I know I've belabored and complained about nonconsensual categorization and the paucity of choices here, a lot, over the years. I think a valid criticism of those posts would have been that they were entirely too theoretical, distantly removed from experience or interactivity. I don't think that necessarily invalidates the points made, but they were in no way balanced or all inclusive.
I've been thinking a lot lately about specifics, about practicalities and what role, if any, pragmatism plays in questions of intense individualism, idealism and manifestation (tip of the veiled top hat to ineffabelle
, who engages these questions directly; that she starts from different premises and comes to different means doesn't remove the importance or utility). Based on the kine-/synaesthetic feel of it all, I feel like I'm much closer to daily life and practical, tangible issues and questions.
The prospect of NYE celebratory options brought this recently into sharper focus for me. We had originally planned on attending a local goth/industrial party with one of the best, most consistently talented DJs in town. Goth/industrial in Atlanta, particularly as implemented by this promoter, tends to default to the unimaginative and predictable bar-sexual version of lazy BDSM that rarely even looks fun for the participants (yet still manages to attract a horde of slack-jawed onlookers). Obviously, I've got issues with the narrative and its implementation in this "scene". It's not a defensive distance from the perceived threat of (some) sexualities, at least not any more, but more about the narrow and restrictive channel of options and choices.
A few years ago, I'd sworn off all events by this promoter because he made a habit of charging reduced admission for "ladies/goddesses", etc, and I found that distasteful on many fronts. Systemically, it is in effect prostituting the presence of some attendees, and sending a message to others that yes, indeed, the presumptively female there are intended as objects of their lust and gaze. I know it's a choice for all participants, but I found it disturbing. I also found it personally unacceptable to be cast as a "man" by the staff. Realizing that I could object on personal grounds was a pretty big deal for me, even if my only action was to register it via lack of my money or attendance.
I'd gone to a more general (i.e. not spanky-BDSM, just music and overpriced drinks) night by this guy a month or so back and found it surprisingly good. Flat fees at the door (at least I think so; I didn't notice any differentiation other than "on the list" and not), the same excellent DJ, and a great mix of people and attitudes. Based on that experience, I was enthusiastic about giving his NYE party a shot. While the promoter has a reputation of being inconsistent and a jerk, he's always been very nice to me, remembering me across years of absence, and I want to believe good things about people. I also wanted good music and a good crowd.
Alas, no, it was not meant to be: one price for "guys", a lower price for "ladies". I get that it's probably nothing more than a crass business decision; as has been pointed out to me, "guys" are probably much more likely to pay more to be around fetishy "ladies" than in other environments. Still, I don't care; I find it unacceptable for the reasons outlined above, and I'm not going. To their credit, my people are down with that decision.
But it got me to thinking about the space between my own sense of (un? a-?)gendered self and the practical problems of the very dualistic categories applied by public default. This carries over to my dissatisfactions with work, my concerns with presentation, and all issues around my problem making new interpersonal connections or maintaining existing ones. I have tended to recoil from situations that call upon me to take a gendered position, retreating deep into myself if I can't retreat outwardly. Unfortunately, this probably tends to only further cement the perception that I occupy "man" position, and that's becoming increasingly clear to me that it's untenable. I know, more or less, what I'm supposed to do to be a "man", but it's not easy or the default; I know it like a recent immigrant. It requires constant, conscious monitoring, both to watch for potholes and to choose the least odious of the perceived options. It's just not working for me any more.
However, the underwritten "other" choice is no outlet, or at least doesn't appear to be. I don't like the sexism and essentialism of the "guy" side, so I've no reason to think I'll like it any more from the "girl" side. I constantly monitor myself as it is; I see no reason to think that wouldn't be magnified if I chose to occupy the "girl" side. This is even before getting to issues around passing and the perceived public right to pass judgment, though those remain very legitimate concerns. I don't like trying to live as a "man"; I'm not very good at it, and it's very uncomfortable and increasingly painful. I don't know how to live as a "woman", and pretty sure I don't want to, particularly not at the cost I perceive it to come. But I need to be able to connect with others, personally, impersonally, in spheres social, institutional, vocational and health-related. Hell, I don't even exercise in large part because of this gap between self and the duality of the public interpretive palette, only physically manifest rather than ideological. Everyone experiences gender everywhere social or interpersonal, I know, even though many may not perceived it because they don't experience conflict. My problem is that I don't know how to disentangle the threads of "available choices" from my own experience of self, or if it's even possible.
In short, I don't like pretending to be a "man", don't really know how to pretend to be a "woman", and don't really know how to be myself. I'm going to have to do something; the pressure for change is coming from deeper, lower in me than just my head, and my desire for more meaningful, honest connection is growing. I still worry about irrevocable social action (some outings can't be taken back, even if they're originated by me), but I also worry about doing nothing, about what tacit acceptance means to and for me, as well. Reading so-called experts doesn't help, but I haven't found any action that does yet, either. I'm open to help from wherever I can get it, but I don't know where to look any more.