more with men and masculinity, and I didn't know to what degree that was based on myself vs my brand of feminism. I experimented with cross-dressing and binding in private, and I felt very gleeful doing so, but I wasn't sure what it meant to me. I also went through a lot of "I'm not sure if I am or not, and if I'm not sure I'm probably not," which I now think simply means I was, but wasn't ready to transition at the time. I'm not saying that you are necessarily going to end up in the same place as me. I just want to express that going through long periods of uncertainty don't necessarily mean that you are or aren't trans. Lots of trans people take a long time to figure it out, and go through the same kinds of questions you are. Ultimately the best test is seeing whether you feel more comfortable as an unfeminine woman, a man, or something else.

  48. Emma (and others who've brought this up) - The problem with the "women can be anything!" attitude--while I don't disagree with it exactly--is that it leaves me with no concept whatsoever of gender. If there are no attributes tied to gender, then gender is meaningless to me and I have to declare myself agender, because I sure as hell don't "just know" anything about mine.

    I've sometimes considered the possibility that people with a gender do "just know" (well, that and a lot of cis-enough-to-get-by people who never really questioned it) and this means I really am agender, but I don't know about that. I don't know what "just knowing" would even feel like and I do see a lot of people cis and trans in the comments expressing similar sentiments.

    I feel like there must be some sort of line between "man" and "woman," and while I really really don't want to make that line "girls like dollies and boys like more important things!", if gender exists I think there must be some sort of difference.

    Although damned if I know what it is.

  49. I guess I'd also like to add that I think how you're raised has a lot to do with how you feel about masculine and feminine things, or even with which things you perceive as masculine or feminine. Growing up, there were some things I hated for being too "girly," while I happily did other things that parents usually have daughters do more often than sons (like ballet) without any issues. I also valued "boy" things because I never had any brothers, so my parents didn't give us any masculine toys. (I have always put a high value on things I don't get to have.) Later, upon meeting more people, masculinity got demystified for me. Yeah, some of it is cool, but some of it kind of sucks!

    Now hypermasculinity and hyperfemininity both seem strange to me, and I put myself in neutral ground. But I think it's neat to consciously adopt masculine or feminine things from time to time, to select "the good stuff" as it were, without committing to a "side". I'm happy with this grey area, but if you want to strike further out in one direction, that's cool too... if being more masculine doesn't feel right either you can always change your mind later because self-identity is something you control.

  50. Rogan - I haven't read it, but I took a look, and thanks to the magic of Kindle, I'm getting it.

  51. I got another thought while I was reading through the comments, with regards to "masculine"/"feminine" hobbies. When I was a preteen first having gender issues, I was very focused on the masculine things I liked, and on the fact that my liking them made me tomboyish. I've since realized that it was an early way for me to reclaim my gender. For better or worse, our culture has ideas about what is masculine and feminine. Many male-identified people like feminine things and female-identified people like masculine things. While masculine/feminine hobbies are in and of themselves poor ways to analyze gender identity, how the individual frames their tastes tells you a lot about their gender identity. Many girls I knew liked masculine things in a "yes, I like this masculine thing, and I'm also a girl. What of it?" I, on the other hand, like masculine things in a "see, I like masculine things! Accept me as one of your own, oh XY-chromosomed human beings" way. I also liked feminine things, but in a "well, yes I enjoy Jane Austen, but its more for the satirical elements/social commentary than the mushy romance. Lots of people, men and women, can enjoy her just as an excellent writer. I'm not girly, I swear!" Now that I'm transitioning, I frame it as "I like the masculine things I like because I like them, and I like the feminine things I like because I'm a pouf." :-)

  52. RE: Holly

    If there are no attributes tied to gender, then gender is meaningless to me and I have to declare myself agender, because I sure as hell don't "just know" anything about mine.

    I'd say that's the most simple thing. That's how I see gender. *shrug* I think you're digging for an overarching meaning that can only come from an individual. I've tied my brain in knots trying to understand why I feel so attached to what is a meaningless concept. All I can say is, it has intrinsic meaning to me.


    PS: Speaking of gender policing, I got called a faggot with a plant as I walked down the street because I was carrying a Brobdingnagian basil plant. Apparently only gay men have plants.

  53. Srry about my kind of abrupt osts las t night but this post has really made me think all night. I am a woman but have always enjoyed masculine things and not feminine things, I have always hated dolls, the color pink and wanted to be rough and tumble with the boys...In school I loved science and history and wanted to be a an archeologist or a Paleonologist. Honestly, I was proud being a woman until recently...It just seems lately there is so much going on in Neroscience with male braisn and female brains that I have also started to wonder if maybe I was born in the wrong body too...but thenI think was Marie Curie really a man? MAry Shelly? Grace Hopper?It makes you wonder if they had gender issues too.

    Internalized misogyny makes a lot of since too,....Ioften feel like a female mysoginist and it SUCKS!

    I think I may start identifying myself as genderqueer or agender too

  54. Another thing that is really depressing....I just looked up I hate being a woman and I dislike being a woman and/or female...and got pages of results...when I you look up I hate being a man/male....hardly anything except trans women...honestly, I think a lot of women are disgruntled with gender roles and even there are physically stronger and that is pretty enviable(I lift as many weights as I can and want to go on T just to get stronger) men don't have periods or have PMS...boys and men are given the best roles in movies, boys are roubhe and tumble and play with cool stuff like robots and allowed to adventure where girls are supposed to be passive and like it any wonder a lot of girls and women are unhappy with feminenity?

  55. RE: Debbie.

    The male and female brains issue is horseshit. By its logic, multiple systems must all be of one gender... and they are famously not. Including ourself.

    One can be a man without liking manly things, and a woman without liking womanly things.


  56. Thats a relief! Whenever I hear about stuff like men are good at math and science because of their male brains and women love more feminine stuff I was think oif the exceptions.....and have actually been told on occasion that people like MArie Curie, Joan of Arc and others actually had male brains and thought like men....and it always seemed vaugly insulting to let them be women!

    um...I hope my post above wasn't offensive to anyone...I am really trying to get over my internalized misogyny and really need to stop hating everything feminine...there is nothing inherently wrong with it either

  57. Like you, I just don't know. I was born female, and I've experimented with male gender stuffs, and I don't know that I'd identify as gender queer exactly, but I don't feel exactly cis. Maybe androgynous? Except that I know that I don't look androgynous.

    I wasn't big on girl-ish toys when I was a kid, or girl-ish pursuits when I got older, or woman-ish grooming when I was older, and likely never will be. But I do identify with some things that are sometimes considered feminine. Emotional fluency, for instance. Nurturing. Non-violence. Though these seem like just basic good human values to me.

    Most of the time now I feel like I just am what I am. I can't say I exist outside of gender, because none of us can in this society, not really. I identify politically as a woman, as a feminist, because that feels like the right thing to do. I'm a mother to a 2.5-year-old too, and still nursing, and strangely the process of being pregnant and giving birth and nursing hasn't really been a challenge to my gender stuff in the way that other things have been (like dating people who conform more closely to male and female gender roles does, for example). It's just this cool thing that my body can do, and it did it well. I identify strongly with the idea that a body that can conceive a pregnancy, carry it to term and birth it isn't necessarily a woman's body. It's just a body with those biological capabilities, which are interesting capabilities to have.

    That said, I do fantasize about getting top surgery when I'm older and completely done with this nursing thing. My breasts are not particularly large or in my way and they do not really cause me pain or discomfort. I just don't really want the fuss and bother of them. This irritating constant back of the mind worry about wearing clothes under other clothes to appropriately conceal/smooth/contain an ordinary part of my body, just so that other people aren't bothered by it in some way.

    And I sometimes think that I'd love to do T enough to grow a little more body hair and facial hair, be a little more muscular, have a deeper voice. But that doesn't mean I'd want to be a man, to be identified with the patriarchy in that way.

    So yes, I don't know.

