Unconcious Gender

Subject: Unconcious Gender
Date: Fri 15 Jan 1999 - 00:34:51 GMT

I bet, if we went down to the shopping mall and started asking people: "Do you
conciously do gendered things, act like a man or woman, or do you just act
'naturally' like the human you are?" I bet that the vast majority of people
would tell you that they don't conciously consider gender in their everday

If gender is a set of symbolic communications, it would be like asking people
"Do you conciously speak English?" Most people (at least in the US) would say
no, that their speech is very, very natural, not at all performed. They would
say that their language doesn't affect the way they think, though we know from
a theoretical perspective, it's impossible for it not to shape the choices of
an indvidual.

That's the way assimilation works. Once you are assimilated well enough, the
behaviors become habits, bred in, inculcated. You are "brain-washed," as it
were, to believe that you aren't performing gender (or race or enthnicity or
class, etc.) at all, just being natural, who you are.

The key part of transgender to me is to become very concious of gender in the
world and very concious of our own gendered choices, be they choosing to
belong to lesbian groups or to be called by a feminine name. We don't get a
chance to critically evaluate and make very analytical decisions when we are
first gendered, pushed down the slippery slope which is marked for our genital
configuration. It's the second time though, when we can deconstruct that
identity formed by the social pressures and identitfy what is really good &
useful and what is keeping us oppressed, fear and limited expectations, that
we can become wise.

The next step, at least to me, is gender reconsruction, where we conciously
build an identity for ourselves that isn't shaped by rote gender (and other)
expectations. It's finding the essence and then finding an expression for
that essence, a way to speak our truths in the world.

Because I believe that only people who are of concious of gender can make
changes in gender expression that create changes in the system of gender
communications, I get very uncomfortable about people who claim to be creating
"gender-free" space. Because I see many of these people still immersed in
gendered structures, I have started to believe that at least some of them have
chosen to erase the gendered sea they swim in from their conciousness. I am
thinking here specifically of some friends in Carolina.

I can understand the desire to move beyond gender, but to me, the choice to
become unconcious about gender is one that scares me. It may be a comfortable
way to make a life (The doubter is wise, but the believer is happy) but it
isn't a good way to examine the way gender affects the choices and lives of
people around us, and our choices and lives.



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