Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thinness and Gender Fluidity: breaking androgyny's rules (WITH SELFIES!)

I asked this question last night after another friend of mine asked facebook who was the most high-profile non-bianry/agender/genderqueer person.

I asked this question because all the people I thought of as symbols in terms of my ideals for gender bending are all pretty thin. 

Lack of symbols has been a serious problem for gender minorities for pretty much all of modern western/white history. Fortunately and finally trans folks are showing up in media outlets. Not in droves, but in high enough numbers that gender minorities now have at least some known individuals to identify themselves with and see as role models.

The problem of invisibility for gender minorities is slowly but successfully being resolved. The hitch for me though is that, as a conspicuously not-thin genderqueer person, I have can't find any modern role models who look like me. It's often a tough sort of work to feel comfortable loving my own body. And I think this is part of why.

The images of these gender benders, which I am endlessly thankful for in so many way, transmit to me (along with many other valuable things!) two very harsh messages about gender nonconforming:
  1. In order to be visible to others as androgynous/genderqueer one must be thin. 
  2. The masculine must always be given more prominence, and physically feminine qualities (like curves) should be played down or not there at all. Femininity is best expressed through makeup or outfit choices and not though the body or facial/emotive expressions.
These are the unspoken rules of androgyny (as I receive them). They're held together by a crude mix of masculine centrism and fat phobia

For me these rules mean that my hips, breasts, and butt should be either insubstantial or easily hidden. Which they aren't and probably never will be. The last time I was svelte by any means was when I was 14. Then the estrogen fairy visited me. It's taken me a while to get here, but today I love the curvier parts of my body. I love they way they look and feel.

But this love is brought into a false challenge when I try to express my atypical gender. When I dress masculinely I feel reflexively critical of the fact that my breasts are a visible bulge under my button down and that my hips are obvious even in mens jeans. It seems wrong. It goes against the rules I learned about gender bending.

As a champion of selfies I notice this in the way that I have staged/posed photos I've taken of myself and in how I view them:

Note how in the first photo I seem somehow "less androgynous" with my butt stuck out and the very obvious curving of my body (and also the kick-ass pump)? I could be wrong but I think most people who saw that photo out of context would not assume I'm genderqueer. 

In the photo on the bottom however, because I've reduced the visibility of my breasts, butt, and hips, put on a pair of sunglasses and my best blue steel face, I more closely resemble the culturally accepted idea of gender bending.

Now. I like both of these photos. But honestly I feel the one on the top to be more expressive of me. The sunglasses do play some part in that, but mostly it's because there's a playfulness to the first photo that's missing from the second one. When I look at the one on the bottom I think to myself with a chuckle "geez that guy takes himself way too seriously." I find the masculinity a bit (comically) over the top. But I posed that way because it was fun to try on and also because that is how I have seen androgyny/gender bending portrayed. 

Note the fact that I've posed and framed the second shot in a way that makes me appear thinner and taller and that in the first shot you can see much more of my body and have a sense of its actual size. My hips don't lie. It's the skewed representation and people's subsequent assumptions about gender bending that lie to them about my hips.

So enough with fun and games and selfies:

I'm really starting to hate these rules of androgyny/gender bending. I hate being the only one working to remind myself that yes, my breasts can be masculine and that yes, I can harvest a lot of manly in my big hips. It hurts that there is not room for my curvier parts within the cultural ideals of gender bending and androgyny. 

It stops people from seeing me my gender as transgressive. And I'm fairly certain it stops people from seeing me as transgender, and from getting my pronouns correct. Part of the reason I take so many damn selfies is to create evidence that me, my gender, and my body are not invisible and can all exist simultaneously. So I can see me, in all my impossible glory. 

And fuck, it's tiring being your own role model, so after some googling and with the help of those who answered the question I opened this post with here's photographic evidence of two badass and gorgeously fat genderfuckers:

Courtney Trouble is a badass                                  Gladys Bently. Just Awesome.             

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