  58. But some people - for example ME - like wearing makeup because putting sparklies on your face is fun! I like bright colors and I like pretty things so of course I want to put them on my face and on the rest of my body. Putting on makeup shouldn't be an obligation; it should be for people who want to do it and people who enjoy it, regardless of their gender.
    And liking silly clothes and other feminine things doesn't make me a woman. I'm pretty definitely not, but I'm not a man either. I've gone through long phases of acting hypermasculine because frankly, I thought boys were better than girls, so masculine things had to be better than feminine things, right?
    As a wee one, I think I mostly played with stuffed animals. And read. That was basically it, so, not too gendered.
    So essentially what I'm trying to say here is that some people are feminine. Some people aren't. This doesn't determine or in any way really affect your gender identity.

  59. Holly: Interesting about peeing standing up. I'm a man, and I mostly pee sitting down. I prefer it, and it took me awhile to get over feeling mildly ashamed of that and just going with what feels right to me.

    Debbie said, "when I you look up I hate being a man/male....hardly anything except trans women" - But then again, there is a lot of pressure on men to be traditionally manly. I wonder if that has anything to do with it? It's the same place homophobia comes from.

  60. Holly:

    I knew that comment would be take wrong, even though I very specifically said that this was for informational purposes & I wasn't judging you.

    You don't need a degree to have your feelings. You don't need a degree to know more about your feelings that I know about your feelings.

    What I'm saying is that education helps you sort out what you're feeling & why.

    You say that you know the difference between sex & gender, but then you say that there's overlap. You also say that other people get it wrong, so why should you get it right.

    I not here to tell you what you have to do. I'm not judging or ordering. But when you say that there's a lot of overlap, you're just wrong.

    There are a lot of ways that facts of sex impact facts of gender.
    Vice versa.

    But the facts of sex are the facts of sex, they aren't sometimes the facts of gender. Yes, "male" is an adjective form, but so is "masculine".

    I'm trying to say, without judging and certainly without saying that you have a degree to be considered the best expert on your life, that you will become a BETTER expert on your own life if you can keep sex and gender straight.

    When you can keep in your head what is sex and what is gender in an automatic way, the confusion that you describe yourself having in trying to tell them apart will (by definition) be a thing of the past, sure, but you will ALSO find you have less confusion about how & why sex is **impacting** your gendered experiences, & vice versa.

    I am absolutely sure that you know the difference between sex & gender in the sense that if you were taking a multiple choice test on definitions, you would pick the right definitions out no problem.

    But I don't consider it rude or condescending to say something like, "When you say you're confused, I notice that's like the confusion that a lot of people have until X occurs, so you might try getting to a place where X can occur."

    Now there's the inherent problem with giving unsolicited advice, but this is a blog where you were implicitly asking for advice on the topic and certainly a TON of people were giving you advice on this and other questions before I made my first post. So I don't think I'm breaking basic rules here.

    You don't have to do anything you don't want to do, but TRY it at some point, I encourage you. Try thinking about your language and realizing when you're speaking of gender & when of sex. Don't use "male" because it's an adjective. Use it because it's the adjective that actually and correctly describes your experience. When you understand sex and gender in the sense that you aren't having trouble separating them in language, you will have made a very significant step.

    Don't forget that without words to describe our experiences, we can't have coherent thoughts about those experiences, nor can we process them to understand them and react to them appropriately. What I'm suggesting is that you develop the language to make sure that you don't misrepresent sex & gender **to yourself**. That way your thinking can be more clear and your answers will come more quickly and easily.

    Does this make sense? Does it still sound ...something? like I'm telling you that you can't have feelings until you have a me-approved education?

  61. I'm really interested in trying to disentangle column a and column b. I'm a cis woman who only started exploring feminism a year or so ago.

    I struggled with the same things when I was a teenager, only I didn't have feminism to stand on. I was misogynist as hell. Boys had all the interesting toys and all the interesting roles in books.

    Feminism has really freed me. I feel like I can accept my gender because I'm allowed to define it. It isn't "women are always X," it's "I'm a woman, and I am Y."

    That may seem a bit obvious, but it was a pretty big revelation to me.

    Because of the entanglement of tradition and society, I feel like it's not really helpful to make ANY sweeping statements about gender until we've further eliminated sexism in our culture. Until we've finished breaking down gender stereotypes, I think we can only define gender in relation to ourselves. "I am a woman, and this is what being a woman means to me..." It may not be helpful on a large scale, but it's ultimately less damaging to the individual than to try to say "men are" and "women are."

    I am not a traditionally feminine woman, but because I know women who genuinely enjoy pink or dresses or makeup or whatever the hell they enjoy, I will defend to the death their right to femininity. I just refuse to conflate femininity with womanliness.

  62. I think "feminine things suck" is a pernicious bit of nasty sexism. Feminine things don't suck. Being forced to do feminine things that you don't want to do, or when you don't want to do them, or even when you do want to do them because forcing you to do something is bad even if it's what you would have chosen anyway... all that stuff is GARBAGE.

    And it's garbage that society says (to people born with vaginas) "you have to live as a woman, unless you are prepared to go through a whole lot of shit to live as a man, and there is DEFINITELY NO MIDDLE GROUND"; because choosing to live as a man shouldn't involve so much shit, and there IS middle ground inside people's heads so there needs to be space for that out there in real life.

    There are "masculine" things I love (like my job in IT) and "feminine" things I love (like knitting) and loads of things from both categories that I'm not interested in or actively dislike. I don't think that's much to do with my gender identity; and generally I wish society would stop telling me that wearing a frilly pink dress means I'm "really girly" or that my unshaven legs mean I'm "masculine".

  63. Hey Debbie! Women's bodies are pretty cool too!

    (disclaimer about not all women being fertile, but then, not all men are very weight-lifty)

  64. I think it is really interesting to find this post waiting on Butch Appreciation Day. Holly your blog is really great! I also really related to what f. said. I went down the path of looking at the sex gender distinction.....but then suddenly I went down a Judith Butler rabbit hole and sex doesn't make much sense either.In what ways is it a construction to count this or that body part as signifying a sex? It is amazing how invested we are in enforcing this idea. Literally, in English we can't even refer to someone without a designation of this sort. It is interesting that we must be gendered before the law in the U.S. I think it would be really great to have an "other" box.

  65. "Is the reason feminine things make me uncomfortable because I'm unfeminine, or because feminine things suck?" I'm not really comfortable with this phrasing... partly because feminine things have been scorned throughout history, and the idea that it's because they just inherently suck has been a convenient shield for misogyny. Traditional ideology holds that they're too sucky for men to be interested in, but suggesting that they're too sucky for men OR women doesn't remove what's troubling about the idea.

    Activities and objects don't have inherent qualities floating around somewhere, independent of whether people authentically enjoy them. You ask, "is it a legitimate problem that women are expected to spend significant amounts of time and money masking their faces?" But with makeup, it's the "expected to" that's the problem, not the inherent badness of altering one's appearance. "Have to mask my face" and "get to draw on my face" are two valid reactions to the exact same behavior.

    You wonder if maybe you like men's clothes because "they're generally more comfortable, practical, and dignified." I dunno about that, the uniform of baggy cargo shorts, flip-flops and logs t-shirts I see on the local college guys isn't particularly dignified. And since women's fashion has traditionally prized aesthetics over practicality, viewing practicality is an objective measure of value privileges the traditionally "masculine." Practicality is great when you're exercising or waiting tables, but I don't spend all my time doing those things, and that's not the most meaningful value in my life.

    (Or to put it another way, I could say that feminine clothes are just better because they're more beautiful, and give more scope for creativity. But that would be a reflection of my own preferences, and isn't particularly helpful to someone who's genuinely drawn to "masculine" forms of self-expression.)

  66. Viewing practicality AS an objective measure of value, not "is."

  67. From what you've described it sounds like you're trying to figure out how much of you is affected by gender roles (which many really do stink for women and they shouldn't be a requirement) and how much of it is your actual internal gender.

