I Have No Clue

The question of gender has been in the news a lot (one more way to irritate people, I guess). The trans swimmer from U. of Penn, Lia Thomas, has gotten more attention than she should have gotten (and I’m giving her more). The far right mouths have made a lot of noise, and the far left maintains it’s “holier-than-thou” prissiness and good grief.

I don’t understand the conversation at all. It’s just given me pause for thought, that we don’t know very much about people in spite of being people ourselves and having been people all our lives and our parents before us and theirs before them etc. etc. What exactly MAKES masculine and feminine, anyway? Is it hormones? Biological traits with which we’re born? Our individual psychology? The way we’re raised? Fundamentally it’s whether a person is one part of a plug or the other, obviously, but the rest?

I took a little test online last night to determine if I am masculine or feminine. An article led me there. I learned that — according to our social stereotypes — I’m slightly more feminine than masculine. “You are androgynous” the test proclaimed with confidence. What does that MEAN other than my choices on this test reflected my identification with female stereotypes 44% and male stereotypes 42% and where’s the other 14%? Gerbil? Wasp? Sparrow? Proteus? Flatworm? Huh?

It was one of those “where do you fall on this gradient tests.” Female choices were words like, “reluctant to curse, shy, retiring, caring, compassionate, cooperative, sensitive.” Male choices were words like, “competitive, ambitious, independent thinker.” And then I thought about the stereotypes. Where do they come from? Are they intrinsic or extrinsic? Men have had most of the power throughout human history, so, presumably the stereotypes came from male expectations or is that what what women are actually like? Wouldn’t the demands of a person’s life affect how “masculine” or “feminine” they become in adulthood?

I pursued this question further and learned more that just befuddled me more. Feminine people care about clothes and androgynous people don’t care as much. That was one. I thought for a moment, “Isn’t there something about HOW that person cares about clothes and WHY?” I care about clothes a lot, but not much about fashion. I thought about my friend’s cross-dressing son. He cares about fashion a WHOLE lot more than I do, and when he shops at the thrift store (which he loves) he puts together amazing (and attractive) ensembles.

And then I thought, “Who cares?” and realized that might be a “masculine” resolution to that problem.

Some of my research led me to a whole spectrum of gender identification, and I began wondering why we have to have a word for every little variation of everything. Ultimately, whatever we are, we each must live our own life with or without a label. Ideally, we find the peace and freedom in which to do that.

I thought of the men in my life who complained that I am too independent. Never figured out how there could be an excess of independence, but there it is. In my case, all that meant/means is that I have some interests of my own, I’m self-motivated and able to support myself. One of the men who complained about that most forcefully was unemployed and living on my income.

My evening’s study led me to the conclusion that we are each of us whoever it is we are, that there are myriad variations in everything human. I thought of one of my life’s great loves who was gay, for the most part, but not stereotypically so, not “flambeau.” I thought of the night in a gay bar in Denver when the bouncer threw us out because, hey, I’m a woman. Gay bars back in the 70s were illegal and that was what the guy feared; maybe I was an undercover cop. My boyfriend (who was several Ikea bedding stores to the wind) gave a speech, “You are so narrow minded!” he screamed at the gathered crowd, “Can I help it if I’m latently heterosexual?” he said while my independent little self went outside to find the car, MY car, btw.

I thought of my cat, Nigel, who was definitely of the rainbow order and apparently sent female cat pheromone flags out to all the neutered male cats in the neighborhood. What do you make of that? I thought of what life would be like if everyone just minded their own business, if the news media was more than sensationalization and gossip and fear mongering. I wondered a lot of things.

The featured photo is from one of my journals. Kirk is my brother. The man is Federico Fellini who died at the on Hallowe’en 1993. He is one of my heroes.

P.S. To clear things up here. “Independent” doesn’t mean rebellious or antagonistic. It means self-reliant, a person with the ability to solve problems on their own, which, logically, extends to that person being able to help others and aware enough to seek help when they need it. Independent does NOT mean aggressive, hostile or argumentative. It just means responsible for the self.

44 thoughts on “I Have No Clue

  1. Reblogged on “Sparks…” Great post, exploring an issue that might just be under-discussed. Myself? Within the past two-three years (well once before Covid too) I’ve been mistaken for a man. One of the mistakes was by my (new) eye doctor. He was extremely embarrassed and still acts a bit strange (awkward) around me. O_o https://sparksfromacombustiblemind.wordpress.com/2022/03/25/i-have-no-clue-womens-wilderness-legend-summer-is-the-season-of-inferior-sledding-inuit-proverb/

  2. I’ll try not to add fuel to the flambeau…but you’re right, things have been made so complicated. What would life be like if everyone just minded their own business? Sure would eliminate a lot of social activism, all the frustrations of trying to fix such a broken world.

    Once, sex was what you were born. A girl or boy. Folks have gotten into a real maze when shrinks started dividing the mental from the physical and trying to determine if you’re mentally male or female. Like you, I’ve met men who could be classed as feminine by their habits or interests, men who are naturally shy or caring and compassionate. Happily married males. (In fact, in our Mennonite circles men are expected to be sensitive to others’ needs, caring and compassionate. So are women. This is good old Christian charity.)

    Likewise, I’ve met a lot of independent, even outspoken and aggressive women. Anybody can be too independent. We all need each other and it’s important to listen with an open mind to others’ ideas. Being pugnacious and charging ahead without regard to others is no virtue, in male or female.

    I find it just as you say, males & females can exist across a wide spectrum of behaviors and outlook on life. It leads to so much confusion when we divide mind from body, try to figure out which are male or female qualities, and sort people into artificial categories.

