I don’t see gender.
This is not true. I don’t see gender the way most of the world sees gender. I truly believe that gender lies between the ears and even, to some extent, in the heart. Genitalia doesn’t have much to do with it.
In 2001, I studied the Meisner Technique at Carnegie Hall with Fred Kareman…and with the beautiful people. I’d never met the beautiful people before, so standing on the elevator on the way up, with my butt-length hair, sweats, no make up, I was like, whoa. Because almost everyone else in the class looked coiffed. Of course the men weren’t wearing make up, but their casual jeans fit in that way that make men look really sexy, and their shirts fit the form, baby. The most handsome man in the class, who later became my friend, told me he checked me out when I walked in and decided I must be a lesbian because no straight woman would have shown up to a high level acting class dressed, well, for the gym.
I bristled when he said that, but couldn’t escape the fact that he was dead on correct about me. I didn’t dress for the male eye. Mostly, I just didn’t give a shit. At Sarah Lawrence, students and teachers started telling me to pay attention to my appearance. I was new to acting. They were like, “Your hair isn’t commercial.” And, “Wear clothes that show that you have a body.” I was like, “Seriously?” And they sighed and said, “Yes, Lyralen, seriously. Dress for your business.” One teacher told me to get my hair cut so short I could no longer put it in a ponytail, since that I was how I seemed to want to wear it most of the time. (I didn’t listen.)
Truth: I miss not thinking about my looks. I would like to think about them not at all. Or only in so far as they show what’s inside…my own non-conformist, wild, free self.
Gender: I’m a woman. I’m not trans. But the component parts of my gender experience and expression don’t add up to binary woman. I am femme, but I’m a tomboy, and I hate wearing make up to this day, and I hate doing my hair, and I don’t like wearing dresses all that much, and don’t want to show off cleavage or any of that shit. I do LOVE to play around and wear flowy stuff that makes me feel like a princess with boxer shorts on underneath. Or I like to wear boxer shorts and a tank top. I love hats. In other words, for me, gender is fluid and partially performance. It’s fun.
Here’s a another way to think about gender:
Anyhow, what I really want to say is that when I’m with men, I know they’re men, of course, but I don’t seem to be able to see the whole Mars/Venus thing, nor understand the supposed emotional unavailability thing. Maybe I want less and that’s the trick. But it’s more that because I’m a boy in quadrants 2 & 4, I don’t like processing as so many women do, so men seem, just, well, normal. I have to work to see differences between us. There’s no friggin’ other. I’m a feminist, but I don’t believe women are just better at x, y and z.
It’s like seeing color. I’ve lived in Spain and Japan, so having lived in countries in which being Latino or Asian was the norm, I have to work to see a not norm. But I do see color. I am aware of ethnicity. Working in communities of color for the last 15 years has made me not only an advocate, not only more comfortable with differences, but more aware of color in a different way. I can’t stop seeing whiteness. I see color…but I see all ethnicities and seeing whiteness, and what it is, and what it means, freaks me out and pisses me off. I’ve crossed some line and I can’t go back. White isn’t the norm to me any more…that was more or less the point of traveling and living in other countries and then becoming a multicultural activist. I didn’t want a homogenized view of the world. I didn’t want to NOT see. But man, whiteness is so overwhelmingly ignorant, especially the intellectuality of liberal whiteness, which was my home before I did all these things. Thinking and living are two different things entirely. Our problem, as white people, especially middle and upper middle class white people, is that education makes us think we know about race, when we really don’t know shit, even when we’re on the right side.
So the point is, I do see gender. I see straightness and gayness. I see the mix of the binary and the way that mix makes binary meaningless, which is good, because the binary is truly both meaningless and limiting. I am a mix. So are you, in my eyes, when I’m looking at you. And like looking at whiteness, seeing the strong identification with the binary in gender really freaks me out and pisses me off.
And beyond anything else. I want to be myself. My mix. Visible.
The way the people I love are visible to me.
Opposite quadrants, as it happens. If I’m a girl/boy, my partner is a boy/girl.
All fun, if you don’t get stuck in the way you see things.