    I guess I don't understand what some people have against you questioning this. Just because someone else likes to wear makeup and do their hair and nails, and otherwise engage in feminine gender role expectations that doesn't mean everyone who is female should have to participate. Likewise, if a male doesn't enjoy masculine activities he shouldn't be forced into it as well. Compulsory femininity and/or masculinity just sucks all around. This isn't a reflection on those who like those expectations, but only a reflection on you and what you like to do, and how gender role expectations intersect with your internal gender. I hope that you can work it out.

    And for people who say "it doesn't matter, just do what you want!" it does matter on two levels. 1. a personal level. Both in a manner that it's nice to know what you are and the fact that if I don't fit into the gender binary and it's obvious I can end up being punished by people who think they're the gender police. My most recent example is of when I held the door open for an elderly couple and the man came up behind me and said "your parents raised a nice gentleman" when I was clearly presenting as a female. 2. a societal level. It's even reflected in our language. Male and female not only describe gender, but sex. We tie them together in a way that makes them impossible to separate what we mean in a simple manner. It also matters because of privilege and how being male is supposed to equate to good ("man up", "grow some balls") and feminine stuff is weak ("you throw like a girl"). We need to weed out the crap society tries to pull so it's easier for us to define our gender, and people asking themselves these questions and exploring their reasoning is how it starts.

    Sorry for the novel.

  68. I think there are some things assigned to women that just intrinsically are worse. I guess you can always quibble that "it's the assignment to women that's the problem, not the thing itself," but... I think that domesticity is worse than power. I think that deference is worse than assertiveness. I think that frivolousness is worse than competence.

    Now, obviously you can be a powerful assertive competent woman. But these are things traditionally assigned to women and not men, and although it's misogyny to make that assignment, it's not misogyny to say that they really are crappier things.

  69. I think not identifying strongly with any gender identity is not too uncommon. I used to feel very agender, but that's kind of relaxed into a very apathetic feminine identity. I don't 'know' I'm female, but I don't have a problem with it either... I still feel vaguely uncomfortable wearing womens' clothing-- like I'm lying to the world by presenting as female. I think that has more to do with the very narrow definition of femininity in our culture than anything else. I've actually kind of come to like being a woman just so I can contribute to the cultural redefinition of what that means.

  70. Holly, this post and the comments on it are really wonderfully thought-provoking. Thank you for being open and brave in sharing this with us. I certainly don't have any answers for you, but I'm sure you'll find a way through the complicated mess that is "gender." Just try not to pressure yourself to find a definite answer right away.

    In case it helps give another perspective to you or others, I'll share my own journey with gender.

    (Turns out this is too long to post as one comment, so here is part 1 of 2)

    As a kid I identified very strongly as a tomboy. I knew, really *just knew* that I was a girl in mind, and my parents told me I was a girl in body, but somehow I wasn't entirely convinced. I thought for a long time I might have XY chromosomes and a weird mutation that had given me a vagina anyway.

    It was probably a variation of body dysmorphia, similar to what a trans person might experience but in the opposite direction. My body was assigned the definition "girl," but I wasn't sure it was girl *enough.* I had an irrational fear of developing facial hair and testicles. When I passed through puberty safely without either such thing happening, and in fact having developed rather pretty breasts and wide hips, that fear finally dissipated.

    To compensate for my fear of not being girl enough, I spent my entire childhood in dresses, skirts, and leggings. Never pants, nothing with a zipper on the crotch because to me that suggested having a penis. At the same time, I was adamant in expressing that I was not "girly." I wanted everyone to know: "I am a girl, but not a girly girl." I went camping and hiking and skiing. These were the only times I would wear anything resembling real pants, because skirts just aren't practical for scaling a mountain, but even then it was only rain pants or snow pants. Climbing trees and playing "war" with other kids was seen as "boyish," and I loved that. I wanted to be a boyish girl. Most of my friends were boys, until the "cooties" phase hit around 4th grade. Interestingly, it was in 5th grade that I first began to wear pants, including jeans. Perhaps to make up for the feminine energy I found surrounding me, now that all my friends were girls?

    It was at overnight summer camp that I started to make friends with boys again, around age 12. It was very much a relief to be around male energy again. Very quickly more than half of my camp friends were boys.

    I've mentioned "energies" a couple times now, so I'll pause to say that yes, I am someone who believes in many types of energy--call it chakras or spirit energy or reiki or whatever you like--and I get energy readings off of people, some of which includes a "masculine" or "feminine" feeling. I can't define for you what that means, just that it's something I experience. The type of energy I perceive from someone is not necessarily the same as their gender. My good friend Cloyd is cis-male and has a distinctly feminine energy. I don't see those as necessarily contradictory. Some people don't give off one type of gendered energy or another. For example, I don't get a strong male or female reading from either you or Rowdy. Couldn't tell you why, that's just my perception.

  71. (part 2 of 2)

    So, back to where I left off, I started to realize that while I identified as female and very much wanted to be seen as a girl, I also needed to surround myself with enough male energy to keep me grounded. I find it a very calming force. Female energy is more energizing to me. Both are wonderful when properly balanced! But neither of those is directly related to a cultural view of what male or female "means."

    In high school I started switching back to wearing skirts and dresses and tights, and that's when I felt comfortable in my body for the first time. I play up my hips and breasts in the shape of my clothes, and find that satisfying. I rarely use makeup, preferring to use the shape of my haircut to accentuate the "feminine" curves of my cheekbones, smile, and eyes--unless I'm feeling fancy, then I'll put on some eyeliner to further make my anime-large eyes pop out. Does using makeup make me more of a woman? I doubt it. But it does make me feel more "girly," and it helps me feel confident putting on a femme fatale persona when I want to.

    I still identify as a non-girly girl, a tomboy, specifically a tomboy wearing a skirt. I'll go hiking and play in the mud and shoot nerf guns in my tights and dress and pigtails. It feels right to me to say I'm a woman, a girl, female, chica, girly, a lady. It feels right to me to have wide hips and small breasts and powerful legs. So, maybe that's all gender really is, whatever feels right. Or, maybe it's even more complicated than that. I try not to analyze it more than I have to on a daily basis, or I might just think about it all the time!

    I'm happy to talk whenever if you want to bounce ideas off someone. Thank you again for sharing your journey with all of us. It takes a lot of bravery to be this open, and I feel honored to be your friend as you're sharing this process.


  72. (Long time reader, first time commenter. Hi!)

    I don't think frivolousness, deference and domesticity are worse than power, assertiveness and competence. Of course, if I had to choose ONE of the pair with no hope in hell to get the other, I'd choose the 'masculine' qualities. They're less likely to leave you completely dependent.

    But I want ALL those qualities. Not just half.

    I wouldn't want to be all competent all the time, with no time to unwind doing things that don't matter or that I'm not great at. I wouldn't want to be all assertive all the time - if people want to work together, it's useful to be able to say 'OK, we'll do it your way this time' or defer to the person with the better credentials. Sometimes I'll assert my opinion until the cows come home, and sometimes I just don't care that much. I definitely wouldn't want to be all powerful all the time - being in charge can be draining, and I love puttering around the house, making it my private space as a counterbalance.

    Of course, a stereotypical male/female couple can source the 'wrongly gendered' qualities from their partners. But I think they'd both be better off if they had some of all, not all of half.

    I think I would count as one of those who don't see gender as something hard-wired, just a bunch of societal expectations that match people's preferences with a wide range of success. I also think people like to conform, especially when nonconformism brings you trouble.

    I'm a cis woman, with a pretty femme body. Not so much a femme mind. I would've liked a more androgynous body instead of bloody D-cups, but them's the breaks and I'm not going to mistreat my body to turn it into something it doesn't want to be. I used to hate being a girl, but in retrospect for me that was mostly because I was called a defective girl so often. Now I am a grown-up who can find people who don't think I'm weird for loving sci-fi, science, politics, maths, and a bunch of other things men are supposed to have the monopoly on liking, and I suddenly don't mind being female-bodied anymore.

