Gender.

I was recently listening to the Witch Wave podcast where the host Pam Grossman interviews Neko Case. It’s the season 5 premiere episode, #76 Neko Case, Sovereign Songstress. In the episode, Pam asks Neko:

I love the way that you write about gender or just write gender. I’m thinking about a song you have called “Man.” I’m thinking about that great lyric you have, “I’ve fucked every man I’ve wanted to be.” I’m thinking about your Twitter profile where in your gender, where you identify your pronouns, you cheekily wrote, “she/sir.” And so I’m wondering how you think about gender these days? … Do you find gender even a useful construct anymore?

Neko responds:

Well, gender’s a useful construct if you’re looking at what needs to heal; what were you forced into that didn’t really fit. … I don’t think I would identify as a woman if I were 20 years younger … I think I would be nonbinary. I feel probably slightly more masculine than I do feminine and I even have issues with being toxically masculine at times … The gifts that the younger generations have given us of just saying these things out loud and pointing out that gender is a spectrum are very valuable. And I feel that the generation that I’m a part of can heal thanks to that … I definitely also feel that I’ve fought so many battles as a “she” that I can’t leave now. We are so hated. Women are so hated that I will not abandon it now.

It made me realize: I identify as a woman as a political statement.

I’ve struggled with my gender identity for I think a very long time. When I was a child, I used to think that they made a mistake when I was a baby at the hospital and that I was a boy, and now, I thought I was a boy being raised as a girl.

I went through a period of not really thinking about it in high school, instead I was more focused on trying to be a “perfect” female. I think I started thinking about gender again when I was in college, after I shaved my head. I talked about when I shaved my head in this post from a mental health perspective, and it was definitely a freeing experience. Speaking of Britney, though, that song, “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman,” I definitely felt that. I’m too old to feel between those worlds, but do I feel like a woman?

I’ve never spent time listening to Neko Case, though now I feel like I might want to. When Pam quoted her lyrics, “I’ve fucked every man I’ve wanted to be,” my ears perked. After struggling with figuring out my sexuality, I realized that I did this. I would choose who I wanted to have sex with based on wanting to be them, not really wanting to be with them. In terms of my sexuality, I identify as “gay” rather than as “lesbian,” and I never really knew why, just that that word felt better to me.

The other day I was online and read about a gender dysphoria test. I didn’t take it, but I read the questions and I don’t think I have gender dysphoria, but I would say “yes” to a few of the questions. On the one hand, I don’t hate my body. I love my voice, for example, and would hate if it changed due to hormones. But on the other hand, yes, I do wish people in my life would treat me the way they treat males. As a person, I tend to be more assertive (male) or aggressive (female). I’ve had coworkers that presented as male, were assertive in a similar way to me, and were well loved. I would be “talked to” by my manager. In fact, I think that my assertive/aggressive nature, and my coworker’s interpretation of it, caused a workplace conflict that would have been avoided if I were male. This is because, in our culture, men are allowed, nay, expected to be assertive and courageous leaders while women are expected to be sensitive and gentle followers. Unfortunately for me, I was born into a female body and a conservative home.

I also think that it took until college for me to really think about my gender because of that upbringing I had.

Neko Case and I are of different generations, I don’t agree that I would identify as nonbinary if I were younger. However, if I lived in a non-gendered society, I probably would.

However, we do live in a gendered society. These younger/more progressive people Case is talking about have taught me a lot, too. I realized that I don’t fully identify as male OR female, but not enough on either side to do anything drastic about it. This thinking outside the binary has allowed me to accept my female-gendered body, and my political bent has allowed me to to use my body as a feminine product of society. And, thanks to the understanding I have of this, that gender isn’t just nonbinary, but is also a cultural construct, I personally feel like I can be in whatever body I already have and at the same time have whatever gender expression I wish, and I do.

I do want to clarify one thing, though. I am not trans so I don’t really understand what that experience is like. However, I think the spectrum theory of gender has made it harder for me to understand. Do I wish I had a penius? Sometimes, sure! But I was born into this body, gender isn’t a binary, so I can dress this body however I want. I have a disconnect there and I don’t know how to get past it.

In the end, given my masculine personality and my feminine appearance, it is a truly political statement to continue to identify as a woman in this society.

Love, Madeleine

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