There is a kind of gendered currency that those who conform to the expectations of gender have but are not aware of. When I say those who conform, I don’t refer to those who try to conform, but instead refer to those lucky sods who are just naturally quite feminine women/masculine men.
It can often look deeply trivial to this set of people when non-conformists (such as myself) start to care about gender. I am speaking in generalities here but I tend to find that this gendered currency results in them being totally unable to see the ways in which messaging about gender creates a plethora of mental health issues for non-conformists. Such people expect everyone to be as they are. They care about gender but do not even realise it. By naturally fitting the norm (feminine of centre women, masculine of centre men) they don’t much have to think about gender. Then when others care about it- to them it seems silly, and also being blind to it, they can not see the damage done by the expectations which they then typically reinforce- “men should be men, women should be women”.
These may be small things but across a life-span they amount to a giant mountain of gendered moments, which many do not even recognise as gendered. Moments which make your personality feel wrong and broken, moments which I suspect heavily contribute to gender dysphoria.
Suddenly I find myself, as non-conformist, in need of langauge to describe what I see- and I am often then faced by sincere denial of the problem, its severity, and then also I am told that my ponderance on such matters is self-indulgent and deeply trivial. What is not seen as trivial or narcissistic is the hand-wringing from others over my hair, what I wore, what my interests were and are. This desire to control the clothing, behaviours, hair-styles of other people strikes me as stunningly narcissistic- far more so than an individual merely saying “I am done trying to please others, I’m going to please myself” which actually to me seems very wise.
Ex. “I’m so glad you didn’t cut your hair really short, because I don’t like it that short” or “I wish you would grow your hair out” is seen as neutral, but “all my life everyone has been deeply concerned over my hair and I am going short-back-and-sides like I’ve always wanted to” is seen as narcissistic navel-gazing. I think this is backwards. The latter is a survival instinct in response to a society that has policed your behaviour where the former is a deeply ingrained narcissistic urge to control the behaviours of others, often rooted in either homophobia or a dislike of gender non-conformity or both. Often both.
I grew up in an era in the 90s/00s where self-expression and authenticity wasn’t so much encouraged but expected but dichotomously gender-nonconformity was rather sparse. There was more gender-nonconformity in the 70s/80s to be honest. So I was, I think, expected to find some deeply authentic expression of myself which was also feminine of centre- which was an impossibility for me as a masculine person.
I guess I wonder this- if we want to reverse back in time to the 50s where authenticity and self-expression were unimportant and unexpected- then fine, I guess. I don’t think we’d be better for it. But during my childhood we seemed to enter this bizarro space where self-expression and authenticity were deeply important but gender non-conformity also shunned so that those of us who, for I suspect biological reasons (hormomal cycles during pregnancy, slight neurological differences, homosexuality, et al.), were non-conformist and couldn’t help it (to the extent that it begins to feel like an innate sense of self which you are routinely punished for by those around you, unaware that what they are doing is even punishment), we existed in this twilight zone where authenticity was expected but we found ourselves either punished for being authentic or completely unable to be authentic and then punished for not having a strong sense of self. Whatever we did, we were doing it wrong.
Non-conformists are then left with conformists who presume we have a poor sense of self or low self-esteem for being unable to find a feminine sense of self (if female)- when the issue really was- we just weren’t that feminine. This is very crazy-making.
It also strikes me that social conservatives believe in pure blank slate-theory as ardently as extreme radical feminists. They insist that gender is entirely socialisation by inferring that if socialised “correctly” nobody would be non-conformist or trans. This contradicts various studies done on the subject which (for females) point to pre-natal testosterone as causal links for masculine behaviour in females. Both extreme radical feminists and social conservatives seek to deny the role of biology in gendered behaviours. In short- blank slate-theory in all its various formations is in my opinion total nonsense.
I guess I wonder- in regards to social conservatives on the issue of gender, why is gender deeply trivial when social liberals start to care about it- but deeply meaningful when social conservatives reinforce it? Gender, as a concept, is either meaningful or it isn’t. I think it is all deeply trivial and find there is no subject I could care about less (let’s discuss DC vs Marvel instead please) but have found myself in this bizarre twilight zone world and have been trapped into having to talk about it because:
The trans-rights movement with its persistent belief in female/male brains, gendered stereotypes making you immediately transgender, 8 year old boys who like dresses being immediately labelled young girls- all looks deeply regressive and potentially very damaging to me. Completely ignoring desistence (for lack of a better word) as a phenomenon strikes me as very destructive to the lives of young children. This looks dystopian- like an episode of Black Mirror.
But then also the social conservatives in my life deeply deeply cared about gender without even realising that they did, and whilst doing so they did a fair amount of damage to my mental health. So hell yes, I started to care. Caring was a survival strategy. The gendered system felt very dystopic to me, I was damaged by it as it left me not so much #GenderFree but incredibly #GenderHarmed. My entire life has felt like an episode of Black Mirror.
So I care about gender in the sense that I care that other people care about gender. I don’t at all understand why. It strikes me as very trivial. In short- I’ll stop caring about it when other people stop caring about it, and the sooner the better.