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Fight Club

Pictured: masculinity.

I dunno what to write here. I really have no idea. I have very little to talk about, but I know that I won’t be home until very late this evening, so I have to find something to talk about to fill time and space before I leave for Toronto. A lot of people say, and you’ll know I’ve mentioned this before on the blog if you’re a frequent reader or if you read the end to (I)NaFb1, but a lot of people say that my generation sees itself as the protagonists in the story of its life. And I’m told, often, that this is a bad thing. That we can’t do any long term thinking, that we’re disconnected from each other, that we’re possibly going to be the generation that ends the world. I see both of these things as true, yes, but I don’t think that one is the cause and the other is the effect. We’re going to end the world because we can’t reconcile any of the basic differences between ourselves.

This is probably gonna end up as my gender post, so I’m gonna roll with that. I’ve been thinking a lot about gender, sex and the societal pressures surrounding both lately. Lord knows why–I have a penis, two testicles and am attracted to women. That really nails down my sex and sexual orientation in three bullet points, doesn’t it. I know girls who have two ovaries, a vagina and are also attracted to women. Sex: female, sexual orientation: lesbian. I’ve met dudes with my equipment who are attracted to men. I’ve met people of both sexes who are attracted to either gender, not necessarily in equal measures. But neither of those things really determines gender. Those just let you know who you’re going to be trying to have sex with for the rest of your life.

See, I’m glad I lost a subscriber back in October, cos this is gonna be the really un-PC part of this post. I’m not interested in being politically correct or offending the least number of people. Just recently, I published an article that managed to offend someone quite deeply. They and a friend of theirs have reminded me of this since, but I’ve already taken the article down. Just in case you were wondering why there was a filler post less than a week ago. I’ve still met my 1000 word a day minimum for that day, it’s just not on the website anymore. In any case, the particular subscriber I lost was biologically female, but felt “male” sometimes and felt “female” other times and felt “neither” sometimes too. Which kinda got at my nerves a bit. How do you feel male? How do you feel female? Do you reach down at some points in the day and scratch nonexistent testicles? Do you look at a Brad Pitt underwear ad and feel like you don’t have enough muscles in your ab region?

What it turns out it was, and I’m citing a tweet I can’t see anymore here, was that when she felt angry–when she spent an entire day sorta pissed off–she felt “masculine”. I assume this means that if she spent a day sort of docile and laid-back, she felt “feminine”. … That doesn’t make any sense. Why is anger associated with a y chromosome? Why is docility associated with a pair of xs? In truth, neither emotion is associated with any gender. I’ve met women who get angry, I’ve met men who get angry, I’ve met some laidback dudes and some laidback ladies. It’s not a matter of being masculine or feminine, it’s a matter of someone screwing up your chai mocha low-fat no-whip sprinkle-cinnamon latte. Chew out a clerk, you shouldn’t feel like a dude. You should feel like you, angry.

This makes no sense to me in particular because I’ve never really identified with either gender. And gender, as it turns out, is a rather complex thing. I can only speak for my own experience, but standing on the outside, so much of gender is societal. It’s associating feelings with genitals. Feelings are feelings, gonads are gonads. I look at men who pride themselves on being manly–rappers, footballers, young Italian men who insist on nicknaming themselves after a likely mentally challenged man who got punched in the head very often–and I don’t see men. I see a caricature of masculinity. I see guys who see magazines, day in day out, portraying sports, beer, heavy metal and aggression as masculine, and I see a reflection of that culture. What I don’t see are men. Men are complex, insecure, and worried about a lot more than how ripped their abs are. Men can be good, bad or indifferent; these guys pride themselves on their intense manliness.

You know who else does that? Gay men who want to appeal to other gay men. Gay men do the same muscles emphasized crap you do, and they do it to look sexy to men who like men. Men who think that they’re women and thus dress like women–transvestites? is that a word anymore?–also seem like a caricature of the gender they say they are. If you’re really a woman, do you have the same complex inner turmoils that ladies have all over the world? Do you sometimes feel like having sex with a guy just to justify eating that tub of ice cream in your freezer after? When you pay your bills, do you feel like a woman or do you just feel like you’re paying your bills?

If a woman were to say to me that she’s a man, then she should know immediately, in a gut way, why Fight Club is perhaps the best representation of masculinity in the 21st century. The movie, not the book. She should know the immense helplessness that accompanies being a man in today’s sanitized, corporatized and safe society. The weight on your shoulders, day in day out, that is the expectations of every person around you and the knowledge that none of them will help you. Young men find their own way in this world, supposedly. So how come young women who feel like men get support groups?