    • I don’t equate being pugnacious and antagonistic with being independent. Being independent doesn’t mean not needing other people; it just means that a person can rely on him/herself, and (logically) others can rely on them. There’s a big difference between being a mean person and an independent person.

      • I don’t, either. But those tend to be the down-side of a more aggressive personality. Every virtue has a downside, when carried to an extreme. Soft-spoken people can clam up totally.

        • Independent people are not by definition aggressive, or loud, or argumentative. They are soul-sure, self-reliant and self-motivated. They can be quiet, reserved, and introverted. I am not quiet, but I am reserved and introverted. I don’t argue or pick fights. There is NOTHING aggressive about me. Quiet people can also be independent and win their arguments in their own way. I don’t think you get it. It’s not about the public persona; it’s about how a person directs his/her life. I seem to have touched a nerve with you.

  3. We have something even better in the German-speaking area: we are now changing the language. How does this happen? So far, when I say “Lehrer” in German, I meant female AND male teachers. Now, with a successful campaign, the feminists have achieved that the gender-appropriate word for it must be LehrerInnen. The term now exists asLehrerInnen, Lehrerinnen, Lehrer*innen. Books are now being rewritten.
    My favorite example, a presenter on an otherwise upscale station.
    “This band consisting of 5 female Musikerinnen” (Musikerinnen would suggerst female musicians but as the “I” or “*” can not be captuered when spoken……. No joke. And now I could start a book in which I could list all these linguistic perversions we face today. (I think you can get it since you understand some German)

      • We are who we are. Where is the problem? I don’t know if toileting for the new gender type, intersex, is as prominent in the US as it is here. This question of gender affiliation seems to me to be quite exaggerated in our country. I understand its importance in the legal system, of course, but this overemphasis in the private and everyday is ridiculous in the 21st century.

        Especially our generation has closed this topic at the latest with the glamor rock time. The guys were homosexual or transgender or just had a lot of fun slipping into other gender roles and that was a good thing. Nobody made an issue out of it.

        • It’s very exaggerated here, too, IMO. I don’t know where people got the idea they have to be socially accepted for what they do behind closed doors in private. During the Gay Pride Parade in 1980 I was at a park with my semi-gay boyfriend. I said, “Why aren’t you at the parade?” Still, to make homosexual behavior between two consenting adults illegal is just wrong and I’m glad that’s changed.

          He said, “Why would I do that? I hope I’m more than homosexual.” He was awesome.

    • It’s funny that it was linked to an article in a pretty reputable journal. I think almost anything around this topic is questionable. It was an article about how men and “masculine” women have an inflated sense of their own intelligence. Wormhole, but an interesting one.

  4. I feel like none of us is exactly the same as another. I accept all who feel/believe/want to be/are who they are. just as I hope they accept me

    • That’s awesome. Fits right in with his minions here in the US who complain about being “cancelled” all the time. IMO J. K. Rowling’s situation was generational and semantic. I think it’s about labeling and identifying and social acceptance — things that really don’t alter the reality of the probably infinite kinds of sexuality among humans, but young people may not understand where we older people are with that. They have their own paths to forge and a future to live in (without me probably). But Putin claiming the west is “canceling” Russia? That’s hilarious.

  5. Great post, MAK. I’ve looked at gender as what classified you a male or female at birth (the parts!). Our bodies, spiritually, mentally, and physically, “morph”(can’t think of any other word, lol) into whatever we choose to be based on a thousand factors! On a team of 17 leaders it was shared by the male leaders that I “think like them”. I learned to be independent because I relied on the age-old tradition of the “man” being the head of house. Well, I never found that nor had that as I supported two. And apparently “other” females were way better females. It’s tiring when we become stuck in labels and expectations that are married to those labels. I think both genders have their strengths and weaknesses indeed. I would say my percentage would be the heaviest on the feminine side, and similar to yours. You are who you are. Let’s make intramural sports go bigger.♥️

    • My 9th grade art teacher told my parents I drew “like a man.” He meant it as a compliment. My mother was very upset. All he meant was that I drew with confidence, unafraid to make my lines and use my colors, brave with images, etc. etc. What that says about girls is horrible, but there it was. My mom REALLY didn’t want me to be an artist after that! 😀 ❤

  6. Interesting post. Gender isn’t important (some people will disagree with me). It’s the substance of a person, if you don’t like yourself and are judgmental of others, it doesn’t matter what your gender is, you won’t be happy. If you can be anything….be kind. That’s all that really matters in the grand scheme of life.

    • I agree. I guess all that labeling and stuff is meant to tell people to be kind and maybe HOW to be kind, but I’d rather just take kindness as the introductory theory. My recent tea party experience again proved to me how that is not everyone’s entrance philosophy. Some people enter a situation determined to dominate. 😦

  7. Gender identity is a big deal in my family – both my sister’s oldest children are working through their own issues. One was a lesbian but is now non-binary masculine and the other is a trans woman… On Sparky’s side we have a niece who is now they/them at 16 and struggling to decide where they fit in this world. There are so many shades of gray that it is very difficult for people to navigate even if they know how! I am fortunate that when I’ve mis-gendered one of them they have cut me a little slack and the correction has been gentle. I do try but a 35 year habit is hard to break!!

  8. A very thoughtful and reflective piece. Also a great story of the gay bar. My sister Baby was thrown out of the Maletesta (a brilliant Italian anarchist) club next door to where we lived, when she was about 8, for saying Fuck. That has no relevance to your story other than it shares an air of wonderous absurdity. Thank you again for your thoughts…

    • Maletesta? I guess that club had one to throw out a kid saying “Fuck.” It was the first word of the grandson of my former neighbor. I remember that and telling his dad, “That’s informative.” He was a wonderful little kid.

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