    (Except I still want to look like David Bowie, not like Kate Winslet. But that's not even in the same ballpark to me as wanting to transition - I'd go from soft and voluptuous gal to soft and voluptuous guy, even though I just want to be lean and wiry anything.)

  73. As far as I'm concerned, gender is largely societally constructed, so my choice of gender can only be made within the context of my society. When I am alone in my room, concentrating on something outside of culture, my gender is irrelevant. When I look up and interact with the rest of the world, with history, with contemporary sexism, THEN my gender matters.

    For me, it comes down to, would I rather share the legacy of my society's women or my society's men? Would I rather have male privilege or would I rather disassociate myself from the sins of my fathers? Is sexism a battle for me to fight, personally, or is it a battle for me to watch from the sidelines? As a queer, Jewish scientist/engineer, do I want to share the history of Queen Esther and Marie Curie and Gertrude Stein?

    Being a woman, to me, is not about liking pink (which I do) or liking dresses (which I don't) but about choosing to align myself with the women who've come before me and will come after me. Without the existence of those women, I don't have a gender. With those legacies, my choice is crystal clear.

  74. Anon - No offense, but that seems a little silly to me. I don't think women (or men) have a "legacy" in that way--the fact that Queen Esther and I are both Jewish doesn't make me feel like I can take any more or less pride in her than I do in Nelson Mandela.

    I mean, whatever great things women in history have accomplished, it's not like I helped.

  75. K. Raila - I would love to talk to you in person about it.

    And I think it's interesting what you said about our energies, because that's pretty much precisely the way Rowdy and I feel about it, too.

  76. Of course it's not like you helped, but we don't deny that we all have cultures. If you see Sarah Palin wearing a Jewish star, you don't think that's *odd*? But she was no more around in biblical times than you were, so...?

    Likewise, even though I never owned slaves and no black person I interact with today has ever been a slave, we don't deny I have white privilege. So how does that work?

  77. What I'm getting from this post, Holly, is this:

    "It sucks that people are forced into the boxes of 'female' and 'male' by sexism, but the box for 'male' is better, even though it sucks because it's a box."

  78. Anon 7:48 - I'd think oddly of Sarah Palin wearing a Jewish star for no reason, but if she'd actually converted to Judaism, that'd be fine. (Weird, but fine.)

    Likewise, white privilege is a thing that's currently happening--it's not the past that makes it significant, but the still-ongoing effects of that past. If white privilege were really nothing but a legacy, then I would deny it.

    Anon 7:53 - The box for "male" (or at least for "man") is better. That's kind of why feminism exists.

    It's also, in a completely separate and unrelated phenomenon, a better box for me.

  79. Emma said:

    also, @sex != gender, yes, sex and gender are different concepts, but the idea that they're completely irrelevant from each other is itself a culture-specific definition


    I NEVER said that they are irrelevant to each other. You can't understand how to make a good lasagna until you know the difference between the garlic flavor and the basil flavor. When they're in lasagna together, they certainly both contribute to a gestalt, but if you can't tell the difference, you won't know when to add to or subtract from which to get the recipe right.

    If you aren't clear on what is sex and what is gender, you're going to have a hard time figuring out what's going on for you as a person with both **specifically because** they interact with each other.

    If they never interacted with each other, we wouldn't be having this conversation. No has trouble distinguishing athletic scholarships from monthly bus passes, even though both can be important to a single person. On the other hand, people do have a problem differentiating sex and gender - and the failure to have good language for our experiences results in a failure to be able to process those experiences and thus make good decisions for ourselves. I'm advocating enlightened, autonomous decision making.

    I have *never* said - here or anywhere - that sex and gender have nothing to do with one another.

    It is truly weird to me that I say, "getting a good handle on the diffences between sex & gender is a good thing" and people hear that I'm saying that they have nothing to do with one another and that Holly hasn't earned a right to autonomy or feelings.

    I mean, wow.

  80. Part 1:

    Holly, I thought I had posted something before responding to your interpretation of my first post. It apparently didn't go through. I'm going to post something like it again incase I forgot to hit a button or something weird happened. If you mod'd the post, sorry for posting again on the same topic.

    so you said:
    Sex !=gender - Different people use the adjectives "male" and "female" in different ways. It's a matter of preference, not education.
    I could prefer to say orange for something someone else calls scarlet and someone else calls teal. But then color words would be meaningless if they were just a matter of opinion. We absolutely do require education about which color words go with which colors. The fact that we can have serious disagreements at the margins doesn't mean that color is just a matter of preference.

    Color words are tools that allow us to express ourselves and allow us to be understood - both by others and by ourselves in our internal narratives. Sex and gender have the same function. As long as you treat the use of one or the other as meaningless preferences (which I don't in fact think you do since you assert that you know that there's a difference and because I have seen you use these words intentionally many times over the course of the year or so I've been reading), then there's no way to tell one from the other *even in your own head* and when you're trying to figure things that deal with sex and gender, you deprive yourself of a major tool when you strip sex and gender of meaning and reduce them to momentary preference for one word or another...likewise you strip yourself of a major tool if you, as you seem to, agree that there's a difference in principle, but do not take advantage of that distinction in practice.

    The practice of figuring out what's going on with your sex and gender will be impeded if you do not practice *knowing* that one is your sex and one is your gender. Just as it would if you didn't distinguish betweens, say, preferences and needs. Figuring out the difference between I prefer to bind and I NEED to bind is important. But if you don't make any distinction between the two, you won't have the opportunity to figure this out.

    This is my basic point.
    Trans people include female men and male women, yes--but they also include people who define themselves as male men and female women.
    When did I say they didn't?

    You're taking a statement "Color includes red" and saying, "Hey - your analysis is totally lacking because color ALSO includes grey!"

    I would think it obvious we agree here, I was saying that it is impossible to describe certain trans lives without making distinctions between sex and gender. Do you disagree?

    If you agree, then why isn't it possible that your own life might not be describable without making distinctions between sex and gender?

    Whether there exist female women who are trans is not a question that I raised and I don't think it has any bearing on the discussion except to the extent that you keep in mind that you, yourself, might be one when, after this conversation, you continue to examine your own life.

  81. Part 2:

    Holly said:

    Honestly, I just said "male" because it's an adjective form. But whether "male" refers to "XY chromosomes," "testosterone-shaped body," or "a guy" is a matter of usage, not of me being OMG so dumb and offensive.
    I didn't say you were dumb. I said that you don't make a consistent distinction between sex and gender. And you clearly don't. you're defending not making such a distinction.

    And I'm not trying to say you don't have the right to use language any way you want to. Feel free.

    I took part of the back-&-forth of advice giving, you to your readers, your readers to you, that is normal on this blog.

    As for "offensive" - you're referring, I believe, to the fact that I said saying sex = gender implies that transsexual people do not exist.

    If we MUST BE in gender what we are in sex, then transsexuality wouldn't exist. It's a logical extension of sex = gender. I don't think you're mean. I don't think you're someone who opposes trans rights. I don't think that YOU are offensive. I think that saying x = y means that if y != z that x also != z. I didn't say, but I believe that it is offensive to deny the existence of transsexual or transgender people, either or both. But that only makes such a statement offensive, not you.

    Do you really believe that you could never say something offensive? If not, why is it such a big deal if I point out that language that you use has implications about which you might night have spent thought or been aware?

    It seems like we're getting very, very far from what my OP said, which was that making sex & gender distinctions would be helpful to you as you, the expert on your own life, go about expressing things to yourself and others and analyzing those expressions and making decisions based on that analysis.

    I know the difference between sex and gender--and I also know there's a lot of slop and overlap between them. Do I bind my breasts because I want people to see me as flat-chested, or because I want to have a flat chest? YES. And maybe neither of those things means that I'm trans anyway.
    I'm not disputing the meaning of binding. But I have a question:

    Do you really believe that sometimes chromosomes are gender and sometimes a hair ribbon is sex? Or do you mean that gender impacts sex and sex impacts gender? The latter I wholeheartedly agree with. The former would render any distinction between sex and gender meaningless.

