THE INSTABILITY OF GENDER AMBIGUITY
I was shocked when I first realised my identity and existence as a woman wasn’t stable. I felt like I’d been hit in the face. It happened in a moment. I didn’t grow up ‘always’ thinking I was, or wanting to be, a boy, a guy, male. I was a rough tomboy kid, a loudmouth bitchy teenager and then a radical feminist dyke. While I’d never felt particularly comfortable in that genre, I thought ‘dyke’ was one which allowed for the shifting materialisations of my gender ambiguity: that I could still be a tomboy.
Gender is a frame through which we see each other and the world. Everything about me and my life was now in question. I couldn’t keep track of my things or myself. I was one of those people who never lost anything, but I just lost it. What can you cling onto if not even your own gender is stable? Suddenly, nothing was solid. I started losing things. I drank a lot. I smoked a lot. I was pretty much intoxicated in one way or another consistently for really quite a long time. I wore a lot of fancy clothes, hand made suits and shirts with cufflinks and flashy shoes, and sat in gutters drinking red wine, inevitably spilling it down the front of my pants and the sleeves of my shirts. And it was a contradiction I appreciated: a symbolic tension which manifested my internal one – Who the fuck was I?
In the autobiography of his transition (What Took You So Long?) Raymond Thompson tells of how he smashed apart his house and lived in the rubble for weeks: “The walls of protection that I had carefully built about myself, I was now breaking down.” The home harnesses the semiotics of boundary maintenance; as anxious people often obsess over cleanliness in order to feel some kind of control in their lives, Thompson’s desire to live in chaos displayed his bodily feelings of damage, inadequacy and fragmentation. And it’s just not a sustainable existence.
I realised that being a dyke, being a feminist, and being politically active about sexist bullshit had made me recognisable as ‘a woman,’ and I wasn’t very happy about that. Feminism is for Everybody and feminist discourse needs to take into account the complex position of transmen within the nexus of sexual difference: women aren’t the only gender-oppressed group. As Barbara Johnson points out: “Any discourse that is based on the questioning of boundary lines must never stop questioning its own.”
Have Pride. Take it Easy.