Beck, read this. I think this was something you tried to articulate before but I wasn’t quite understanding. I think I do now though.
In reply to this post, Kaz said something very interesting:
I also often feel as if male is seen as a “neutral” gender - e.g. that a neutrois person who wants to be seen as a guy and prefers “he” over “she” is normal, but one who’d rather be seen as female/prefers “she” gets viewed as not…
I’m glad you thought that was interesting enough to discuss! :)
Honestly, I’ve felt pretty rubbed raw by male-as-neutral and how it affects nonbinary identities. I identify as in between female and neutrois (sort of female-ish demineutrois?) and I think that’s probably accurate, but I’m not sure. A lot of the stuff that originally led me to make that conclusion could be boiled down to “I’m not masculine, I can’t be totally neutrois”, “I’d rather be gendered female than male, that means I’m not totally neutrois”, etc. Or “I present too femininely, not androgynously” - well, a lot of what we call “androgynous” is on the masculine side of things. (First hit for “androgynous” on Google Image search? Someone wearing a suit and tie.) A lot of “androgynous” clothing comes from the men’s section. How I present is actually relatively gender-neutral for someone who cannot stand masculinity - jeans, T-shirt and hoodies all the way, I haven’t worn skirts or make-up or heels in years - but it’s not seen that way. I have even had people call me femme, and have only recently been able to put my finger on why that weirds me out.
It hit me when I was reading the blog of a neutrois person I know who wants to be seen as male and is transitioning that I thought their binary-gender-preference was perfectly normal and unremarkable and didn’t invalidate their identity at all - because surely wanting to be seen as male was normal and default, whereas I was just weird and probably not really nonbinary after all. And then I thought about that and went “brain, you are really damn sexist.”
Haha, we should all talk to our brains like that! Indeed, it seems the idea of “male as neutral/default/androgynous” pisses us off, yet it’s everywhere. It’s so engrained in our society and our way of perceiving the world that it’s hard for even us to escape. It will take a lot of unlearning and questioning things that we never thought of questioning to get the message through.
I completely agree with this. I feel that, as a FAAB nonbinary gender-neutral creature I have trouble presenting as my gender and being read as my gender simply because, though my clothing is neutral (emo-kid gothling clothing) it is not masculine enough to get read as neutral.
In contrast, my friend, who is FAAB and gender fluid, has no trouble getting read as androgynyous—they tend to present quite masculine-ly, even with their long hair, and look like an elven prince most of the time.
To me, this feeds back into certain characteristics being normalized in our society. The identities of white, straight cismales to be specific, although I’m sure that there are degrees of normalization to different identities and different combinations of characteristics. Regardless, femme spectrum individuals must contrast themselves with this perceived norm, or perhaps it would be better to say that they are by default contrasted with this perceived norm.
In most regards, it is the male set of thingies (such a marvelous professional term) that is prized—it’s okay for FAABs to wear suits to work because it’s okay for FAABs to aspire to be like MAABs, but it isn’t okay for MAABs to wear skirts because that shit is fucking gay. We’re biased against femininity, period. Do you see how it’s exactly the same level of traditional gender-clothing swapping, but the latter is seen as clearly inappropriate for work?
And so it makes sense to me that masculine would be seen as androgynous though masculine is masculine and by definition NOT androgynous—masculine is the thing to be. Our perceptions of androgyny are less about actual androgyny and more about not presenting as femme.
OH I am LOVING the comments for this post. I bolded some really interesting bits.
Someone else commented this:
sarcasmiccynic answered: What a great topic!It makes me think of how masculine words are neutral in English,such as how man and he can be used to mean all people.
I wanted to add that in Spanish, the “mixed” plural is male (ellos, nosotros), while you only use the female plural for females (ellas, nosotras). Again, this “male as default” permeates many many languages. Interestingly, in German there are three genders: male (der), female (die), neutral (das). But the only pronoun for plural is the female pronoun, die.