    And again, it's okay if you want to use the words that way, but you lose the huge advantage of making that distinction - the ability to do any analysis that requires such a distinction. You can't say your body affects your gender...because your body is your gender. You can't say that your society affects your vision of your body and your ability to relate to it - because society is your body and your body is gender if sex = gender.

    Sex and gender have huge impacts, one upon the other. But one car can have an impact on another car without us needing to say that there's no point at which the first car ends & the second car begins just because the speed of one affects the speed of the other and thus how can one distinguish between the accelerator of one and the accelerator of the other.

  82. perhaps what is needed is two different spectrums - one for "strength of gender identity" and one for "male/female gender identity"? holly and many commenters here (myself included) would fall towards the weak end of the strength-of-identity spectrum, with everyone hitting different points along male/female, although the general concentration would remain closer to the middle. meanwhile, others hit higher on the strength spectrum, tending towards either male or female, with a smaller contingent hitting at "strongly non-gendered/agender/bi-gender".

  83. 9:09 Anon--that would be a good idea. A line spectrum excludes some identities, but a strong/not strong is also good.

    Maybe there could be another spectrum for misgendering (how angry/not bothered you are by people mistaking you for the wrong gender).

  84. "Anon 7:53 - The box for "male" (or at least for "man") is better. That's kind of why feminism exists.

    It's also, in a completely separate and unrelated phenomenon, a better box for me."

    This! I've been keeping up with your blog, and wondering what exactly about what you were going through felt strange to me, and now I finally get it!

    I really love reading your blog, by the way. It seems like everything you say really resonates with me, and I've grown a lot, just by hearing what you have to say. I really internalize a lot of your arguments because they feel so right to me, and I see you as a friend and mentor, even though you don't know me. But here's my problem: it feels like you're saying that the trappings of womanliness are the problem, and so maybe you're not a woman.

    For some reason that makes me kind of uncomfortable, even though I know you're not trying to say that disliking "feminine" things makes you not female. What do the cultural trappings of gender have to do with anything? I'm female, and I don't really do many feminine things. I always wear pants and walking shoes. I very rarely wear makeup. I only shave my legs when I know people are going to see them (mainly to avoid the "gross-out" face that people make), and I don't moisturize or wear perfume or any of that stuff. I don't like doing housework or sewing or whatever it is girls are supposed to do with their time. I'm an animator, a traditionally male-dominated profession. I'm an intellectual; I've always been very interested in science and literature. I'm bisexual, and I have never been attracted to "manly" men or "girly" girls, I tend to prefer people who are somewhere in between.

    I guess my problem is that I don't understand why, inherently, these secondary things like liking pink or trucks have any connection to gender. Perhaps I'm out of the loop? It's always seemed silly to me that people talk about "girl things" and "boy things" as if they're some kind of natural quality of whether you're a girl or a boy, and that liking things from the other box means you need to switch into that box, where the things are. Why does everyone say that liking stuff in the "boy box" make you a boy, or vice versa? Can't we just share all these things with everybody who wants them?

    I don't mean to offend anyone by saying so, because I know a lot of people really struggle a lot with these issues, but it's never made sense to me that these arbitrary distinctions are made. For me, I identify as female because I've got girl parts and I'm cool with them. All the rest is just junk that I like, it doesn't need some kind of gender sticker on it. Being not-very-girly doesn't mean I have a "man's brain." I shouldn't have to force myself to do "girl things," but I can still be a girl without having to do any of them-- I don't have to be a boy just because I like "boy stuff." Pink and makeup aren't what define being a girl (for me.) All that stuff is just stuff, it doesn't need to be affiliated with people's private bits. Hopefully that makes sense.

    That said, I totally respect your search! I think you're an awesome person and I love your blog, so good luck with finding things out! :)

  85. Reading this post and the comments is making me realize that even when I thought I had this agender thing settled, I'd still really like to be someone's brother...

  86. Being somewhat null-gendered myself, I really resonated with this post. Sometimes I feel like gender in the psychological and social sense beyond internal gender identity may be an illusion. At the very least, apart from purely anatomical factors (body parts and the part of the brain that determines gender identity), I can't think of anything associated with being male and/or female that can't be irrefutably proven not to be caused by environmental factors somehow.

  87. I'm a guy. Like completely a guy--not trans, not genderqueer really. Just a guy.

    Me, too. And I like pink (well, I like most bright colors.) I'm a mix of things that Society(tm) labels "masculine" and those it labels "feminine. E.g., I'm a techie (mathematician by training, programmer by profession), but I also sew and wear skirts.

    None of these things make me feel particularly "feminine" or "masculine," and in fact I have a hard time even figuring out what it means to feel "feminine" or "masculine." As far as I can understand these words at all, they're just the way Society(tm) tells us inmates what things we are allowed or forbidden to want/do/like/be. They matter to me only to the extent that Society(tm) will do something bad to me if I ignore them (sort of like income tax laws, or the Selective Service Commission.)

    But I've noticed that a lot of people seem to really care about them. My most recent contact with this was when I started visiting a large Crossdressing site. I had assumed that they might be more understanding of my "mixed gender" desires.

    Silly me. I noticed that the (MtoF) guys there seem even more obsessed with how "masculine" or "feminine" they are being than people I meet elsewhere. They mostly deal with their mixed-gender desires by splitting themselves into two people: a "female" self, with a feminine name, that does all the feminine things, and their old male self, that does only masculine things. There's also a lot of gender policing and gender essentialism.

    BTW, my time there has left me with a real allergy to the term "transgender," since it seems to be used for _anyone_ who doesn't match up 100% with Society's current standard for their sex. They'd call a guy who likes pink "transgender."

    At this point, I feel like a red pill in a world of blue pills.

  88. I've been trying to think about why I feel myself to be female, and I think it's a relational thing--I have a gut sense that the experience of other women is relevant to me in a different way than the experience of men. I can enjoy written erotica with a variety of pairings but I'm most interested in erotica with a female point of view character--I feel a little distanced if the POV is male. I'm upset if I see anyone being bullied, but it hits me closer to the bone if it's a woman being bullied. I guess the short form would be that I identify more readily with women than with men.

    One could argue whether this is a good or a bad thing, but it's a pretty deep-seated thing. I would be uncomfortable as a man despite having a lot of stereotypically masculine traits, because I would feel estranged from the people I identify with--much as I would feel awkward living in Japan, even if you could magically make me look Japanese, and even though I like a lot of things about Japanese culture (sometimes better than my own).

    I think there's some possibility that we are hard-wired to model our behavior more on same-sex than other-sex models. I see much less evidence that the behaviors themselves are innate. A person who is wired to consider their gender a different one than their biological sex might therefore be trans even without either body dissatisfaction or gender-role dissatisfaction. He or she identifies with the "wrong" group of people and this causes dissonance. But I speak as a pretty firmly cis person, and all this is speculation.

  89. I'm glad some others have popped up to say it, because I definitely don't want to come across as attacking anyone, but I'm really uncomfortable with the conflation of "stuff (our particular) society has traditionally called masculine or feminine" with "male/man stuff" and "female/woman stuff." Especially, when that can so quickly become "girl stuff sucks because...girls, amirite?" Internalized misogyny is real and insidious.

    Personality Traits and Stuff You Can Like are all human things and it's society's bullshit that says that some of those things belong to men and some belong to women and that some of the things you like "belong" to the wrong pile, so you end up spending your valuable time defending what is really just your personality. (general "you") As well as (as I believe I've discussed in this space before) the relationship problems that come from bullshit expectations of what men and woman are supposed to do.

    Holly: "I think that domesticity is worse than power. I think that deference is worse than assertiveness. I think that frivolousness is worse than competence." This all may be true for you personally, but I challenge you to think about whether this statement is internalized misogyny. To again reiterate someone else's comment, it depends: Domesticity can be warm and lovely and amazing (like your wonderful descriptions of snugglytimes). Deference is sometimes wise. Frivolousness is fun! It's bad when "Women are only these things, thus they have no power, assertiveness or competence, and that makes them less fully human than men."

