Today I got to spend my time in lesbian company, have a conversation about gender roles with a group of straight men, briefly catch up with a straight man whose chosen gender role is one of the most self-aware I know and be angry at a straight woman whose chosen gender role is guaranteed to bug me.
It is noticeably different spending time in gay female company to spending time in the company of straight women and I suspect that’s because the gender roles adopted by lesbians are subtly different to those adopted by straight women. I find it much more relaxing and much less confusing – probably because their social aspriations and aims are similar to mine (‘lets get a dog/lets not have children’ as opposed to ‘how do I ensnare Mr Right and get married and have babies?’ – I exagerate I admit, but not by much in my experience).
My particular gender identity has been arrived at over years and with a certain amount of self-awareness. I do believe that in general women are much more self-aware than men about their gender role. But that’s a generalisation as my friend with the incredible self-awareness shows. It starts with feminism and the awareness that roles are both set by the expectations of others and the desires and aims of ourselves. For myself I started from the point of view that I wanted to be different and I wanted to shock and I think that’s a good starting point – it’s certainly much easier to take on more traditional/expected roles from an external position than it is to take on new and unexpected ones from a traditional/understood role.
Then there was the lesbian community who taught me how to be femme…and yet I cling to a certain amount of butchiness (a need to hold open doors, a need to pay for the drinks/meal, the diy skills) – a hangover from the lesbian who started out surrounded by straight friends and so felt she had to grab all the non-straight female roles she could? I still chuckle when I discover the occaisional straight male who gets possessive over girls around me – well it’s either that or the poly parts start itching for a soap-box! Through being involved in the lesbian community the feminist start discovered that I could grab at all the femme parts I’d been avoiding like the plague and with the end of my adolescence, start of my early twenties discovered that some of the stuff I’d rejected in my teens was worth another explore. Ahh Lolita!
It’s because I’ve been brought up as a woman in the late 20th/early 21st century that I’m so self-aware about my gender identity and the fact that I can pick and choose it so easily. However, gender identity is not perceived to be a fluid thing by most people, or at least not outside of adolescence and in my experience it tends to be straight women who have chosen the most standard and traditional gender roles who take a quick glance through my resume and treat me as you would a child. This annoys me. A lot of men don’t seem particularly aware of it, they vary between treating me as a woman and ‘just one of the guys’ and then there are the few and far between men and women who get it. The (usually) lesbians to whom I’m ordinary and the self-aware straight guys who will laugh over my desires to be an aunt and talk about the third-gender role I’m thirsting for.