Shapes, Not Lines

The question of whether or not gender is on a continuum or not comes up an awful lot in trans conversation, and I’ve always been of the opinion that it does. Others don’t necessarily agree.

But for me, having been a masculine woman in straight culture (which does not recognize masculine genders in women in other than pathologizing ways) & in lesbian culture (which recognizes quite a few masculine genders expressed by women), I’d say that the points inbetween genders can *absolutely* indicate something meaningful.

It’s an easy idea to dismiss if you live in a world that doesn’t actually recognize any of the points along the spectrum, but once you’ve experienced what it feels like to be taken seriously as whatever form of gender variant you are, to not feel pathologized or having failed at “being” one gender or the other, & in fact are appreciated for existing, that’s a whole different thing entirely.

I would have lost my mind if I hadn’t found lesbian culture at certain times in my life. & Likewise, femme lesbians have been some of the only women who helped me understand & appreciate femininity exactly because of the way they queer it, which in turn lead me to a level of self-acceptance I might not have found otherwise.

When I lecture on the subject of gender variance, I’m usually speaking to a room full of people. I ask them to think of the room we’re all standing in as the gender continuum. The way i postulate it, “gender normatives” are at one end (usually near the exit doors, opposite from where i’m standing, with Masculine to the left of those doors, and Feminine to the right), with the fully androgynous at the other pole (where I’m standing). then I ask people where they would be standing, where they might place the person next to them, etc. because in almost any room i’ve ever been in you get a pretty full range of gender expression, even if we like to pretend otherwise.

The assumption that those of us who like to refer to a “continuum” or “spectrum” of gender are actually referring to a straight line with “man” on one end and “woman” on the other is needlessly binarized to start with. I think of gender much more as a circle, or maybe a triangle, with gender normative on one end & androgynous on the other side, directly across from gender normative masculine & feminine.

Though of course I expect someone to tell me now that it’s very feminine to visualize things in circles or triangles instead of straight lines in the first place.