This Women’s History Month, I’m Sick of Gender
by E.B. Bartels
Post originally appeared on Wellesley Underground on March 8, 2013.
It’s Women’s History Month, and I love it. I was born a woman, I have lived my whole life as a woman, I come from a family of strong, independent, take-nobody’s-shit women, I went to all-girls school from fourth to eighth grade, I went to a women’s college, and then I taught at an all-girls school in Boston for two years. Clearly, I think women are pretty damn great.
But this March, I’ve had it with women. I’ve had it with men too. I’ve had it with gender in general. It’s not that I am over women’s issues – I will call out grad school classmates on sexist phrasing in their essays, I will become enraged about gender stereotypes, I will feel guilt for cattily hating on Anne Hathaway – but I am sick of how obsessed everyone is with gender and sexuality.
I came to this sentiment after reading a friend-of-a-friend’s article in Vice called “Lesbians No Longer” (http://www.vice.com/read/lesbians-no-longer) about a cis-female, Sadie, who is dating transman Marco. The writer, Lilly O’Donnell, recently had a different version of the article published in the “First Person” column in the March 2013 issue of Marie Claire UK. While I have yet to get ahold of a copy of the British magazine, I’ve been told that the Marie Claire article is made up entirely of quotes by Sadie, edited and arranged by O’Donnell, and the title is the quote: “My Boyfriend Used To Be My Girlfriend.” I think that O’Donnell is a talented writer, and I appreciate that she has made a long-taboo subject readily available in the supermarket magazine section.
But that does not change the fact that I am fed up with the subject matter. Why does it matter that your boyfriend used to be your girlfriend? Why can’t your boyfriend just be your boyfriend? Why can’t your boyfriend be your partner or your lover? Why does your boyfriend need a gender at all?
In the Vice article, Sadie describes herself as a “failed lesbian” because every woman she has slept with is in the process of transitioning to male. Marco talks about the way men shake hands and fail to give compliments. The article adds that Marco and Sadie mourn Erica, Marco’s identity before transitioning, as if she were a friend who passed away. While the trans experience is different for every individual, and some want nothing more than to put their opposite-gendered past behind them, one’s gender should not define one’s person. Inside Marco, Erica is still there on some level. While O’Donnell’s article describes very real and difficult things that Sadie and Marco have to deal with being a cis-female/trans-male couple in a society obsessed with gender binaries, I hate that they are put in such categories at all.
I know I am being idealistic, and perhaps I feel more intensely about this subject because I went to Wellesley and because my best friend is a transman. Growing up together, he always defied the stereotypes of a typical girl, and as a man, he continues to break the norms of a straight male by dancing to Robyn and swooning over Benedict Cumberbatch. He feels more comfortable now using male pronouns and being flat chested, but our society forced him to choose one or the other. Why are we all so fixated on how we identify our genders and sexualities? Why can’t we let our pasts go? Why do we need to pick apart how we act and to whom we are attracted and try to figure out what it all means? Life is too short to spend so much time analyzing.
I filled out a health survey the other day for my graduate school, and I was given three options to identify my sexuality: heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual. I sighed and frowned. Where was the pansexual button? Where was the asexual box? Where was the I-slept-with-some-girls-in-college-but-am-into-boys-now-mostly box? I shrugged and checked “bisexual,” because, in the end, who cares? It shouldn’t matter at all.
When my best friend came out as trans to his girlfriend, she had the reaction that I wish everyone in the world would have. She didn’t care about having to explain that she was “no longer a lesbian.” She didn’t give a shit about what pronouns she would have to use to describe her live-in significant other. Fuck the gender, she loved the person.