Monday, September 3, 2012

Gender expression examined ~Sevan

We've talked about many things about gender here on our blog. I think it's widely understood and accepted that gender identity center's in your brain. (as seen in the genderbread person)

Property of 

What I don't see discussed much is gender expression. In the picture it shows expression as being what's on the outside; clothes, piercings or no, make up or no, etc.
I've been thinking about expression alot lately and rolling it over in my mind. It's a tougher thing to tackle I think. In part because the way we express ourselves, how we present ourselves isn't just about gender. It's about you like clothes to fit. What types of materials you like, what colors you like, how modest you are, or aren't.
There are many things that go into how we express ourselves.
Not just gender. 
I have heard or seen folks judge trans* people based on the way they dress or look and deem them "not trans* enough" but that's wholly unfair. A. There's no such thing as "trans* enough" and B. How can you judge someone's innate sense of gender by the way they express themselves? Expression is rarely a full complete picture of a person! Ever heard "Don't judge a book by it's cover"? 
Let's step entirely outside of trans* people for a moment and look at the broad spectrum that is gender in general. 
Everything from women who enjoy skirts, dresses, make up and all things "girly" expression; to women who prefer men's clothing and more masculine pursuits. Then of course, everyone between those two points, and the many who like all of these things depending on mood and day. 
A "butch woman" is no more trans-man than a trans-man is a butch woman. Her butch expression has nothing to do with her gender, and everything to do with other parts of herself. I can't attempt to describe what this would I'm not her, and I'm not trying to paint anyone's identities. (which is pretty hard to do, and still use examples!) 
If we look at the broad spectrum of men's expression; from muscular "jock" expression, to t-shirt and jeans, white collar/suit expression, and drag queens. All of these men identify as *men* in their gender. I have heard a number of drag queens bristle and become upset that it's assumed that they are or, want to be women. 
So if we turn back to trans* people and the vast vast identities and expressions of those identities...any, and all expressions that you might see in cis-gendered people; you would also see in trans* people. 
Let me paint a picture for you. A trans* woman, who is also butch. I've met such people. I've also heard it said of such a person that "what's the point of transitioning?" This is an old way of thinking! The point of that in this person's mind, soul and heart of hearts...she's a woman. The secondary. We don't transition for presentation or clothes!! 
I have seen trans* men who enjoy being drag queens after they've transitioned. 
Expression is also not just a way of expressing gender. Many express their religion through their clothes and jewelry or tattoos. Many people use their clothes and other expression to represent their tastes in music, political affiliations, causes that are important, veganism. The list goes on and on. Many androgyn/non-binary/genderqueer identified people don't always enjoy the androgynous style of dress. I know I don't care for it. 
I'm not sure I can properly explain all of the layers that go into an individuals expression. Their gender is only a fraction of what you're seeing when you look at any person. While gender and transition is pretty important to most trans* people I know, it's still not the whole of them. They are more than the sum of their parts. Just as any other person would be. 
I've heard Cyndi say that even though she loves skirts, and prefers them, but worries how her expression of self will be received. I know I've worried more than once about how I'll be viewed. Especially when I dress up in a skirt along with a men's button up shirt and tie. 
It's really difficult sometimes to allow yourself to bring your expression in alignment with your gender identity, when those identities and expression doesn't match with social expectation. It's a tight rope walk sometimes.
I used WeeMee app to create my male and female an example of how I can vary from day to day. (though obviously...regardless of my expression, my favorite color is still blue. lol) 


LaurenG said...

Thanks for this. Identity and expression are often very tangled up together. Well said.

Dirty Hair said...

I teach a lot about sex, gender, and orientation in my 8th grade health class and I LOVE this. This will be an excellent visual way to help my kiddos disambiguate all three. I wasn't even looking for this! baaaaah thank you!!!