Earlier this week I read the latest copy of Original Plumbing, a North American magazine written by transmen for transmen. This quarterly it was the Selfie Issue. There was one particular person interviewed (apologies, I can’t remember who, and I don’t have the magazine with me) who spoke about redefining what it means to be a man.
Almost all transmen have come through some form of socialisation as female before realising their true gender and transitioning to male. Some transmen don’t feel like a man but know that being perceived as one will make them feel better in themselves. Other transmasculine people, like myself, traverse the boundaries of being male and not being male.
The idea of redefining “man” or “maleness” got me thinking. Any person who has lived some part of their life being perceived as both male/man and female/woman has seen the stark difference between how other men and women treat them, based on their perception of one’s gender. Many transgender people have written and spoken on this subject, and those who “pass” most easily see the starkest differences. The question here is not what makes people respond differently, but what we can do about it. A transman that I follow on YouTube, Electric Dade, spoke clearly about misogyny in male-only spaces and the effort that’s required of him to refuse to join in with such behaviour. Here’s his video:
So what can be done to change social perception of gender roles? From a personal perspective, it means refusing to conform to stereotypes in order to make those around me feel comfortable. Admittedly, this is much easier said than done! The second question for myself is “Which existing gender role do I wish to choose to change?” This, for me, is the bigger question. Do I want to be a transmasculine female or a transgender male? The answer to this question lies within, but I haven’t found it yet.
Some might say, why choose? And this is another question which I ask myself. Why choose? Does it matter? My answer to this is that the country where I was born, Ireland, does not allow for a third gender marker, the ‘X’ that is now permitted in Australia. And then I ask myself, if X were an option, would I choose it? Because choosing X is as important as choosing F or M. It’s a deliberate refusal to identify with both male and female, or a choice to identify with both. Either way, it is an unknown gender that most of contemporary society does not know how to react towards. Thus, choosing X could be seen as a refusal to engage in social gender roles. By refusing to engage completely, it could be argued that I would be turning my back on all gender roles to make my own, which most definitely does not count as “redefining existing gender roles.”
And so I sit, and contemplate, and wait for a better answer to come, a solution to my being and not-being that holds me in gender-limbo. Only time will tell. The answer will come.