I only know that I am sure of myself when I make a definitive claim about myself without hesitation. When I can relay a thought to someone important, and close to me, without assuming regret after that moment. I’m sure of myself whenever I’m no longer fretfully contemplating the disaster of emotions that could be lashed at me. I am then free to tell another, so on to tell many others. The first moment I have ever been sure of myself was at the age of 16 years old. I had came out as a lesbian to my mom. I remember she had just walked into the front door of our home from work. This was also a weekday after school. From what I can remember, I laid my belongings on my bed to forget about them. I had told myself that I need to tell her something. She did her usual routine to check in on me. I had told her “I need to tell you something, but I’ll wait until you finish your bath.” She told me okay and went on to do her after work routine. I was studying her routine pacing back and forth from her room, to the hallway passing by my open bedroom door, then to the prepared bath water and back again. I didn’t think anything of it, perhaps she had forgotten her night gown or thought she had heard something. Though on her fourth trip to the bathroom she halted at my bedroom door. Walking into, still in uniform, she said ‘What is it? I can’t wait.’ She sat down beside me, on my bed, I told her. I do not remember my exact words or how I explained myself to her. But I do remember her facial expression and her words after. She looked down, was hushed by her words to tell me that she was ‘disappointed.’ From what I remember about that evening, she then left to finish her bath, while I was in the kitchen. My dad had snuck up behind me with his hand on my shoulder and said “it’s alright, come on out with it” then left. The part of this coming out story that I tell others was my mom’s disappointment. The most important statement worth repeating over again. My mom has an identical twin sister, who is a lesbian. Why, then, was she disappointed? I am my mom’s daughter and this fact carries more weight on certain hopes and expectations that a mother would have for her daughter-as a father may have for his son. A parent and child wish to identify with the other as the child is the product born of the parent. Specifically, what did my mom’s disappointment mean at that time? Based on my interpretation of her character and of our history together, since I never thought to ask her directly-she thought I would never be her ‘little girl’. She never disowned me, in this sense ‘to never be’ meant that I would never talk about or to complain about boys. Or in the future to talk about my man, however good or trifling he may become. And then to the greater point here-that I would never enjoy dressing like a mature doll. I would never share her interest in being feminine, or what society tells us that defines a woman. A woman to love a man and to submit to his will and authority, then to potentially have children. This is how I have interpreted her disappointment and continue to relay to others whenever asked. However this is not my coming out story but how I have come to terms with my sex, gender expression and the sort. Instead, I’m discussing the idea of being feminine in a way that made me repulsed by its very implication and expectations thereafter.
Forgive me here as I explain our, human female, basic function and contribution to a community. The basic nature of a female animal, specifically a human being here, is to bear the child in order to ensure the stabilization of a present community and to ensure that there is a new generation. Forgive me here, as I explain the basic standard of a woman in modern society. The basic expectation of a woman, based on the history of heteronormative standards enforced within a patriarchal society, is to be the specific attributes of being feminine. Her being feminine, then, regards her being as the compliant and submissive half. Within a materialistic society, her being feminine is more likely to be respected, yet still grossly ogled and hyper-sexualized in various aspects and venues. It is expected of her to express her being feminine in an aesthetically pleasing form. This is meant for her clothing to accent her curves, hips, breast and the like. She is told to remove the hair from under her pits, from her legs, back, face, navel. She is told to shave the difficult-to-reach-places, or her vulva. Then told to remove her brows, to draw new, symmetrical and indivisible thick black arched lines as a replacement. On top of all else, as a black woman, to disguise her natural hair in terms of chemical perms and hair straighteners. The most controversial of them all is to braid her natural hair, to then hide or to ‘protect’ her natural hair with weaves or wigs-synthetic, horse or human made. The modern woman is faced with more burdens she may gleefully accept. I’m referring to the jumpers, off the shoulder to strapless must have looks. From the cost of cosmetic face mask that alters her appearance so greatly, she goes from the average woman to the human adult Barbie doll. Or might I add, the human blow up doll with her contouring narrowing her cheek bone line, nearly resembling that of a sex dolls mouth. All of this is defined as feminine, and all that has left me repulsed since as a child. The images alone as I have described left me overall disappointed.
I remember exclaiming about how proud I am that Muslim women are fighting back in the East. They are demanding that their being feminine is not be simply regarded as a means for male pleasure. Or somewhere along the lines that they’re subjected to something submissive based on their sex. The article and my comment was posted on social media. The reaction was an ‘angry emoji’ face by a woman self declared as a proud conservative Christian, who is accepting of her submission to her husband. She was offended by the comment. I will always rejoice whenever I see women that refuse their basic functions.
