Why I Still Identify As Female
I’ve been running into more and more gender queer/non-binary folks and my first thought is, that’s awesome. Gender stereotypes are harmful, they are largely unproductive, and they exclude so many people. Let’s smash them! Recently I’ve become more and more concerned that some folks who identify as non-binary are smashing them in their own lives, but might be reinforcing those same harmful stereotypes for others.
I am biologically female and I gender myself female. Remember biological sex refers to hormones, secondary sex characteristics, chromosomes, etc while gender is a more nebulous social construction. Why do I gender myself female? When seeking partners I find it convenient, habit, convenience when filling out paperwork, I’ve never felt compelled to not be female.
The last part is where it gets tricky. I’ve never felt compelled not to identify as female because I grew up with parents who told me that there were many ways of being a woman, I grew up in communities that told me girls could do anything, I went to an amazing women’s college that emphasized women’s accomplishments and abilities. I love being female, being the same gender as Marie Curie, Marlene Dietrich, Khutulun (look her up), Ada Lovelace, Mary Wollstonecraft, Audre Lorde, and so many others. I love that films like “Hidden Figures” are finally acknowledging the intellectual labor of countless women in the hard sciences and mathematics that had previously been erased. I love being a part of that sisterhood and I don’t want to give it up.
At the same time being female to me doesn’t mean that I am obsessed with marriage and babies, that I only date men, that I wear my hair long, that I wear make up, that I wear high heels, that I wear dresses, that I am submissive, that I don’t strive, that I’m not assertive. Being female to me means that I can express myself in a number of ways, dress in a number of ways, perform my gender in a number of ways.
The most wonderful, easy, and practical haircut ever
Rather than dismissing my own femaleness because I buzzed my hair: I’d rather say, I am a woman, I am going on a 3 month adventure with only a backpack, and I’m not packing a brush, shampoo, or a hair dryer, so goodbye hair. Even without it, I am still female.
I worry that when we offer non-binary gender identities as the only alternative to very narrow gender stereotypes we are telling little girls who play with trucks that they are not little girls. We are telling little boys who share their feelings that they are not little boys. We are telling the world that there is absolutely no way that a person who strays from a specific, closed, “traditional” way of performing gender can be male or female. We are saying that gender is a rigid category and that you must give up on the entire idea if you don’t toe the line.
I’d much rather we were saying: girls can run and jump and get muddy and be smart and boys can hug and cry and be kind and listen. There are so many ways of being boys or girls, men or women, why don’t we try to embrace those?
I know that genderqueer or non-binary can be very important identities for those who use them. Embracing those identities can be the first time a person has felt that they could truly express themselves and be themselves and I am so happy that people are finding that.
I still have my very “girly” moments
I am however distressed when someone tries to tell me that I must be genderqueer because of my appearance, that I can’t look like I do and be female. I can look as girly or androgynous as I want. I can climb mountains or sit in drawing rooms (first I’d have to find a drawing room). I am still a woman. Be who you want to be, identify as the person you are, but make sure that you are not limiting the identities of others when you are doing so. Most of the world is still working in a two gendered system, and we need to make sure that we are smashing gender stereotypes for those folks as well as for the non-binary.
In the words of my wonderful alma mater, “Hey, Hey. Ho, Ho, The Patriarchy’s got to go!”