Note 1: I chose a picture of the Sacre-Coeur church in Paris because I mention being in a French film class and also because it’s not like there are a ton of pictures about being agender out there so…there ya go!
Note 2: please read the whole thing before potentially writing a comment or making a judgement about who I am right now. Becaaaaause I am the first to admit that I was a bit of an ignorant douche bag not that long ago. But I have changed my ways! As you will see if you read the whole thing.
The revelation came as a result of a class I took last semester, in the fall of my senior year (at my private liberal arts college, of course): Contemporary French Cinema (Queer French cinema, that is.)
This was not the first time I would encounter talk of gender. In high school, I dated a “guy” who later came out as male-to-female transgender, and I helped her start to transition. Because of this experience, in college, I joined Kaleidoscope, my school’s Gender and Sexuality Inclusive club. There, I learned all the terminology, learned of intersectionality and types of oppression, etc. However, due to dealing with a bunch of my own issues, I hadn’t been to a club meeting in two years. So I suppose I was a little rusty…as well as increasingly close-minded.
Never close-minded enough to be “against” trans people, of course, but a little confused, to the point of questioning. I would never have misgendered anyone, or challenged them, or anything of the sort, I just…didn’t understand. And that led to skepticism.
For the final paper, I wrote about gender. My thesis was: gender doesn’t exist, and so being transgender reinforces the gender binary.
Before I go any further, I want to say: please know that I’m sorry! I didn’t know shit about shit. And it wasn’t meant to bash anyone, it was just an honest interaction with these ideas and seeing where they led. And as I will divulge by the end of this article, I retract all of it.
Logically, it makes sense: we know that both men and women can do feminine and masculine things. That which is considered “feminine” or “masculine” changes over time and between cultures, and so, in a sense, gender “doesn’t exist.” It’s not “objective truth,” since it’s always growing and changing. Therefore, what I saw were people, who, for example, were born with male genitals but really identified with femininity. Instead of saying, “I’m a feminine dude,” they felt that who they were would fit better into a female body. To my former self, this seemed to equate femininity with female bodies. And wasn’t that what we were trying to get away from–the equation of female bodies with femininity? Those who identify as women can be as masculine and feminine as they want, and still be women! So when people identified as the “opposite” (I hate that word) gender, they were reinforcing that in order to be their feminine or masculine selves, they needed their bodies to match what society deemed the appropriate body for feeling such a way.
I concluded that, because of the Thomas Theorem in sociology (which says that things are real in their consequences), gender is real because we believe it to be real, and so these people were genuinely transgender–it’s just that, in a perfect, genderless world (which is apparently what a perfect world would look like to my former self–genderless), no one would care what their body looked like and everyone could just be whoever the hell they wanted to be. This, of course, totally ignored the reality of body dysphoria, the fact that I myself am attracted to man-identifying males (how could I do that in a genderless world?), and of course I didn’t actually talk to any trans people in the making of this essay.
All of this was based on my perception of the world, which I realize now was and is genderless. I used my ex, who I will call Ellie, as an example. Ellie was extremely feminine. Excessively so. Loved make-up, dresses, the whole shebang. Meanwhile, I was a girl too (totally and utterly, nothing but a girl, how could I be anything else, hahahaha…) but we were nothing alike. Why would she identify as a girl when girls were not necessarily feminine? Why wouldn’t it make sense to be like, “I have male genitals but love to be feminine”? Why did she feel like she was one of my gender, when in essence, being a girl didn’t actually feel like anything at all? (So I thought…)
My professor passed me because it was good work, even if it was misguided. We met and talked about the subject, and I did learn some new things, but I still didn’t understand.
I think he understood though. He’s gay, and was teaching a queer film class, so I figure he obviously must know a thing or two about these things…and just like, two, three weeks ago, I was leaving his office after talking about a different assignment for a current class. I told him that I would work harder, because I’d been slacking before. And he said, “Good boy.”
I was perplexed. One, that’s a fucking weird thing to say to anybody, so I know now that he was saying it specifically to poke at me. Two, as I said to him then, “But…I’m a girl?”
“Well,” he said, “Good…you.”
I went back to my dorm room utterly confused. I laughed to myself, “Oh God…he must think I’m trans. But I’m obviously totally a girl…I mean that’s so…totally obvious…”
Well, I wasn’t so sure anymore.
I’m literally going to just paste what I wrote in my paper right here for ya:
“Personally, I don’t feel like a man or a woman, really. Not in the way that conservative old-fashioned people think—but also not in the way that current pro-transgender activists would assert, either. Supposedly, everyone has a gender identity. But is that true? Some people, confounded by this, assert that they are ‘agender.’ They do not feel like male (masculine) or female (feminine) and so they decide that they must be neither, or in between, and sometimes even prefer ‘they’ pronouns because of it.
But, am I really ‘agender’ but in the closet? I don’t think so. I was born with a vagina, and so I am called she and her; but while some relatives would occasionally suggest I wear make-up, or dresses—my grandmother dislikes my dress and wishes I was more ‘jeune fille’ [French for “like a lady”]—I never felt I had to. I can wear traditionally male clothes or female clothes; I can do traditionally male sports or “feminine” activities like sewing; I can be dominant or submissive, depending on the situation. But I have been called ‘she’ forever, and though I don’t fit the traditional idea of ‘she,’ I don’t have a problem with it. My point, in all this, is to say that I don’t feel like a woman. And I don’t feel like a man. Not in the traditional senses. I feel like me.”
Oh my god, like…how much more in the closet can you be?
Essentially my argument was: I have a vagina, so I’m a woman. Which is like the concept that trans activists have been fighting for so damn long and I didn’t even think I was claiming, I just…wow. I was explaining that I didn’t think I was agender because [literally explains the definition of agender.]
And this is where I get to what is basically what I’m sure many people on the gender spectrum already know: just because you don’t experience it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Cisgender people are constantly saying that you can only be cisgender, because they fit perfectly in the gender roles and societal place they were put in at birth…but that doesn’t mean that everyone does. And so, it’s possible and it does occur that people feel that they are the “opposite” gender to what their body would suggest.
Likewise, however, just because you have a gender, doesn’t mean everyone does. This is a problem with both cisgender people as well as quite a few transgender people. Because they feel gender, sometimes very strongly, they assert that it would be impossible not to feel it. But just because you don’t experience it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
So, please do forgive me for my assertion that trans people must be confused, which I know, is one of the worst intellectual crimes to commit. They aren’t! They know who they are.
It still seems logical to think that we should just “abolish” gender because it “doesn’t exist.” I can still see that as being a logical thought process. But it’s just not the case. There are plenty of arguments that are quite logical that are still just not the case. And this is one of them. Because what people feel, who they are, their self-identification, is sometimes very gendered, sometimes fits the opposite of what their body would suggest, and sometimes doesn’t fit into either category. And these are truisms. That may not make logical sense in one line of thought, but those identifications are nonetheless real.
If you came here for an in-depth analysis of what it feels like and means to be agender, sorry you didn’t find it! If I make one (being, of course, what agender feels like and means to me) I will link it ->here.<-