Updated: Aug 23
We are all born naked. Everything else is drag.
I want to take a concept from sexual orientation and evolve it to relate to gender.
People speak of sexual orientation to describe in part to the people they are sexually attracted too. Heterosexuals (e.g., straight, hetero) are attracted to people differently gendered. Homosexuals (e.g., gay, lesbian) are sexually attracted to same-gendered people. Some people are asexual. These individuals are not sexually attracted to anybody.
For most people their sexuality is a key part of their identity. It is the first thing every dating site asks about (what is your gender and what gendered partner are you seeking). Many people are upset when they are mistaken for a different sexual orientation. Many people experience some amount of emotional pain at the idea that they could lose or change their sexual orientation. Most people are attached to manifesting and expressing their sexuality.
Most people are similarly attached to their gender. It is important to them to be seen as a man or a woman. When you mistake someone for a different gender then they identify with, many people become upset. Call a woman “Sir” or a man “Miss” in a social interaction and many people are upset with this mistake. Most people take pains to express their gender though clothing choices, hair styles, use (or non-use) of make-up, walk, voice, and choice of title. Even the transgendered people I have spoken with are attached to being perceived their desired gender.
We do not have an option for gender identity that is the equivalent of asexual. Personally, I do not have an attachment to my gender. For me, for many, many years now, my gender is wholly performative. I understand that because of my body the world sees me as a woman and it is easier to perform a feminine gender than a masculine.
I have fun with playing with gender. I enjoy things like flouncy skirts, ornate bras and thigh highs. While I am not great at applying make-up, I have a lot of fun applying fake lashes, painting my face, and love a bright lipstick. For me, however, I see applying make-up for work the same way most performers feel about applying stage make-up: it’s part of an act and helps people see the character they are portraying.
Clothes are the same way for me. I know certain parts of femininity carry power. Whenever I would do legislative testimony, I would work the feminine aspect. I wore pencil skirts, five inch stilettos, silk blouses and soft make-up. There was power walking in for testimony manifesting high femme. Especially when a committee was largely male, rocking the stilettos and pencil skirt drew their attention.
For me, my body is just what I have to live in right now. I do not have a heavy attachment to my bits and pieces. Yes, my breasts are amazing. I rock 40 DDs that are in great shape (mostly because I never had kids). But like clothing and make-up, I really see my feminine physical attributes are just one more set in my prop collection.
In my twenties I spent a couple years contemplating living as a trans man. It did not stem from a disconnection with my body and how it looked. It developed from the fact that when I was younger I was commonly mistaken for a man. Living as a man would have made moving through the world easier as I could have benefitted from male privilege.
Ultimately, the commitment to living as a man required too much energy and too many chest binders. I have on occasion dressed extremely masculine to pass in spaces that were very male-centric. Binding my breasts and styling my hair for these forays felt no different than putting on a push-up bra and make-up for when I wanted to be seen as a woman.
Several people have asked what I would do if I woke up and had a male body. Would I feel out of place or loss at not being a woman? I honestly think I would be excited and intrigued at this change. I know I would take a couple of days off to allow me play with my new penis. And I really hope I would be a decently endowed man (I would want my dick to be as impressive as my DDs). I know I would try to beat a friend’s masturbation record of a dozen times in 24 hours.
The more I have spoken to people about gender and their attachment to it, the more I realize that I have no investment in my being a woman. It has nothing to do with not wanting to be a woman or wanting to be a man. I do not care either way. My gender feels to me like having blue eyes. It’s a fact. Some people attach value to this. To me, blue, green, brown or hazel eyes would make no difference to me.
I understand how my body changes the way the world interacts with me and how playing with the manifestations of my gender changes reactions. I do resent the incredible impacts of sexism and anti-woman attitudes on my life. But I feel no need to change my perceived gender. Rather I just accept that I can speak only from my perspective as someone who moves through the world as a woman. It does motivate me to challenge the current system and male privilege. However, I also challenge White privilege and I am White. I challenge ablism and I am not disabled. Benefitting economically and politically from physical characterizes seems deeply wrong on all levels.
I find those of us with no attachment to gender are rare and people find it difficult to understand the fact that I don’t feel this attachment it weird. It seems to parallel the experience reported by people who are asexual and most of society’s inability to understand that there is no sexual desire and attachment.
I am not sure how to explain the detachment from my gender to people who are attached. I know I have never felt like I belong with any single-gendered groups. When I am with a group of women (regardless of their sexual orientations) I feel a little out of place. Same goes when I am with a group of all men. I can code switch and communicate with different gendered groups, but there is not a feeling of camaraderie and feeling that “we have all been through” something because of gender.
For me, RuPaul ultimately captured this detachment with the quote, “We are born naked. Everything else is drag.” Every time I dress as a woman or as a man, I feel like I am getting ready to walk out into the world for my drag performance.