Human Beings are constantly growing, evolving, changing and redefining who we are and how we act.  The expression of gender is one of those changing characteristics.  When we are very young no one has to train us on how to express our gender.  We just do, and we are very good at it.   If you step outside of the publicly accepted gender expression for the sex you were born, then there are consequences to pay.

That is when the harsh training begins.  These lessons can be physically brutal and painfully humiliating.  The little tomboy girls are cute, but only up to a point.  Then we must “grow up” and act right and proper.  The little sissy boys are never cute.  We are always creepy and mostly beaten to “shape up” and “fly right.”

The reason for the rigid rules of expression comes mainly from our current definitions about what it means to be a woman or a man.  Each of these come with different costumes, mannerism, language and hygiene.  Very rarely do these acceptably overlap, and when they do it is the result of brave souls and long suffering.

Women Lead, Men Follow

An early photo of a Wigan Pit Brow girl who wore trousers under their skirts to work the coal mines

Wigan Pit Brow Woman

Women have always taken the lead on these redefinitions.  From the Wigan Pit Brow girls who wore trousers under their skirts to work the coal mines outside of Manchester England to the women working the farms on the western expansion in the US;  these women worked hard, never lost their womanhood and provided the models for further redefinitions of their gender expression.

Voting, ownership of property and smoking were once thought to be an exclusive male attribute.  The growing Women’s suffrage movement led to a greater desire for equality in society with men.  Once again, these were seen as further redefining woman.

The women entering the workforce during World War II were building the planes, ships and heavy armor wearing men’s trousers and work shirts.  “Rosie the Riveter” depicted a strong woman with a can do attitude.  This was a source of pride for the home front and never once was she considered mannish or scandalized.

Fast forward to today and many of the gains made by the women of the past are common place.  The whole “what does it mean to be a woman” debate has move away from the narrow dictates of costume, and women are once again fighting against the imposed boundaries.  The Radical Feminist movement has taken up the challenge and are using social media, womyn only spaces and festivals to spread their ideas.

The RadFem’s fight against the notion that the terms sex and gender are interchangeable.  One’s sex is one’s sex, and gender is a social construct that is imposed by society at large.  Womyn should be able to express themselves openly and comfortably without self-policing their gender traits.  “Anatomy is Destiny,” to quote a famous misogynist Siegmund Freud.

A particular RemFem blog called Gender Trender points out what it believes are the problems and false logic of transgender/transsexual folk.  This blogger is an equal opportunity writer who lambast both Male to Female and Female to Male transitioners.  I believe that the owner of this site genuinely seeks to enlighten and help the very people they ridicule.   Whether they succeed or not is up to the readers.

The reason I bring this site up in my post is that a couple of comments to the post FTM’s in their own words: How to Behave Male on the blog Gender Trender points out what these womyn are doing to help redefine woman.

FeistyAmazon Says: November 5, 2011 at 9:40 pm

” … Well, if I came out now instead of in 1981, I would be going down THE SAME ROAD! Cuz I chopped off my hair, wore more androgynous/men’s clothes (well I always have when I could get away with it with my family) did Full Contact karate (the only female in the whole dojo to do so), and had many different ‘masculine’ behaviors because they simply couldn’t domesticate me or femme me up. And they had me in therapy too.

I just didn’t ‘fit in’, not until I came out as a Dyke on campus with womyn PROUD to be Dykes, Lesbians, Butches, Feminists, and most of all FEMALE! THEN I had a place… I’ve ALWAYS crossed my legs in the male manner. I’ve ALWAYS had a strong handshake! Nobody taught me these things..they were innate to my character and to my taking up space! You get on a bus with me, not just my size taking up space, but by my body language I take up space, cuz I dont’ purse my lips together, don’t hold my hands close to my body, and I don’t cross at the ankles! I’ve been doing this stuff FOR YEARS! … “

Kittybarber Says: November 5, 2011 at 11:07 pm

“I Knew from the time I was about 5 that I was different than most of the girls I knew. And when I saw something about Christine Jorgenson,(?) I thought that I would have to get this sex change thing so that I could live the life I wanted. Until saw a copy of the Berkeley Barb, with lesbians on the front page, marching together in power–and I knew I’d found my people. Lesbian feminism saved me from all of that. There is no doubt in my mind.

As a dyke, I worked construction, on a track repair crew for Chicago Northwestern R.R., in auto repair, you name it. I made way more money than most womyn I knew, and I did it well. At 5’4″ and about 120 lbs then, I was all muscle,too; I kept up, did the job, and won the respect of most of the men I worked with. It was hard, but it was good for me. I always lived as an out dyke, even in the 70′s in small-town high school, and paid dearly for it at times, but I could hold my head up and be proud of what I did and who I was. I knew that we could do anything, and set out to prove it.

I do not understand this FTM business, but it makes me sad and a little sick, and I wonder what drives it, and why on earth THAT is somehow better than being a lesbian. I do not get it…and it’s not as if we didn’t do what we could to set a good example, and to make the world an easier place for our younger counterparts. This has got to stop. I am pretty sure that given a few more years, these girls will regret what they have done to their bodies, their brains, and to their lives. Then what?”

These strong womyn in their way worked hard and suffered the consequences for expanding the definition of a woman.  They are proud of their sex and their gender expression.  They do not claim to be men nor do they intend to invade male segregated spaces.

The RadFem’s do not believe that anyone should be allowed to change their physical sexual characteristics.  While I disagree with that notion, I do believe that there are too many sex change procedures being performed.  Though the cost for these procedures are not cheap, the access to them is too easy.  Many lives (not all) are ruined.

The reality is that there are some people who are born with conditions that need to be corrected with surgery.  That should always have serious and difficult criteria for consideration.  This is not a game.  I am one of those people who did go through the necessary hoops and gatekeeper to correct my condition.

Time for Men to step up

A man enjoying a facial

A man enjoying a facial

I will not be the first to point this out, and I hope I’m not the last, but it is time for men to step up and redefine their “what does it mean to be a man.”  Far too long have men fought a losing battle to maintain their closely guarded rules for costumes, mannerism, language and hygiene.  They should learn from the example of the women of the past and present to expand their understanding of themselves and the changing world.

Just like the women who risked their lives to express themselves, men need to do the same.  They need to stop excommunicating anyone from the company of men for trying to live outside the rigid rules of behavior.  There are men who are comfortable wearing dresses, makeup and heels.  There are men who are stay at home dad’s.  There are men who care about community welfare and justice.  There are men who love other men.  These men should never be asked to revoke their manhood.  These men are not women.  They should not be forced to believe that they are women to be comfortable in themselves.

The idea that anything that doesn’t fit into the narrow definition of “man” must be a woman must fall by the wayside.  It is up to the men who feel different to fight for there right to exist.  They should not be afraid to enter into male segregated spaces and fear for their safety.  These men who do step up to the struggle should not be relegated to using the women’s spaces just to make the other men feel comfortable.  Just as woman have worked to redefine themselves, men need to redefine themselves.