Here I sit, at my kitchen table, reading a profile of author Mary Renault by David Mendelsohn from a New Yorker that arrived during a poor concentration period -
From the start, she seems to have been searching for an ideal boy protagonist, a fictional reflection of an inner identity. In all her work, boyishness is an unequivocally positive quality – even, or perhaps especially, in women.
This post marks the third time (parts one and two) I’ve written about gender identity/expression/etc., so apologies if it’s redundant, but I’m constantly searching for a way to define my gender expression beyond saying, “I’m an adult tomboy.”
I grew up with two brothers, the younger of whom is my great friend. Until about age 10, I was friends with mostly boys. I played sports. I felt (and feel) uncomfortable around discussions of boys, fashions, makeups, hairs and nails.
Between ages 6-9, there were times in school when asked to form lines by gender and I would hesitate, not because I felt like I belonged in the boys’ line but because I didn’t quite feel like I belonged in either line.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed my own identity but it still doesn’t quite seem to fit in any category: I’m neither transgender nor gay – I am a straight lady…but that doesn’t quite feel right either.
Mendelsohn’s description of Renault hit me because I used to write in a primarily male voice – it wasn’t until a few years ago that my first-person narrators became primarily female. It wasn’t a conscious decision, just something that developed in the writing…something that developed as I developed more comfort with myself.
But like any good identity crisis, I want “a people” with whom to identify. That’s partially the reason that I’ve kept up blogging this long – I feel comfortable among this WordPress community (thanks, all!) For the broken brain bit, you are my people.
Much of my social anxiety is rooted in this spectre of gender identity/expression – I don’t feel like I fit anywhere. I don’t feel like a regular person (and no, I can’t seem to define that better).
I can’t necessarily describe how or why I’m different…because ultimately, I’m not different. No one fits squarely into a box and I get the sense that I’m overreacting. But there’s always the voice that saying, “You’re right. No one fits squarely into a box, but at least they can pick a box. You are homeless.”
Because I’m homeless, I’ve also developed the sense that I shouldn’t want and don’t deserve things typical of my gender: relationship, offspring, structure, tradition. Even if I were to want these things (and I genuinely wonder whether or not I do), it’s not in the cards for me because I don’t fit.
Until I can place a dot on the gender identity/expression spectrum, I won’t have a people there – frankly, until I come up with a way to define, describe, or analogize my thoughts I won’t have a people.