    I don't have an issue with my own gender (other than what sexism gives me), so on the question of "who am I internally" I am just listening. I really wish you well on this process of searching out your identity. It's a really great discussion, even when it's kind of distressing, like I feel right now.

  90. Could we all just stop saying vagina when we really mean vulva & vagina? Or start saying foreskin when we mean penis?

  91. Could everyone commenting please ask themselves not "is Holly a trans man?" but "under the principles I am espousing, could ANYONE be a trans man?"

    A lot of the comments seem to be failing that test.

  92. I'm sorry but this article really made me feel ick. Feminine things suck? Feminine toys are less empowering?

    I feel like you're doing that thing people do where "masculine" stuff is given more value than "feminine". I get that we live in a culture where women are infantalised, less valued etc but I've been feminist since the day I was born, yet I grew up playing with ponies and wearing pretty dresses. Because I loved that stuff. I still do. Even when my feminist mother made me feel bad for liking this stuff and would scold me if I acted too "girly".

    I mean, good for you for liking what you do but just because you don't relate to people liking this stuff...

    Meh. Sorry, I'm inarticulate but I just get annoyed at this attitude that that's something inherently wrong with girly stuff. I own several pink dresses, I wear make-up sometimes and it doesn't suck. I have a lot of fun with this stuff. You're not inherently more empowered than the rest of us because you prefer wearing pants.

  93. Gah, I instantly regretted posting that. Sorry, it's your blog and you're entitled to express where your head is at. Obviously something struck a nerve for me and I need to spend some time thinking about that.

  94. Like many others, the idea "feminine" things sucking bothers me. Why not just think that they're not for you?

    I don't like women's shoes, makeup, body hair removal. I hate the idea of changing my name if married. But if someone wants to do it, regardless of the genitals they possess, why would I degrade it?

    If someone wants to be a stay at home spouse instead of a career person, maybe it fits their personality and interests instead of their genitals? As long as they acknowledge the risk of financial dependence, why dismiss the decision?

    I do understand being unhappy with the crap that comes with being a woman, but there's crap that comes with being ANYONE who is different than people expect them to be.
    I'm happy I've never experienced the idea that women are "expected" to wear make-up. I don't, and no-one has ever commented on it to me, and I'm 30. Maybe things are said behind my back, and in that case, good for people who have enough time to do that.

    Maybe you like wearing men's clothes because when bought off the rack the cut fits better because of the body shape you're seeking through weight lifting? I wear slacks and button-down shirts and sweaters and jeans, but I wear women's clothes, because they fit my body type better. Clothes that FIT look good and dignified. Women's clothes =/= dresses, nowadays.

    If anything, the feminine=bad makes me feel sorry for cis males. I get to wear the styles of clothes they wear, PLUS skirts or dresses if I want to. I don't have to wear a tie with button down shirts and slacks for business-casual days at work. I can go bare-faced OR wear make-up. I can like purses and shoes OR disdain them. I can go to chick-flicks AND sci-fi action, without ridicule. I might even get praise for doing "masculine" things, but not thought less of except by a handful for liking "feminine" things.

    Menstruation is mildly irritating, though.

  95. The problem is that SOME feminine things ARE often worse than the opposite:

    Power > powerlessness
    Intelligence > centerpiece
    Strength > delicacy
    Emotionally explicit > emotionally manipulative
    Critical thinking > intuition

    But some other feminine things aren't better or worse than masculine ones.

    (And even those who disagree that some feminine things are inherently worse would most likely agree that being forced into feminine things or masculine things suck and is wrong)

  96. About internalized misogyny:

    I think that the reasoning for bad stereotypes going to the girls wasn't "girls get the sucky things and therefore suck", it's "girls suck and therefore get the sucky things." So a culture that values fun would have the stereotype of women being frivolous, a culture that values sex has the stereotype of women being frigid, etc etc

  97. holly, i'd like to thank you for blogging about this. it's similar if more defined (because, uh, you seem to be able to actually think about it sans panic attacks) than something that's been percolating in my head for an age, so it's oddly comforting to see someone doing the same thing.

    um. personal story time, kids, let's tell things we're afraid of to the internet!

    i grew up playing with barbies because i liked acting out stories with them; there was one girl who i would play with, and only her, because i could browbeat her into planning out elaborate sci-fi epics involving spies and jewelery heists and going through with them. ...admittedly, i also chewed on the dolls semiconstantly, but i have done that to... almost everything i own... i wear makeup and feel odd and annoyed if i don't for some reason (i.e. woke up late), but i also buy blue and green lipstick because i want it to match my shirt (people seem to think non-warm-colour lipstick is wrong at me?). and i shave my legs, because i like the texture!

    but i don't like my body, and not for cosmetic reasons (although it is kind of disproportionate, which from an artistic standpoint irritates me). i don't like my body because there's parts of it that don't feel like they should be there; the nervous input i get is twisted and upsetting and does not belong in my brain.

    i honestly do not want to even consider identifying as trans, because (despite what my therapist keeps fucking asking) it's not so much "i do not want a vagina, i want a penis" as "WHY IS THIS HERE GET IT OFF GET IT OFF GET IT OFF" sans any idea of what is supposed to be there. also being parsed as female means i can get away with hitting on people so that's nice i guess. and i like aesthetics, fashion, cosmetics (jesus do i ever like cosmetics, they are basically my favourite thing other than writing); i have finicky handwriting and take colour-coded notes.

    but lately it's gotten to the point where hearing my own voice, recorded, makes me want to throw up -- slight problem; i sing -- because it doesn't sound mine either.

    so now i'm just scared.
    [/cool story kid];dr aside, and that's why i'm glad you talk about your identity things! makes me feel less terrified.

    ps., @the storytelling girl: wrt "Have you ever wanted to be mistaken for a man?", that's why i started dabbling in drag. at the age of 11 a woman mistook me as a boy in a crowd, from behind ("could you move over, son?") and i was delighted. ...which probably says a lot of things i haven't noticed yet.

  98. I think what's confusing about the debate is that how someone looks is conflated with how they feel. Femininity perhaps defines appearances but not gender. You can try to match up how you look with how you feel, but there is ultimately no necessarily logical connection between the two. Whether I wear a dress or not, I am still the same person.

    I'm female but I grew up pretty boyishly. I never wore dresses or make up and I have to say I was pretty viscerally opposed to ever wearing them. However, I've never doubted that I am female. For a while I used to think that I wanted to be male, but I think that was purely for the perks that males have socially and economically over females, not because I felt uncomfortable in my own body. I'm definitely somehow who liked male parts in media because they are generally more active, not because I feel male.

    Now I've pulled a 180 after realizing how simple and comfortable dresses can be, and how much cooler "girlie" shoes are in summer. So I wear a lot of feminine stuff now, but still, it all depends on how I feel each particular day.

    What throws me for a loop is - why do we feel so compelled to dress to reflect our gender? Does what someone wears or how they look even really matter when thinking about which gender we feel we are? There are days that I dress super feminine but that would tell you nothing. I am still that person who likes geeky stuff and action movies and swears a lot and hates pink, and all that stereotypically more masculine stuff. It becomes pretty clear to me that appearance has nothing to do with anything because some days I feel like wearing a giant flannel shirt over some loose pants, and it's not like I've changed at all as a person. I may be in a different mood but I haven't really changed at all.

    Maybe it's different for others, but I feel like the mood of different appearances is more about projecting a certain thing to other people rather than inherently being more or less male or female on any given day.

  99. And I just want to add to clarify that in a nutshell, what I'm saying is that perhaps we should be more concerned about teaching people that we simply should not judge by appearance at all instead of trying to tease out what's feminine and whether that makes you cisgendered or not.

    Under that reading of things, there is no confusion for females who happen to like being a masculine shape or own power tools but still identify as female. And females who like "feminine" things can also freely identify as female. It's a strange and confusing concept to me that the STUFF or LOOK you're attracted to could define your gender. Doesn't your felt gender define your gender ultimately?

