|I REALLY want this shirt. (despite it's problematic use of "crazy")|
Last year right around this time I wrote about my relationship with the word "lady". Since then more of that relationship has unfolded. Consider this a part two of that post.
In that post I cite the confining femininity and class status of the term as my reasons for no longer using it. There's more to that story now but first I have to disclose & summarize:
I don't think it is always a classist term, nor do I think ladylike femininity is a bad thing in and of itself. But much of the the ladylike femininity I've often experienced or witnessed is a femininity the I have little preference to be involved in. I recognize that there can be power in claiming the term lady. But that power is not for me.
Writing about this is scarier and closer to my identity than writing my post about "lady" last year. It's harder because I have personal stake, because it's not just my politics. It's because of my gender(s).
I am genderfuild. My gender is both an adventure and an open ended question. I rarely know what gender(s) I will be when I wake up in the morning. Some days I don't even figure it out what I am. But I am lucky in that there are a few things I am certain I am not.
One of the things I am NOT is a lady. When I am feeling like a woman or a girl, I am always a weird one. (If weird where a gender I might claim it). I'm closer to a a crone or maybe, tomboy, or something that has no name yet. I'm always too messy for lady, too frank to be demure, and the way I flirt (no matter what gender) often resembles that of a 15 year old boy.
I have never really identified with the term lady (even when identifying exclusively as a woman). As a teenager I would often make the self deprecating joke of "really I just don't DO dainty". This phrase popped up after I'd spilled 3/4 of my oreo milkshake onto my winter formal gown. I said it first shamefully and as an excuse to my date after apologizing profusely (he had to drive me home for a change).
I used to pine after the idea that I might be a lady someday. If I tried hard enough, if I behaved well enough, if I descended a grand staircase elegantly enough, if I held my body in just the right way, I could be a lady too. I even looked up and mimed charm and etiquette tips. Acting them out felt excruciatingly clumsy and forced.
I wanted to be a lady because I knew that's what I was supposed to be. I knew that was what I must aspire to be. I noticed the people in my life, but specifically the men I dated back then, holding deep admiration for the women we'd identify are "real ladies". And I wanted that admiration an the respect that came along with it.
In the last few years I've been so lucky to find a loving partner and community who support my exploration of my own weird gender. It's taken me a while. But with support, I've figured out (or maybe unlearned) a thing or two.
The respect I garner has very little to do with how I do my woman hood or how well I perform as a lady. I realized, even before I came out as genderqueer, that people were already seeing the way that I did my gender and respecting me for it. I did not have to subscribe to traditional gender roles to gain the admiration and respect. Some people still admire traditional gender rolls, but I am more interested in people who admire others for being themselves (in this case respect me for being myself). Those who don't respect and admire the way I do my gender are not the people who I'm going to choose to be my long term partners or friends/family.
I want people to respect my weirdness and a lady is very rarely allowed to be weird. There needs to be room in whatever label I choose for me to be the very very strange creature I am. And the constraints of lady, while sometimes fun to visit are never a place I want to put down roots. I respect the choices of others to claim this term and even understand why it might be comfortable to people who're more intrinsically orderly and demure (or really just different!) than I am. But it's not for me anymore. And actually, it never was.
Titles I prefer (most of the time):
For more details on my genderfluidity you can buy my chapbook!