I tried to freewrite for my paper last week and all i came up with was questions.
Thoughts on Gender
Define Gender: it is different from sex. Gender varies.
*Do we think of gender in linear terms? Or do we think of gender broadly? A graph? A cloud?
*What does gender entail? Does it include activities? Behavior? Communication or personality styles? Appearance? Clothing? Politics?
*What do we call our genders? Butch, femme, high femme, lipstick lesbian, chapstick lesbian, girly butch, gay, queer, transman, transwoman, queen, androgynous, man, woman, geek neither/nor, either/or, both/and? What is the method by which we define genders? How does gender terminology become accepted in queer society?
*What part of gender is born in the body? How fluid is gender Do people who change their gender have gender confusion? Do they genuinely feel the changes or are they in drag part of the time? What is the delicate difference between trans identities and drag performances? How frequently do drag performers actually identify as trans? What is drag? In what ways is drag similar to trans identities?
*How does the house ball scene reinforce gender identity? How does it reinforce a trans identity? How does “realness” (i.e. butch realness, femme queen realness, etc) add value to a gender? How is it weighted and defined in house bull culture?
*When is butch real and when is it drag? When is femme real and when is it drag? In what ways is femme a trans identity, where women who are not necessarily girly, glamorous, transition from “not femme”, plain Jane, androgynous women into decidedly, intentionally, (even, overly) feminine women.
*How does popular fashion affect gender fads and the acceptance of certain genders?
Call it Out Loud
*How do we assess gender? Social Policing.
--Gendered clothing – to what gender is this person’s clothing marketed?
------If they are women’s clothes, are they worn in a feminine or masculine way?
--How does someone’s choice of partner reinforce their gender, and how does it not?
It affects a person’s perceived gender in that very masculine women who court highly feminine women sometimes feel as though this presents them as a man, and therefore having a feminine partner becomes allowable. There is not parallel to the butch image – the transgender (not necessarily trans-sexual – in mainstream gay culture. The onlycomparable thing would be cross dressing men who can pass (or barely fail to pass)…
Thinking about the archetypal lesbian gender expressions, butch/femme/androgynous, there are a number of different subcategories. To avoid confusion, these are female bodied people who present various genders:
Femmes who use their gender as a trans/drag identity, or as a political statement, their gender is as much a tool against the patriarchy as the butch identity does.
How do we imagine gender?
Model 1: Two free circles that intersect, the intersection of butch and femme being androgynous. They exist in the wider field of gender.
Model 2: The butch and femme circles are completely separate; they exist in a field “andro”.
Model 3: A linear graph, androgynous is the exact middle between femme and butch.
Model 4: On an x/y graph, toward the butch side is least feminine and toward the middle is more feminine, the other side of the graph going from masculine to least masculine. In the middle is both, not necessarily neither. The up/down would gauge the intensity of gender expression. Is that possible?
Is androgynous a blend of butch and femme or is androgynous completely outside of the dichotomy – is it neither? Do lesbians exist in an androgynous space in which some are “something” and others are “other”? Is it a continuum where leaning to the femme or the butch side and you lean away from the andro. Why did kiki die out and become a derogatory term?
Why does gender have significance in our lives?
Gender is significant because we judge one another by the quality of our gender performance first and foremost, before we judge anything else. Gender is a form of social communication, related to body language, by which we give each other information about ourselves. Frequently our more subtle messages are lost in translation, but gender usually says a very great deal about the ways we prefer to interact with other people. For lesbians, and queer people in general, gender has developed into something central and absolutely crucial to our social discourse. Gender has often communicated messages about sexuality, sexual preference, and sexual orientation. Queer people have kept themselves secret, and have been kept secret, by mainstream genders, but have been visible to one another through flourishes, through the finishing touches that are imperceptible to mainstream, heterosexual consciousness. Gender is how we find each other while our voices are still being trampled.