Look, after all this, I gotta say: this isn’t meant to get hate mail. This isn’t meant to be provocative or stirring or controversial. What I want to do is raise the question of how exactly we determine gender now that men don’t carry spears and women don’t carry children. This question needs to be answered, but more importantly, it needs to be answered by all of us, talking to each other about who we are and why we feel that way. Otherwise, we will be the generation that doesn’t heal the world.

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Categories: Not-A-Reviews
  1. Rachael
    January 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    it’s not transvestite – a transvestite doesn’t feel like a woman, they simply seek sexual pleasure from wearing clothes that are normally associated with the opposite sex. and that could mean either gender.

    Transgender is when someone feels that they are (for example) a male trapped in a female’s body.

    I don’t like using the term “gender”, I feel like it’s completely marginalizing all of the people who feel like neither or like both. These terms include Gender-Queer (which means not fitting the societal “norm” of how that gender should act or dress) and Two-Spirited (which is the embodiment of both the male and female spirit)

    I can understand where the woman you’re friends with is coming from. Though I don’t think she meant that when she’s angry she feels masculine. It’s just the behaviour society associates with either gender. It’s funny that if a man gets angry he’s being a man, but if a woman gets angry and starts mouthing off she’s considered a bitch.

    Anyway, my point is that the world should see that everything isn’t so black & white. People are unique and have complex biological and mental needs. I’d rather not be marginalized or act a certain way because that’s what’s expected of me. I’d rather be myself and see what happens!

    I’ll probably write more once I remember what I was really going to say.

    • January 22, 2011 at 11:46 pm

      Educational, insightful, honest, direct.

      Four good reasons to have someone more knowledgeable than I am like you around. 🙂

  2. January 23, 2011 at 6:48 am

    “I have a penis, two testicles and am attracted to women. That really nails down my sex and sexual orientation in three bullet points, doesn’t it.”

    Not legally, no.

    You could be an Intersexed male with De La Chapelle Syndrome – so have 46XX chromosomes. Which in certain parts of the USA due to a number of court cases would make you legally female.

    More probably, you could have 47XXY chromosomes, as do 1 in 500 men. The conclave of Indonesian Catholic Bishops have proclaimed that having 2 X chromosomes make you female, and so you should get (unspecified) medical treatment to cure yourself of these male feelings. This is now the official position of the Catholic Church, in theory, as neither the Vatican nor any other Catholic authority has seen fit to comment.

    Then there are the cases of 5ARD or 17BHDD syndromes. These two syndromes can cause a “natural sex change” when a person with apparently female genitalia at birth has that genitalia change to a male configuration later in life. In 3 states and parts of Texas, that person would still be legally female, and in Tennessee, they even passed a law specifically to prevent any legal change to originally assigned sex.

    See for example : http://www.usrf.org/news/010308-guevedoces.html

    That’s about 1 in 100,000 in the general population, though up to 2% in some clusters.

    Male to Female natural changes happen too, by the way. Very rare indeed, about 1 in 10,000,000 we think. Less than a hundred cases documented worldwide.

    There are a large number of people in the USA whose legal sex changes if they cross a state (and in Texas, even county) line. In one state, they cannot marry a male because same-sex marriage is forbidden. In a neighbouring state they cannot marry a female, also because same-sex marriage is forbidden. It’s similar to the days of anti-miscegenation laws, where someone with 1/64 African blood would be white (so forbidden from marrying a black) in one state, and black (so forbidden from marrying a white) in a neighbouring state.

    • January 23, 2011 at 10:22 am

      Fascinating! I knew about one or two of those, but not the 5ARD or 17BHDD syndromes. I assume we can agree that trying to legislate biology is silly, yes?

      • January 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm

        Agreed.

        As regards your thoughts on gender, you have a keen insight. Yes, men have unfair expectations placed on them. Women do tend to form support groups for themselves. On the other hand, in general everything that feminists say about male privilege is true.

        You really need to find someone who’s lived in both a male and a female social role to get evidence of that, and as transsexuals who have done both had severe distress in one role, they will be biased. So you need to speak to both FtoM and MtoF people.

        A large number of people appear to be bi-gendered. That is, they could function adequately in either gender role, their neuro-anatomy is neither strongly feminised in most areas, nor strongly masculinised.

        The problem is that bi-gendered people don’t transition from one sex to the other, they have no need to.

        The connection of neuro-anatomy causing gender identity is described (simplistically) in

        Biased-Interaction Theory of Psychosexual Development: “How Does One Know if One is Male or Female?” M.Diamond Sex Roles (2006) 55:589–600

        http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/biblio/articles/2005to2009/2006-biased-interaction.html

        The mechanism that causes the “biases” mentioned in that paper is described in

        Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35

        ABSTRACT: The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in extreme cases in trans-sexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.

        A discussion of some of these issues is at

        http://aebrain.blogspot.com/2008/06/bigender-and-brain.html

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