Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gender Dysphoria and Unwinnable Battles

  As a skeptic, I live in constant fear of over simplification. But that is an examination for another time, right now I’d like to pretend we have solid ground to stand on, and like Wiley Coyote, I won’t look down to check because I’m sure if I do I will fall to my doom. So, let me just keep chasing the Road Runner right now. 

      I’m interested in bodies, something that so often gets over looked in Queer theory. More particularly I'm concerned with what we do with our bodies and how living in a body marks that body. Our habits and values show on our bodies.
don't slouch, god only knows what kind of hump you'll get.

  I’d like to think about how our bodies are the battle ground that gets marred by gender. And how this power struggle (the battle of fitting into the category Woman vs. the self)  relates directly to me, namely how as a woman I’ve been told my whole life that my body is not mine, not really that it belongs to men, that it is for men to enjoy and that I should treat it as something not part of myself that it should be better than "me", fake, disposable, worshiped, perfected. This is an idea I’ve always felt but didn’t always know how to put a name on, I didn’t realize how I’d spent a lifetime fighting against it. 
 The idea of repetitive actions shaping a person both mentally and physically is not new to me, as someone who got paid to ride horses, I've essentially been a professional athlete from 17 years old.  My legs bow, my ankles sprain and swell from repetitive injuries, my femur is dented from being kicked by a horse, 
I wish I could say that was the worst injury I've suffered or that this was the worst the bruise looked.
But that would be a lie.

I carry my weight almost exclusively in my heels, my posture (even though I feel I’m slouching when not on a horse) I’m told is better than the majority’s, my delts and biceps are bigger than any girl's "should" be
Where the fuck are your arms? How do you even pick anything up?
and to be perfectly honest my breasts are more muscle than fat/tissue. My ribs have been broken, and if you push on my chest right they click. Sometimes the floating rib on the right side tries to slide up under my rib cage (yes, it's as uncomfortable as it sounds). My shoulders have been dislocated, my hands calloused there’s dirt under my nails that is never coming out. I’ve had 3 concussions and my nose has (I’m fairly sure) been broken.  I can carry 100lbs on my shoulders easily. I’ve broken 4 fingers and 6 toes, my right foot and ankle. My sport has changed my body irrevocably. I’ve devoted more than half my life to saddle time, every free moment I could manage was spent on or near a horse. I was happy. Happy to be damaged. 
HoverDylan Whirrrrrrrrrr

Happy to have boys tell me that my arms were “too muscular,” that my feet were “ugly” that my hands were “rough” that my nose was “jacked up.”  I wore, I wear, them all like badges of honor. They were my choice, my devotion, symbols of my power over all the girls in middle school who called me flat chested and made me feel shitty about my body.  My injuries mark my body as my own. Injury means I've tried and sometimes failed, but sometimes succeeded. They separate me from an 'ideal' I will never fit and never ascribe to.  I guess, you could say that being an equestrian has made me gender queer, certainly I’m more masculine than society feels I should be. My repetitive choices to not “fit” the category of woman marks me, however subtly as queer.  

Do I pass as a feminine? As a woman? Certainly. Even with my hair cut short I’m never accidentally called “sir” like many women, even with long hair, sometimes are. Even at my most muscular my body is not one that’s going to be confused for masculine. But that’s the thing about the gender binary you’re always going to be lumped into one or the other but it’s never going to come close to encapsulating who you are.

 It’s not even going to really describe a piece of it, not really. It’s a pronouncement “I’m a girl” but does that really tell you anything about me? No, It only tells you that I’ve been given the same pronouncement as roughly 50% of the rest of the population. 

 It tells you what makes me the same, what makes me part of heteronormativity, what role in the reproduction of society I am supposed to play. And since I don’t play that part, it tells you jack shit about me. (I would wager that since none of us can really play that part, as Butler argues, those pronouncements tell you exactly jackshit about anyone.) 


This puts me in an odd position, I love my body, I love who I am, but I’m not inhabiting my body the way a “woman should” and I’m not interacting with society the way “a woman should." I interact with the world in a somewhat masculine way (despite my feminine style of dress. I like being pretty when I get to do it on my own terms). 

Yet society seems to unanimously agree that I am, in fact, a woman.  It seems to me that I am trapped in some sort of incomplete-able rebellion. I cannot fully rebel against my pronouncement, as a cis gendered female, yet there is some gender dysphoria there. Some portions of me don’t can’t and won’t fit into the pronouncement “woman,” this goes similarly for the pronouncement “man” I am no more one than the other, I am neither, I am nothing, I am myself. Society is not in the business of the acknowledgement of self. And so I feel doomed to this half-assed rebellion in which I am constantly fighting for the possession of myself and the acknowledgement of it.  

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