Miles of Isles

ripples[The title is an homage to Joni Mitchell…]

I was inspired to write this particular blog-thing by an article where a panel were [was? bloody grammar] asked the questions What’s the Difference Between Genderqueer and Genderfluid? and I found myself thinking about the nature of genderfluidity.

I’ve written recently about my sense of gender identity as an archipelago of small islands in the sea of me. The general consensus about genderfluid (at least in the article linked to above, but I’ve heard this said elsewhere too) is that it means that one’s gender identity is not static, but dynamic – that it moves around over time.

I wonder.

I’m not presuming to define anyone else’s experience, but I do wonder. In my case, I used to think of my gender identity as wandering about or being multiple or something like that, but I’ve more recently seen it as being aspects of a larger sense of me, with my attention more on one aspect or another over time. So I have an island of womanliness, an island of androgyny, an island of transmanliness, and so on.

In my case, there’s been a process of integration going on, and earlier my aspects appeared more like disparate discrete selves, since there was no connexion or communication between them, no whole made. Now I feel more like I’m holding them all in a bigger pair of my being’s hands, kind of introducing them to each other, urging them to get along.

And this sense of “there are separate things to bring together” feels artificially stimulated by my upbringing, my social and cultural conditioning. Why do we see these aspects of ourselves as being separate and unconnected (and often in conflict)?

All of the available language to talk about gender (and sexuality, for that matter) presumes, depends on, an assumption of binary, static points as opposed to a continuum – even the terms created to combat that have to exist in relation to the existence of that in the first place, so it’s endemic.

People (including ourselves) want to know “what we are” – they want us to label ourselves (as we want to label ourselves) because of a belief that this will tell them (us) who we are – because of a belief that identity is a separate and static phenomenon. But it’s not. Our identity changes all the time, in relation to others and our environment, and in relation to our experience of ourselves. This can be frightening, or fun.

(I really want a teeshirt that says I’m not the man I once was)

All I’m really getting at here is that fluid presupposes static, and that’s a dodgy supposition.

Here’s pretty much my favourite Joni Mitchell song, coincidentally from Miles Of Aisles, coincidentally somehow about this very subject.

I’ll try to keep myself open up to you
It gets easier and easier to do
Just like Jericho
Let those walls come tumbling down
Let them fall right to the ground

Let all these dogs go running free
The wild and the gentle dogs
Kennelled in me


2 comments on “Miles of Isles

  1. April says:

    In the second between clicking ‘comment’ and arriving here I begin to wonder if this comment deserves its own post, if only for verbosity…anyway.

    Yes! People want to know what we are in so many simplistic ways. And this set of questions is actually called ‘small talk’, as if there’s anything small about someone’s identity. As if there’s any way you can find out who another person is during an elevator ride or in line at the grocery store. We spend our entire lives learning our own identities. If anyone can briefly sum that up and leave me with a true understanding of who they really are, I’ll either admire their wordcraft forever or dismiss them as shallow, neither or which will do justice to them as a whole person. Although one is definitely more flattering.

    Or maybe, being an introvert, I just despise small talk. 🙂

    More likely, as a person, I find myself unable to approve of labels any more essential than a diabetic bracelet. It’s like that argument against standardized testing and cubbyholing a child’s potential.

    Hey, thanks for writing this and making me think as soon as I woke up today.

    • womandrogyne says:

      Thanks for responding. I’m really fascinated by this fascination with labels (which I sometimes share) – especially among the young, I notice. Younger trans* folk seem obsessed with micro-labelling what they are and aren’t. Perhaps it’s a function of trying to make sense of your gender identity (alongside still establishing your identity as a whole) in a world that’s still largely telling you you shouldn’t exist in the first place.

      I’ve been very lucky to fall in with a crowd of younger trans* folk who are friends of uncertainty and open-endedness when it comes to identity – and it’s no coincidence that they’re way kinder to each other than most folk on the internet.

      I notice that the more I settle into my truer self, the less compulsion I feel to define or label it. That sounds kind of pretentious now I’ve written it, but there you go :). But it suggests to me that a desire for pinned-down labels rests on a sense of insecurity. In me, at least!

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