Monday, 5 March 2012

The Gender Spectrum of Light

First of all, I just have to say I had an amazing time this weekend - to all those ladies involved (you know who you are!), thanks, and please let is do it again sometime soon.

One topic of conversation that came up over far too many glasses of wine  was that of self-identity. I know, it sounds like a pretty deep topic for a bunch of drunk girls, but when more than half of them are gurls . . . well, it's a natural topic of conversation. Not to beat a dead unicorn or anything (I'm as sick of the topic as everybody else), but I had to share some of that discussion here, even if just to preserve the discussion for the sake of drunken posterity.

Of the 12 of us, 2 identified as female, 3 as transsexual, 5 as transvestite, 1 as androgynous, and 1 as genderqueer. An interesting mix, to be sure! Of course, even among like-mind friends, the inevitable jokes and friendly barbs began to fly. Just what, they all wondered did it mean to be androgynous or genderqueer? Are we, as one suggested, just transsexuals with a fear of commitment? Perhaps, as another accused (we exchanged some angry words, but all parted friends), we are just transvestites with delusions of femininity. Then again, and one of the 'females' among us pondered, maybe we are simply confused, either unable to unwilling to label ourselves.

Nat and I both took offence to the comment about being confused, but Gennifer came closer to the truth than anybody else. Personally, I am entirely unable and completely unwilling to restrict myself to the standardized labels of the male/female gender binary. When you really think about it (and I'm proud to say I opened a few eyes with this comment), even labels like transvestite and transsexual are born from the gender binary, for without the arbitrary restriction of male/female, there would be no need to label how you either emulate one or adopt the other.

In many ways (and I initially pissed off Nat with this comment), being genderqueer is the opposite of being androgynous, which is (I freely accept) a gender binary of another kind altogether. One is all about embracing the entire gender spectrum, sampling those aspects which speak to your heart, expressing those elements that come from your soul, and becoming something more than just male or female. The other is more about rejecting the gender spectrum, refusing to clearly express any socially identifiable elements, and becoming something that is decidedly not male or female.

Where I won Nat back to my side, and finally opened the eyes of other ladies in our group, was in comparing ourselves to colours. If we were all colours of light, genderqueer would be white, and androgynous would be black. In terms of light, white encompasses all the colours (it blends them all together, incorporating a virtual rainbow of light), while black represents the absence of light (it doesn't just reject all the colours, it exists outside them). A few of the ladies argued the point, suggesting that if black and white are opposites, they should represent male and female, but it was Nat who pointed out that it makes more sense to think of male as violet (one end of the spectrum) and female as red (the other end of the spectrum). Looking at it that way, you can't help but be struck by the fact that there's clearly an entire spectrum of colours between them.

Like I said, I don't want to beat a dead unicorn with the old gender binary argument, but the the colour spectrum analogy sounded brilliant after the third (or was it fourth?) bottle of wine . . . and it still sounds pretty good this morning.


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