I remember as a child that I had always rejected being a girl. I rejected the dolls, make-up, long hair, painted nails, dresses and perfumes. I hated what was expected of me as a girl and what I may have to do as a woman. My mom would always give me lessons her mom had told her about being a woman. She would tell me not to accept a man that made poor decisions for our marriage and for our family. I couldn’t help but take this lesson lightly as I witnessed the hypocrisy within our own home life. For instance, I rejected that I had to iron my dad’s clothes whenever asked. I often argued as to why I had to wash the dishes after he had cooked a full course meal for himself. Why did I have to clean around him and after him? Why did I have to sweep the dirt on the floor, from where his work boots lay? Why did I have to fold the laundry after school-that every member of the household used, when my dad was at home all day? You have to understand that I had a tendency for logic even as a child. In my mind I did not interpret the requests of my father to be of a parent to child lesson. Instead I interpreted the requests as demands that a man make and that a female must obliged. And to put this point more clearly, my dad would expect either my mom to do so automatically though she in frustration, while he would ask me but not my younger brother. During that time I was unsure if I was bisexual or a lesbian. However I could not bear the thought of being with a boy. Then, later, I could not bear the thought of marriage if my dad was the example of home life.
I had rejected that as a girl I must reveal my feminine being. As a child I was forced to wear girl-specific apparel, since according to my mom, at the age of 12 years old I need to dress according to my gender. I hated how the clothing fitted, revealing not only my childhood obesity but the curvature of my body. I hated how it was to emphasize my waist. I hated that I had my chest prominent. I rebelled by wearing my jackets, every day to school. I rejected being feminine by being the difficult child in clothing stores. I wanted to be ‘plain Jane’ to hide my embarrassment and discomfort. I wanted to wear large oversized jackets to hide my chest from the longing gaze of young boys. I wanted to hide, to disguise any indication that I could be feminine. I not only rejected myself, I was repulsed by any female that overly expressed their feminine being. For instance, shopping for clothes in my mom’s favorite stores wrecked my nerves. I hated the chit chatter of women expressing their love for all materials excessive and unnecessary. I also hated their laughter. I was nerved by the clinking of the clothes hangers; the screeching swoop of the hanger gliding along the curved metal bar. I was bothered by my classmates exclaiming their love for boys, their need to carry purses, their instance of starting drama among each other, etc. To this day, at the age of 23 years old I am repulsed by all of this expression.
By another title this is called internalized misogyny. I Googled the term for clarification, and found an article on ‘Everyday Feminism’. The author listed four examples, the two of which were high school aged clichés. Or a young female wanting to feel connected with the boys by downplaying her feminine being. The latter two being of adult women explaining how to be a “real woman” or conforming to the exact implications and expectations of being feminine. The source was not meant to be helpful here. However, internalized sexism is a real concept that affects both males and females engrossed in society’s expectations. What I can explain here, about my repulsion, is that I have always preferred neutrality. As a matter of fact that is my approach in life or to be neither ‘this or that’. I’ll explain.
As an adult I have always wanted to wear more masculine clothing as it is the close way to being neutral. This has taken some time, but I have recently acquired a wardrobe full of male attire. I have since transitioned my hair from long and permed to naturally curly. I have recently began sporting the hair cut, the natural hair fade that is all the rage. Now my outward gender expression is apparent, the questions that I receive are to be expected. Family members and associates ask me now if I wish to be a man, now that I am also lifting weights and wearing cologne scents. What am I suppose to decide? I’m left with two gender-specific hair products that are meant for curl enhancing. They are in essence the same product, but one is flower scented with honey bees, while the other smells like cologne… Jokingly, I tell them yes I wish to be a man, but no. I often imagine my body with a penis and hormone-enhanced handsome features. I’m already mistaken as a young man whenever I am in public as I am called ‘Sir’. Or as I am stared at by startled women in a restroom designated by women; stared at by young men that think I’m handsome too.. No, I am comfortable with my female body. Not so much comfortable being labeled as a woman, not as a man either, but I adore how I can express a different view of being female. My family, my associates, assume that since I have denied all there is to being feminine, I must wish to be masculine or to be a man.
I am more masculine of center because that is what is offered in clothing stores, a strict gender binary, and that is how I can best express neutrality. I embrace the curvature of my body, however do not feel the need to accent it. I embrace my breast, but feel uncomfortable wearing a regular bra that isn’t a sports bra. The appearance that a sports bra allows in my shirts is flattering to my wide length shoulders. And I suppose I understand now why I am still mistaken as male in thin shirts as my bosom protrude. I accept that I am human. By doing so I allow my body hair to remain, even under the pits and difficult-to-reach places. I’m not bothered by the faint hair on top my upper lip, and the line of hair on my back and navel. I enjoy the fact in my appearance I’m no longer expected to do or to be what is feminine. However, I am a female, yet I express a different view of being.
