Social Gender

Socially speaking, I’m a woman

I’m just not a woman in reality. Gender in most of society is this constructed category and way of being that carries with it a bunch of expectations regarding presentation, body and behavior. When I look inside myself for the fabrication of gender, for an internal sense of gender, I come up with nothing. We live in a society of people who largely affirm both the existence of gender and the reality of its importance in our society. In this way, attempting to exist without gender is interpreted by the vast majority of people as a type of gender variance in respect to whatever gender they are perceiving you to be. Such as a masculine woman or a feminine man.

This view of gender is not one particularly grounded in reality, in that it refuses to acknowledge the ways in which people actually experience and interact with the broader concept of gender. Regardless, it is a major determining factor in the way in which we move through society. Part of gender is the social perception of it, how people construe our behavior, presentation and bodies. For a great many years, my gender has often been perceived, as “confusing“ wherein people are frequently uncertain of what box they need to sort me into inside their own heads. The real lived consequence of this is being given confused directions to bathrooms or outright hostility from the children I used to work with to the people considering tipping me on the street. Existing outside a binary presentation results inevitably in oppressive responses from people enforcing gender binary and traditional gender roles.

After doing this for several years, I eventually came to lean more and more into strict femininity in a way that can be interpreted as traditional womanhood because of seeking out social ease and social safety. This doesn’t change that my internal experience of gender is primarily empty. There is no inherent essence of gender within me. Yet within society I am coerced with harassment, threats and discomfort if I do not abide by a traditionally interpretable gender. So that’s what I did, decided to lean into femininity as understood by US culture.

Similar to how we are in our base way, humans, we can consider this through the metaphor of music. I am a musician, due to my behavior and amateur skill of being able to create and play music. Within perceptions of music and musicians we create genres that broadly categorize common features and expectations of music ascribed to the genre. Jazz music is characterized by improvisation, complex harmony, a degree of dissonance, influenced by African rhythms and European musical structure. However, these are retrospective perspectives applied to music to create ways for us to discuss and seek out music that is similar to other music. Genres don’t exist in a platonic form and are a social construction to group commonalities together. In this way by being a musician who follows jazz conventions, I become socially a jazz musician. Similarly by following behavioral and presentation standards common to womanness I exist socially as a woman.

This article was written by Flow