Gender non-conforming

What does “gender non-conforming” mean to you? To me it’s quite clear: there are gender stereotypes, most people more or less fit them, gender non-conforming means you don’t and you don’t want to pretend that you do. Gender-punk I quite like: the person who told me about it is clearly AMAB, and wears skirts in public without breast forms or make-up. Cross-dressers and trans women genderally try to look like women,  but this person chooses the pronoun “they” and doesn’t, though their height might make it difficult. They mix it up, choose what they like. The clothes and mannerisms are symbols, which indicate an underlying personality, and they break expectations. I usually see them in skirts which don’t look feminine at all, just practical.

-Ooh look, a man in a skirt! shouted someone at them.
-Ooh look, a woman in trousers! they riposted.

So depending on how non-conforming, or how uncomfortable with gender stereotypes you were, there would be say 10% of women and 10% of men who were so far from the stereotype as to be gender non-conforming. That would include all lesbian, gay, bi or trans folks but a lot of others too, and we could all join in one big happy family because we had that in common, and advance our rights together.

Yeah.
No.

Some people think gender stereotypes matter, and they will be judged and punished for breaching them. We observe the bullying of non-conforming boys, we were bullied like that, we have an idea of masculinity which we don’t fit and it crucifies us. Some people are comfortable with a wide range of behaviour, some of which might seem to fit the gender stereotype and some not. And the stereotype itself is fuzzy- how rigid or restrictive is it, really?

I was chatting with a gay man about “gender diversity”. He agreed with my definition of gender diversity, and we agreed a woman we know might fit in a “gender diversity community” or a “queer” group. I don’t think she would agree. A feminist perspective is that women are oppressed- disrespected, treated as sex objects, disadvantaged because of their reproductive systems, as women. Then the gender stereotype is part of the oppression of women, and no-one fits it, not really. It is a series of demands and expectations, such as being the carer in all sorts of situations, which oppress every woman.

Though not all women are feminists in the same way, and some find feminism means they can choose those “feminine” roles- it is the right to choose, not the particular thing chosen, that matters. Then some are clearly gender conforming. It does not follow that those who are not will ever identify as gender non-conforming. Just as heavy drinkers think they are average drinkers, women particularly distant from the gender stereotype think all women are equally distant.

I don’t understand. I knew before I transitioned that even if I reverted, I needed to go through transition or I would be stuck in my desire for it. To live as a man I needed to transition to female. Does that make any sense at all to you? I don’t want to revert now, it would be too much trouble, yet I wish I could have avoided it. From this particular position, I don’t understand anyone else. I don’t understand the trans woman or trans man who talks of their gender identity, which looks to me like a verbal justification for a particular act, not an objective measurable thing. My identity is me, which formerly was “a trans woman” and is now “a feminine male”. I am a trans woman because I have transitioned and not reverted. As I see gender roles as important and limiting, I don’t understand anyone who breaches them without seeming to care.

For gender non-conformity to mean something we need an idea of what feminine gender is, and to believe that some women fit it. Many of those women I think are gender non-conforming deny there is a coherent concept of femininity, or that anyone fits it. Being gender non-conforming, they believe, makes them feminist, not part of some queer subculture.

So it is possible to identify as gender non-conforming, to feel something in common with other GNC people and find some value and self-understanding in the term, but not possible to define it or apply it to anyone who does not apply it to themself.

6 thoughts on “Gender non-conforming

  1. One of the things I have always wondered about is why any man would want to give up privilege to live the life of a woman. Sure, many find themselves feminine and feel trapped by a man’s body. But imagine how bold a choice that must be, homophobia aside, to give up that privilege to essentially be “less” in society’s eyes. I’ve always wondered about that.

    As far as gender-non-conforming, I don’t personally know any. Or perhaps, I have met some who just weren’t adamant about what they’re referred to. I think I would be like that, if I were in their shoes. I’m used to having my name mispronounced, my nationality wrongly guessed, and my race skirted over. I’m long past correcting people. 😂

    Liked by 2 people

    • May I call you Lexi? It would get past the mispronouncing name issue-

      Possibly because we feel “less” in society’s eyes anyway. We feel judged for not being a Real Man. Then being our true selves is a relief. No more pretence. It takes courage, though.

      Like

  2. As I see it Clare, the difference between gender non-conforming and being transgender is that the latter has a particular clarion call that never stops. In other words, there is no choice in it and our dysphoria beckons us to do something about it whereas gender non-conformance is more steeped in the idea of willful disobedience to the rules but the person can change their minds. We who are dysphoric must do something about our condition and even if we never transition that call to action is ever present. I never asked to be gender dysphoric but have always been and was never given a choice. But now becoming myself more and more I realize that gender and its rules matters less to me than ever and I can become whatever version of woman I need to be…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. You need to be a woman to be yourself. I needed to transition to be myself, and move forward. But I don’t think it’s so much wilful disobedience to rules, as not thinking they matter much, or resenting them as oppressive. Women should be kind. Women should take care of men’s fragile egos. Or, men should stop encroaching and back off and women assert their rights as human beings entitled to respect. What is happening, when we conflict, when we interact- is one being feminine and one gender non-conforming, or both being oppressed and one fighting back?

      Liked by 1 person

      • to be feminine or masculine are not always neatly tied to the sex we are born as and we possess qualities from both sides and we should all be kind to each other irrespective of which trait is more predominant in each of us. To a great degree we have all been victims to regulations that told us how to think and behave and told us to ignore whatever instincts we possessed and in that sense we should decouple gender behavior from birth sex and let people just be.

        Yes, our fragility would be exposed but we would all feel more secure knowing we were ourselves and need not pretend to be someone else any longer.

        We should all try being more gender non-conforming.

        Liked by 3 people

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