There are some people I know. It seems to be a very small group of people. In some ways, it seems to be a subset of a very short generation. People who came of age in a period of time and part of the country and social sphere where identity was the only thing they had, but they weren't at risk enough for it to become a thing they had to sacrifice to politics. Or perhaps they would have, if they'd only had the means, or the hope that it would do any good.
These are the people who, from my perspective, present as having all the characteristics I associate with genderqueer. Who not only are comfortable having all the aspects of personality that we associate with all the genders, but who also organize those pieces into roles that do fall into the gender tropes that have been popular in the time between when they were born and now. And if they changed their identity to suit the role they were in, perhaps others might recognize this as well. But they don't. In fact, they staunchly identify as the gender they have chosen. The one - for most of them - that they were assigned.
In fact, if anything, the biggest difference between them and me, between them and the other genderqueers I know who claim the label, seems to be the power of history. Each of them has been deeply, deeply hurt by the internalized gender messages they were given. (I actually think this is true of most people.) But the people I know and am thinking of were the ones who - at some point - seem to have been in a position where they both believed that males were one way and females another, who still didn't shy away from the fact that they had contradictory experiences, and who still didn't reject the gender they thought of themselves as. In a time and in social groups where it was (or they worked to make it become) at least somewhat OK to be one or the other, they still made the choices they did.
And maybe this didn't feel like a choice. And maybe that's why it seems so solid to them. Maybe the need to choose never happened. Or perhaps it was never looked at because the cost to examining it would be too high. Maybe gender setting, for some people, is essentially linked to the "what roles I'm allowed, by others, to take" setting. If that were the case, then history would be a major factor. And that's why I wonder if there isn't a generational element. That this might be at least partly borne of a time when the internet was taking off for some people and yet the realities of in-your-face-small-town/school still carried the weight of "this is and has always been the primary influence in your life." I think there are people today who don't understand that. I think elements of it still play out along the rural/urban distinction, but the web is an interconnected part of so many people's lives now that it seems universal in a way that it just wasn't back then.
I can imagine what someone with a history like this might feel as they come into contact with more modular ways to approach gender and identity. If I were coming from this place, I would be thinking to myself: Why did I fight so hard - not for others, but for my own sanity - only to buy into a paradigm that renders that struggle unnecessary? And doesn't that invalidate these things I believe about myself? And there is still the experiential part of this. My entire self-narrative would be built on the experiences of someone of a particular gender in those situations. It cannot be removed from the memory of these events. And - like many humans I've met - I'd probably be someone who likes to have a nice, tidy, linear story of how I ended up where I am. And even if I didn't care about a linear story... it's important to honor our lived experiences. So I can see how someone coming in and trying to introduce paradigms that ignore the struggles I went through would seem very much both insult and terrifying.
And I realize this is a very sensitive topic. And I realize that my perspective is not a safe one to have on sensitive topics. It's complicated, subtle, and in some ways still unclear to me. Even if I were clear on it (and my perspective were unchanging) my skills of communication aren't good enough to convey it in a way that makes it less controversial. And I know there are probably many wonderful things that have been said about it that I am not aware of. And I guess the best that I can say is that I'm not trying to foist an identity on someone else. I'm not trying to gatekeep any identity or even set authoritative definition on them. And although I might speculate a bit, I'm not trying to say that I know or am an authority on why people are the way they are. I'm mostly trying to say the following:
Even though these people would say they are different from me and the people I feel I'm similar to, and even though the people I feel that I am similar to might agree that they are different, I guess I just don't see the differences. Or rather, I see the differences as more about the paradigms we choose and less about differences in internal, personal characteristics. I see this mostly because of the art I see everyone identifying with. The situations that move these individuals move me too, once I switch out a character trope or two. And if presented with these switched tropes, I think they would move those I identify with as well. It might require different contexts in order to be understood, but the feels look to be just as powerful regardless of which direction someone's coming from. Which - in the end - makes me think that we are not as different* as we think, from an essentialist point of view.
I think this is why I can fall in love with individuals that make my more alternative characteristics invisible to many people. I think it's why I view identity politics as inherently problematic for me and any hope I may have for a sustainable community. I realize that there are others who see things differently. And I might eventually come to see things differently as well. But there is something precious to me about this viewpoint, and the capacity it gives me for empathy with those who would otherwise be somewhat dangerously different. And for this reason I choose to keep it for as long as I can.
*From a practical standpoint, the paradigms we choose are absolutely significant differences, and this is not to minimze those at all. They simply are not the focus of this particular post.