Okay so this is one thing thats been discussed on and off, how is it that I define masculine and feminine? I had a crack at it in January and while I pretty much stand by that definition it was pretty stand offish in a way.
At the core of it however masculinity and femininity are feelings, things that I learnt about subconsciously when I was younger. Initially I suspect that I had all the concepts bundled up, so to feel masculine was to be doing things that I felt brought me together with a group of men, it was experiences that helped bond us together, similarly initially to feel feminine was to be doing something that I felt bonded me with another woman.
But over time I started to be able to tease out these different definitions, and its more now about what happens that makes me feel connected to that feeling, that energy, regardless of who else is doing it, or how it was socially coded. To me masculinity is that feeling of being – that I first got by doing things with men, but I don’t have to do with any observers other than myself. I also found pretty early on that there were women who could do masculine flavoured things and bond in the same, or possibly just a similar way, and still be women.
Classically of course I should say that nurturing roles made me feel feminine and proactive and physical roles made me feel masculine, but of course its really not that simple as you all know. In many ways I’ve found that I can do things from one role, but do it in the another way of feeling, or I won’t know how doing something with a group of others will make me feel.
Now avoiding endless biographical speculation about cues that build up over time to create us (If people want to hear about the million tiny incidents that convinced me I have TEH TRANZ then I’ve extensively crawled my own brain, talk to me and its bound to spill out) I can randomly discuss a few examples.
The interesting times are when you do something with a group who all code it one way, and connect with that feeling, but you don’t as that can create an interesting group dynamic. The most humorous example of this I’ve done is the infamous case of “Queering up a gazebo” which is an anecdote I enjoy telling :)
So I attended a barbecue at which I wasn’t out, it was pretty obviously gender divided in the prep work, women were off making food and mostly salad happen, doing all the table setting, etc.etc. Anyway I got snagged by a bunch of men who were enjoying a beer and erecting a couple of gazebo, and of course they wanted me to help being as it was pretty large, lots of fabric and long poles.
Now of course at this point I’d been doing shed loads of iaido, and wasn’t on hormones and guessing from the age and physical appearance of the other guys and the way they were handling stuff I was probably the strongest and in some ways buffest person there (not hard being the youngest by a good way). So it wasn’t about the physicality of the thing – it was about the energy of it.
But while they were all clearly connected to doing this in a masculine way, it was something I could feel but that day I was clearly embodying being something else (Feminine? Queerly mixed and different?), so I helped them out but watching their reactions and body language towards me was fascinating. At first they were accepting, but something wasn’t quite right in my portrayal of being masculine that day and I clearly failed some kind of subtle body-language or social cue because they were just a bit off and weirded out by me, whereas I was more amused by their reaction that clearly they couldn’t understand what was going on, and I had no idea what it was that I’d done to trigger it (or I’d do it more often), and then I skipped off to help make salad happen leaving them to their perplexity.
Many activities tend to be big enough that they can be done in either which way really, Iaido is a good example for this because parts of it felt feminine to me, or made me feel feminine – and parts of it felt masculine to me, additionally there was definitely a bonding with men as someone socially perceived as male. If I get the chance to go back I’ll miss that, it was nice, and simple at least one the surface (subconsciously it tended to twist me up badly at times) and I know that when I return I’ll be going back not just as a woman but as a trans woman, possibly totally outside from their group and it may be a struggle to find a way to reconnect with that vibe, or may get social pressure to reconnect as male.
I find dressing and dancing are other really interesting ones. Dancing for me started as a more masculine act, at The Alex, with loud music, gentle moshing and head banging, but once I started going to the Phoenix club for Dark side I’ve found it was a fantastic way to both tune into my body and also tune it in in a feminine way which was just a lovely feeling. Clothing is a classic, and while wearing female coded things usually makes me feel feminine, a good suit and a bit of gliding and swish can feel like a very male way of expressing femininity.
Edit: Oh yeah and sometimes the weirdest things can make me feel feminine and also female. Being as I’m tall for a girl, but short for a guy if I’m over in central stores looking at noms for 11ses then reaching up on tiptoes to get kiwi fruit is something I always find oddly feminine feeling. I have no idea why beyond emphasising my shortness, and also meaning I need to stretch, feeling the different shape of my body. This is oddly one of those things that feels feminine and female. Anyway, thats pretty random :)
So yeah, a rough theory of a description – that connection to the feeling I first got through group bonding – and some examples.