  100. "Anon 7:53 - The box for "male" (or at least for "man") is better. That's kind of why feminism exists.

    It's also, in a completely separate and unrelated phenomenon, a better box for me."

    I can't question whether the box is better for anyone personally, but I'd argue that "The PERCEPTION that the male box is better is why feminism exists." I agree with the others who take issue with "feminine things do in fact suck." Why is power better than powerlessness? Why is strength better than delicacy? Because the society we have built does not sufficiently protect the powerless or the weak. Not because weakness or powerlessness is inherently worse.

    If you want to be strong, if you see being strong as a benefit to yourself, then be strong. But let's be clear that being strong is only better in situations where you are "evaluated" on how strong you are. In situations where you are evaluated on say, intelligence, it gives you no advantage whatsoever. Likewise with intelligence, it only makes sense to say that it is better in contexts where that is the measure of the person. So this kind of comparison is somewhat tautological:

    "Power > powerlessness
    Intelligence > centerpiece
    Strength > delicacy
    Emotionally explicit > emotionally manipulative
    Critical thinking > intuition"

    Of course power is better than no power on a scale of powerfulness. Of course intelligence is better on a scale of intelligence. But take that context away, and these comparisons are meaningless except in a self-defining sense.

    If we can't escape from the notion that there are inherently better/worse things, then we have no chance of becoming a more feminist or more broadly equalist society. There is no perfect/ideal anything. Nothing will ever be objectively better or worse than anything else in all circumstances. Everything is relative when it comes to these abstract and subjective characteristics, and we need to recognize that. A trait could be useful in one situation and useless in another.

    I hope I'm not being intrusive. I just found your blog while reading other feminist articles and I'm really enjoying the thoughts and discussions here.

  101. I'm still laughing over the idea that men are "emotionally explicit."

  102. Honestly, I'm in a similar boat when it comes to taste. I've gotten the definition down to "reasonably sure I'm female" and just left it there. At some point, either all gender definitions will absolve or there will become enough terms for the grey area to get me one I feel like I belong in.

    Until then, "reasonably sure".

  103. hmmmmm... I'm similar, to a degree.

    Though I think in my case I don't feel either masculine or feminine. I don't like really "girly" things but I don't like "butch" things either.

    Mostly I identify as, well, a nerd. Which is some kind of nebulous third category I think. Some people assume I'm a lesbian (I'm not) but that doesn't really bother me.

    Makeup is expensive and a pain and takes too much time anyway, and is so easy to mess up and end up looking like a clown. I don't understand why anybody wants to bother with it!

  104. I'm sure Holly would like to forget the whole subject, by now, but I just wanted to say, I feel the same way, but from the other side. (I am physically male, married with two children and 2 step children.) But my liking of sports is rather doubtful, and I enjoy the whole performance art aspect of getting dressed, the anticipation of getting ready for a sexy time.)

    So, no, I am not transexual, but I am a bit BENT,so to speak, a bit genderqueer. When I first heard that phrase, it was a real epiphany, I could claim that label with all my heart/mind/body/gender/soul. So I'm a male with gender identity issues, true, and it always requires an hour to explain to my satisfaction, at least.

    So it's an indefinite label, but it allows me to say, I am with you, in certain substantial ways, without being in complete agreement, in my own situation.

    So lets hear it for Slightly BENT/Genderqueer! Hurray!

    So how does that translate on Government documents? I dunno, ~Male~?

  105. Comment 1 of ... 3?

    I've been thinking about this post (and in particular three comments you made in the comment section) for a while, aaaaaaaand, gah, you've said a lot of stuff in the comments that go from "rubs me the wrong way" to "wow, this makes me really angry". So I just have to say a few things. First in response to this comment:

    "Emma (and others who've brought this up) - The problem with the "women can be anything!" attitude--while I don't disagree with it exactly--is that it leaves me with no concept whatsoever of gender. If there are no attributes tied to gender, then gender is meaningless to me and I have to declare myself agender, because I sure as hell don't "just know" anything about mine.

    I've sometimes considered the possibility that people with a gender do "just know" (well, that and a lot of cis-enough-to-get-by people who never really questioned it) and this means I really am agender, but I don't know about that. I don't know what "just knowing" would even feel like and I do see a lot of people cis and trans in the comments expressing similar sentiments.

    I feel like there must be some sort of line between "man" and "woman," and while I really really don't want to make that line "girls like dollies and boys like more important things!", if gender exists I think there must be some sort of difference."

    I do "just know" that I'm a woman. While I've joked in the past that I'm bad at being feminine because I don't understand, for example, how to shop for clothes, I've never felt that I wasn't a woman. Not when I ignored dolls for stuffed animals, not when I refused to shave my legs and armpits, not when I hated my body because of how "fat" I was, not when I got over hating my body, not when I went to film school and found myself surrounded by dudes. I know I'm a woman. I've always known.

    However, I don't "just know" that I'm straight or bi or gay or asexual or something else. When people talk about "just knowing" when it comes to their sexuality, I get really confused, because I have no idea what that would feel like. How do you "just know" who you're attracted to or even that you are attracted? Despite being pretty interested in sex and bdsm and reading a lot about it and getting turned on sometimes, I don't really understand when people say that teenagers are bundles of hormones and just want to have sex all the time. I mean. I didn't. I don't understand when people say that there are some people they just want to fuck. I see people who are attractive but I don't think "I would totally have sex with you". I read and watch porn and can find it hot, but when I think about having sex with someone or having a relationship with someone or masterbating by doing more than rubbing my legs together I get uncomfortable. I am asexual? I don't know? Maybe I'm low sexual? I've been turned on by porn about men and men, men and women, and women and women, and various other combinations — does that mean I'm bi? What does it mean that I get turned on but I'm not super interested in having sex myself? What does it mean that sex fascinates me but I've never had it? If I don't know who I'm attracted to how can I know my sexuality? I know that a person's sexuality isn't tied in with whether or not they are having sex, because there are people who are celibate who still have a strong sexual identity. And I know people who are gay who've slept with members of the opposite sex and people who are straight who've slept with members of the same sex and haven't identified as bi so it's not even who you sleep with that answers that question. Sexuality confuses me. My sexuality confuses me.


  106. Comment 2 of 3?

    But despite my questioning of my sexuality, I would never say: "the problem with sexuality is that if there are no explict attritubes associated with sexuality then that leaves me with no concept of what sexuality is. Sexuality would be meaningless to me. People would have to 'just know' their sexuality and I don't 'just know' mine so I would have to be asexual."

    I don't say that. I would NEVER say that. It's reductivist and it makes "just knowing" a problem, which it isn't. I don't "just know" but that doesn't mean other people can't "just know" and it doesn't mean that I'm default asexual or that sexuality doesn't have, will never have, or hasn't in the past had meaning for me, even if I am still confused about what that meaning is. When it comes to sexuality and other people's sexual identities, I trust that a person telling me that they are gay is gay no matter if they don't fit the "box" — if they've never slept with another member of the same sex, if they've don't fit the cultural "stereotype", whatever. And, conversely, if someone fits society's stereotype of what a gay person is I NEVER think "oh clearly they are gay because they have these attributes". I think someone is straight or gay or bi or anything else if they identify as that thing. No other criteria. Likewise if someone says that they are a woman, a man, genderqueer, questioning, or something else I take them at their word, social construction, biology, whatever the fuck be damned. How they arrived at that conclusion matters less than their conclusion. I wouldn't question someone who "just knows" they're bi or gay or straight because their path was different then mine; I wouldn't question someone who doesn't "just know" their gender because I'm certain of mine. I would trust they know themselves best. Their word is the most important marker.

    And as for a line between "man" and "woman" — pretty sure that would erase genderqueerness and other forms of gender expression by creating a false gender binary. Like sexuality, there are a lot of different ways people approach gender. The way that you seem to be approaching it, to me, seems to deny many of those ways and tries to box and label everyone to make gender fit into a precise system. And while I understand that this might be part of your own personal gender journey and a way for you to make sense of that journey, it does seem, to me, that in the process you're denying other people's gender experience and identity.


