My mother’s gendered socialisation was harsh; and her mother’s, and hers before. The more I reflect on their lives, the more I understand behaviour I was confused by as a child.
In stark contrast, my father’s socialisation gave him the sense of open horizons, and he struggles to comprehend how we can’t just ‘get over’ multiple incidences of discrimination, sexual harassment and assault. He’s a kind man with a willingness to understand, but his imagination/empathy fails him.
All things considered, I’m happy enough to have been socialised as a female human, although I can’t really know how it might have been otherwise. As much as I’ve complained about things I’ve missed, there was a lot of good. I’ve learned to respect and listen to women and girls, for instance, and I’ve seen for myself that women-only spaces are important.
That said, women-only spaces aren’t necessarily ‘safe’. They simply offer an opportunity for women and girls to discover who they are in those environments. Nor are women ‘safe’. I was stalked by a woman and gaslit by another. Some of my female employers were nightmares, and I’ve worked in places where women were sexually and verbally harassed by straight cis women. Then there was the pregnant female dentist who yelled so much, despite my disclosure of anxiety, that I cried and never returned. This was all while I presented as female and was socially accepted as such. I’m not saying they were worse than the males, but you can see my point.
The queer community is also rife with addiction and domestic violence, just like the rest of the population. I’ve known lesbians who drew a crowd in the street with their nightly violent arguments, and others whose controlling behaviours were legend. So I have no illusions of defiling the community with my defection to the ‘dark side,’ as some characterise it. And I no longer access women-only spaces. I know that I don’t belong there. Trans women do, of course.
Today’s post was prompted by an online review of Greta Gerwig’s interpretation of Little Women (sorry, I’ve lost the link). In it the author focuses on the marriage-averse character of Jo, and talks of the satisfying nature of female-centric experiences. It reminded me of my Lesbian Years.
A cis male friend periodically ribs me about how little ‘classic’ (white male) 1990s rock music I’m familiar with. I have to keep reminding him that during that decade, my partner (an older lesbian), had been educating me in lesbian and women-centric music. We’d also lived without a TV for most of this decade. Apart from occasional male music on national radio, I’d been immersed in the sounds of Hinemoana Baker, Phranc, Judy Small, Indigo Girls, Margaret Roadknight, Meshell Ndegeocello, Ferron, Emma Paki, kd lang, Robyn Archer, Renee Geyer, Melissa Etheridge, Tracy Chapman, Lucie Blue Tremblay, Moana and the Moahunters, Alix Dobkin, Joan Armatrading, Meg Christian, Topp Twins, Cris Williamson, Karen Hunter, Alanis Morissette, Bic Runga, Ani Diffranco, Mahinarangi Tocker, Two Nice Girls… and so on. Here’s a sampler of lesbian love songs.
The other night I was several songs into a compilation of ‘Aussie Hits,’ before wondering what the heck was wrong with it. I turned back to the list of artists and realised I’d heard only one female voice, and she was in a duo. Who compiles these things, I wondered. Who decided that sausages were the quintessential artists? I found this list of others they could have included.
Jen Cloher wrote a piece in Medium apologising for inadvertently excluding and hurting trans and non-binary people with her song, Falling Clouds. I’m not among those who felt hurt because I’ve spent a lifetime making the mental adjustments. Instead, I heard the gist of her message and celebrated her ongoing success. Her apology was appreciated though, and it struck me how often I would like to hear it from others. My respect for her increased in that moment.
I’m due for my hormone shot and feel different. I can sense the low T (testosterone) and imbalance of E. I run better on a higher T level. It’s a four-monthly reminder of how things used to be and how hormones affect my sense of self, of perspective, of wellbeing.
I recently asked a younger trans guy about his feelings on being perceived as a gentle kind of man. Sometimes people think he’s gay, he said, and that’s ok. He would prefer that to trying to become a stereotypically Aussie bloke. He was not socialised as a male after all, and while he’s actively learning certain things, there are aspects he’d rather not. There’s a rich middle ground between femininity and toxic masculinity to explore. He said he’d initially gone over the top with macho nonsense, trying to adopt certain behaviour that would help him be accepted as male. Then he recalled what it was like to be on the other side of that behaviour. He realised he’d rather be himself and to have women feel comfortable around him.
Sometimes I just love my community. 🙂