Why does being feminine bother me so? I’ll tell you. I was raised as a female or as a girl. And with this experience comes the unforgiving expectations on how I am to act, think and feel. In the same breath that all determines how I am to behave and appear before others. Since I was raised as a girl that is to become a woman, I was raised to become one of the two restrictive gender social constructs. And since I was only allowed the experience of one side I became repulsed, and overly critical of one. But I am learning now that I am just as disturbed being labeled as a man. The point remains that the idea of restrictive constructs placing a barrier, an expectation onto myself is repulsive. Just as women are to submit, the man is expected to be dominate and aggressive. Our society is now acknowledging the harmful effects of hyper-masculinity on young boys that fall prey to violence and the sort to prove themselves. I remember my feminist sophomore high school teacher asking all of the boys in the class “what expectations about being a boy, a man bothers you?” The class room was silent. The teacher then ask the girls to help out the boys to get the discussion going. Eventually a few boys spoke up. One said, the need to feel and to be physically strong, as he slightly raised his thin arms. Another stated ‘that we cannot cry’ or that boys cannot reveal their emotions as that is regarded to be a feminine trait. Some of the girls chimed in that boys should not cry. Just as women are regulated to their biological function, men are expected to give the seed of a child’s development. This is fact whether we agree or disagree on who is pressured more so to have children. I must challenge here that if there is a pressure for women to bear children then that too is the underlying pressure for men to provide women that additional chromosome. Since I am unaware that human beings have naturally developed to being asexual as well. I was exposed to one side of this strictly enforced binary; therefore, I am critical of what feminine is defined as, what does it mean and how it applies to myself, a female. As an adult I am faintly exposed to the other and take issue with its expectations-though I am less critical because of the lack of direct experience.
I am bothered by our societies insistence on regarding human beings to their basic functions and purposes. As I am deeply troubled by the additional, more harmful expectations of both men and women in a traditional, modern, or materialistic society. Since I think and observe, then to criticize others, I must stop and think, then-am I also dissatisfied with the limitations of the human form? Since once I a remove the clothing I’m no longer mistaken as a man, at least not as an ‘other’. I am a female-leaving no room for expression of neutrality as it only exist in the materials and perhaps my behavior in long exposure. What I’m conveying here is a conflicting thought, as I go onto public forums and criticize the queers and their need to use a label to define what clothes they wear or wear on a particular day or point in time. I criticize and challenge their need to use a label, or no label describing a label to define why their hair is dyed bright green, purple, pink and hair is shaved short and off to the side. I tell them that their gender labels, all excessive, and those without are simply defining themselves based on the clothes and hairstyles, body accessories they wear. Underneath are a pair of testicles, underneath there is a vulva. Internally there are testes, or ovaries unless the person is intersex and rare. This is my criticism to the trans community that I feel as I do, actually, however they choose to conform and I do not. They partake in the heteronormative viewpoint; reinforcing the binary by insisting that they are the same as natural born men and women. I hear your concerns. You were told as a child that Barbie’s and make-up are for girls, not for boys. Therefore, logically concluding on that premises that you must be a girl-not a boy that likes dolls and express other feminine traits. I’m not critical of those actually experiencing gender dysphoria. I am critical of those that felt odd and made to feel odd by society- that they have denied one extreme so they must be the other.
I criticize them for doing as I do, yet I excuse myself from the non gender binary talk as I am not ‘queer’. Queer is defined as being abnormal; historically, a derogatory term used to describe lesbians and gay men. No I cannot rejoice that an offensive term, which is still defined as such, is reclaimed. This applies to words like ‘bitch’ and ‘n-word’ as well. Despite this disagreement, we are the same. There is definitely a segment of every population that are repulsed, offended or just cannot fit within these restrictive constructs of gender. There are millions of us out here that can relate to not wanting to conform, and awkwardly rebel by labeling what is binary as not binary. We so desperately wish to have a society that is not so specifically defined. This is impossible. As the vast majority of gender conforming people would retaliate as they are doing so now. We see toys are more so gender specific. We see now how important the gender reveal is as they express pink for girl or blue for boy inn cakes, pop-up boxes and even in colored car exhaust. We see the denial as threatened gender conforming men ‘witness the ‘pussification’ of America’, specifically of boys. We cannot convince the majority to be rid of the binary as it required for their ease of identification.
If it were naturally possible I’m sure we would opt to be able to change at whim, naturally. There is an episode on X-Files where Dana Scully was seduced by a human gender and sex shifter-but for some wacky alien ritual practice. Some time in the future of evolutionary progression, this may become an instinctive need. I wish we had the option for neutral, neither ‘this or that’. For now the limitations challenge our reasoning, and forces us to label the unalterable. We may suffice this need by mix-matching women and men’s designated clothing. We may do so by cutting our hair short and off to the side, etc. I must emphasize that this concern is not secluded to the lesbians, gays, pansexual, and bisexuals only. This too applies to the heterosexual, forced to conform. I had to explain this to my mom too.
Two weeks after coming out to my mom we had to endure clothes shopping once again. I was 16 years old, finally finding my voice in preferences. I wrote down once, for a school paper that I was never allowed to express myself as a child, as a teen. Sure my mom asked for my favorite color to decorate my room with, but she never asked me about art or anything else expressive. I finally had a chance to argue my point. She told me that I did not have to wear boys clothing because of my sexuality. Well I told her that my sexuality had nothing to do with my clothes preferences. I simply wish to be comfortable. I don’t want the ruffles, I don’t want the colorful flowers or diamond stud belts. If there was an option for neutral I would take it. She digressed, yet again disappointed that this too was not a perfect match.