  107. 3 of 3!

    Second comment I want to respond to:

    "I think there are some things assigned to women that just intrinsically are worse. I guess you can always quibble that "it's the assignment to women that's the problem, not the thing itself," but... I think that domesticity is worse than power. I think that deference is worse than assertiveness. I think that frivolousness is worse than competence."

    Maybe you'll say that I'm quibbling, but ... I just flat out think that you are wrong. In part because, yes, these things are devalued because they are associated with women (associated, not assigned), but also because I think that domesticity and deference are both important (frivolousness has different issues, but I don't think that being frivolous occaisionally is necessarily bad or indicates that you aren't also competent) and, also, that they aren't opposites of power and assertiveness.

    Re: domesticity and why I think it's important in today's society and why it shouldn't be viewed as exclusively "women's work": It's not for everyone clearly. But it's not inherently worse than being, oh, a politican. And, while, historically, domesticity was a way of denying power, to say that, currently, it is void of power is to continue in the devaluing of that work. And I have other thoughts re: how the domesticity < power argument has classist implications because of how being employeed for domestic work is coded as being lower class and therefore powerless and how power is associated with upper classes, etc, but, just. Domesticity and domestic work is not inherently less good, less meaningful, or less important. It is important, it's not for everyone, but devaluing it devalues the people — both men and women — who are good at it and it denies the power and agency that they have in their own lives.

    Re: deference, there are times when deferring is a good option, such as when you are not an expert on a subject and someone else is. And, even in that case, where someone else is an expert and you are not, it is possible to still be assertive in asking questions, in clarifying points, or even pointing out potential flaws in the idea. Deference doesn't mean being quiet and shutting up, it means sometimes you shouldn't be in the lead, and should listen to someone else instead. And that's not a bad thing. It would be great if more people admitted they weren't the expert in all areas of everything and deferred to other people once in a while. It only becomes a problem when people devalue their own expertise and defer to someone they percieve as an expert but really isn't (or when they overvalue their expertise and refuse to defer to someone else). And if that falls along gender lines it's only because society tends to devalue women's voices.

    As for frivolousness. I mean, I don't even know what to say about this one. Frivolousness and competence are just so separate from each other. And I know people who are at once frivolous and competent. Just in different areas of their lives at different times. Sometimes it's not a bad thing to be silly.

    Third comment to respond to:

    "Anon 7:53 - The box for "male" (or at least for "man") is better. That's kind of why feminism exists."

    I don't think that the man box is better. I think it's valued more by society. And THAT'S why feminism exists. But I also don't really think that there are boxes for these things. I just think there are people. But if there are boxes, I like my woman box. It's not inherently worse than the man box and I'm sorry and sort of angry that you seem to think it is.

  108. s.h. - On "just knowing," I feel like you do have some clues to your sexuality--you get turned on by some people and not others, you have some sexual urges and not others.

    I'm trying to find the clues to my gender.

    I think this is confusing people because the usual feminist stance is that the only difference between men and women is what they identify as, which I totally agree with, except it doesn't help me identify my extremely unclear self.

    I feel like if I'd come out and said "hey, everybody, I'm a man now" or "hey peeps, I'm agender today" people would have been supportive, but because I'm trying to work this out in public I've exposed myself to a lot of criticism. I don't know how anyone could be transgender if there's no difference between the genders, though. I don't know how anyone could be cisgender.

    Taking people at their word is awesome, but I have to go beyond that somehow to figure out what my word is.

    ...And never mind what I said about trans men above; some of this discussion could be used to convince a cis man that he had no reason not to identify as a woman.

  109. As for the femininity thing, to be honest I'm surprised to see so much of that here. I think a lot of feminine things are neutral--pink's just a color, a dress is just a garment and most women don't wear dresses every day anyway. But I think the fact that our culture has assigned "weak" to women and "strong" to men is a bad thing, a thing not inherent to women or to femininity, and I really don't like to see feminine people accepting weakness and saying "weakness is just as good as strongness if you really really squint."

    There's also a lot of my personal feelings mixed in here, I'll admit.

    I thought it was a universal experience to want to run around in jeans with your shirt off, and to have parents and society rudely shut that down and stuff you in a dress. I realize it's not; that some people take to the dress naturally and some actually seek it out against others' wishes. But I guess my feelings of discomfort and rebellion against having femininity forced on me are so strong that I can't figure out why someone would want this thing that was generally used to torment me.

    I know I'm stuck in my own perspective here, but I'm trying to tease this apart--how much of "I don't like feminine things" is "I don't like them for me" and how much is "no, I really don't like them."

    As long as feminine is "weak" and masculine is "strong," it's not all column A.

  110. Oh wow, I am totally coming to this late, but I feel like I still might have at least a little to add.

    So: I am trans and genderqueer. I was coercively assigned male at birth. I have a body that is mostly read as female these days, and often specifically interpreted as trans female.

    I remember all kinds of thought circles like you express, Holly, in the OP. Like, what is this gender thing anyway, and why can I not stop thinking about it if it shouldn't dictate what I do?

    So here's (a synopsis of) the way I cut that gordian knot for myself. Maybe applicable to others, maybe not.

    What is gender? It's the social system we've built that sorts people into sexed archetypes, based on some kind of arbitrary attributes of their bodies.

    How do you know if you "are" a gender? How do you "be" a gender? I still don't know.

    But! I can still answer the question of "what do I want, for myself, with respect to the system of gender?" Well, I want my body to be *this* way (so I'll modify it until it is), and I want people to use feminine or neutral pronouns for me, and I want to have access to both socially-coded-feminine things and socially-coded masculine things...

    And what does that make me? Well, at this point my experience matches up with that of a lot of people who identify with the category "woman" in a lot of ways, and a lot of people who fit the category "trans woman" certainly. So I'll sometimes describe myself in those ways, in an "I guess I am" kind of way. But that's a lot less important than each little question of "how do I want to move through this aspect of the gender system?"

  111. Didn't read all the other posts, but I identify with some of the things you're saying, but backwards.

    I'm a cis-woman, and for a while, I liked to put on push-up bras and stuff them-while alone-to ludicrous proportions. It seems like the feminization equivalent of binding breasts to me.

    I also went through a masculine stage in my early twenties in which I was mistaken for a 12-year-old boy more than once. (And happy for it... I wish I had the face for better drag though) and in my teens seriously considered transitioning because I hated being a girl. Eventually I decided that it wasn't bad enough that I wanted to take on the new set of problems with being trans.

    Now I'm kinda stereotypically female, and ok with it. I love makeup, because I like the transformations you can do with it, but I only wear it on special occasions when I'm being "glam".

    I guess, I feel like the phases, while "just" phases, are also life. And you can decide which box you want to try to fit into, and what makes you happy, and mostly, how you find the best interactions between your inner world and the rest.

    I'm guessing that your thoughts on your own gender would probably be different (how exactly I don't know) in a different culture. Possibility: in a more collectivist culture, ones personal gender might not matter quite as much. If you are barely surviving, I surmise that gender identity might be less important than currently. (this is all speculation)

  112. Every time I think about my gender, I find something curious. I don't see what defines 'pink' as either male or female, or the toys one plays with ultimately deciding who anyone is. I decided that when I worked out there was a male energy, and a female energy, but mostly there was just energy. It's just a thing. At the same most people, I do have my own gender issues, which are unfortunately tangled up in some extremely hairy other ones. But the feeling of being 'male' or 'female' for me doesn't seem to depend on what kind of toys I played with as a kid (Ponies and dinosaurs, if you were wondering) or what activities are regarded as male or female. It seemed to be something quite a bit deeper than that. Ultimately, it feels like just a disconnect between body and soul.

  113. You just described every feeling I've had so much. Unfeminine, yet happy with my vagina, yet, I think I'd like to be a boy?
    I've flipped around with the term gender fluid, but I don't think that as much covers sexual tendencies, liking being sexually a boy, it more refers to liking boy clothes and preferring blue.