In light of the recent flurry of comments on my recent post about being pranked Wendy and I have been talking a lot about gender roles. Both of us thought a lot about it and came to the conclusion that we couldn't really understand the mindset that would be necessary to go through the trauma of changing genders, whether it be just the social changes or the medical treatments. Not to say we don't support those who feel they need to, but rather that we just can't grok that situation. We both thought back on our lives and looked at the things we have done and want to do and gender would not have particularly changed those life paths as far as we can see, though this may be because Wendy already took a more 'masculine' path by choosing a serious career focus and I took the 'feminine' path of going to university to meet someone who wants to go out and earn money so I can stay at home. We both are very at home in our bodies though and she knits while I like chopping things with axes - there are plenty of stereotypes that we fit very cleanly.
I get a lot of really weird looks and questions when I talk about what I do that I know women in the same situation would likely not get. People seem very concerned to figure out what sort of business I have cooking up at home because clearly a man wouldn't stay at home without being some sort of entrepreneur. After defending my choice not to turn my hobbies into sketchy small businesses I often have to put the questioner on the defensive.
"You know, our experiences at 1 o'clock are probably really different. You think about how you only have 4 hours left in the damn place before you can go home whereas I have to carefully decide between a long afternoon nap and just surfing for porn for 4 hours straight. Good thing all that working has left you almost ready to retire, right?"
People don't like it when I say this but it sure gets them off my back! When I get hassled about going about barefoot it is a little different though - sidelong glances are everywhere, sneers are reasonably common and outright hostility happens now and again. That obviously isn't the same thing as violating gender norms but it sure gives me insight into just how ridiculous people get when someone makes a small change to normal behaviour that is entirely personal and harmless.
I am reading Whipping Girl and a big focus in the early parts of the book (which are the only parts I am done up to this point) is how the female role is looked down upon by society. Having considered Wendy's experiences and my own it becomes abundantly clear how true this is. A person expressing shock or disbelief at Wendy's career direction would be a very strange thing indeed as she is a woman pursuing a traditionally male career role but I am a man pursuing a traditional female career role so I am deemed strange because that role is looked down upon as inferior. Why would I choose to avoid a career when I could choose that option so freely? Well, I have plenty of good reasons, not the least of which is that I mostly don't give a damn if people generally don't respect my choice and in fact enjoy challenging people's assumptions. Those who know me will not be surprised by this!
I also got to thinking that I know I am male and I know I desire women but I have no idea what that means. Do breasts define a woman? A vagina? The ability to bear children? Two X chromosomes? Acting like a woman? Feeling like a woman? I have no idea where my boundaries are - I have never been in a situation where that came up as a point of contention so even though my desire for women is a pretty defining part of my personality I don't even know what it means. Bizarre. Just as much, what does it mean for me to understand myself as a man?