Monday, April 1, 2013

"We're All Women..."

Hello, readers! I'm voluntarily spending my spring break (well, semi-voluntarily, I guess) collecting data for a research project. I'm far away from NYC, and I've been adjusting to life in my shared hostel room. It's been really pleasant so far, and all of the other guests I'm sharing this room with have been nice and pretty respectful. It's about as good a situation as you could hope for.

Something weird happened, though, while I've been here. I was slumped down on my bottom-bunk bed, in my shitty pajamas with my laptop on my lap, watching Netflix before passing out for the evening. (As I do.) My roommate noticed me all huddled up my my computer, and said to me, "I'm going to offer you some unsolicited advice. I hear it's not good to keep your computer on your lap like that because you could get cancer in your ovaries." I just kind of stared at her. This was partly because I had missed some of what she'd said; I had headphones in, and by the time I registered she was speaking to me at all, and then and pulled them out, I was still processing what she'd said after she'd finished. Second, I was thinking the obvious: "I don't HAVE ovaries."

Still not settled on how I would respond, she spoke again. "I'm sorry, it's none of my business. But we're all women, right?"

"Um, yeah," I said. I waited a few seconds, not sure if I would respond further. I was thinking about how antisocial my response already was. "Thanks." End discussion.

I knew that she was coming from a good place. But I couldn't help but be kind of haunted by what she'd said - "we're all women, right?" It felt like the epitome of one thing I've been coming to terms with nearly all my life - that there's only men and women, and I am clearly a woman. And by virtue of being a woman, my body looks like x, y, and z, and I should feel like a, b, and c, and identify as 1, 2, and 3, and I end up feeling all W, T, F.

Sometimes it's hard to live in a world where no space exists for you. But there's an added layer of not-belonging when the world doesn't even seem to know that who you are COULD exist at all. You live and you breathe and you are what you are and you're not hiding it, and yet somehow, people lives their whole lives without ever knowing that something so essential to your identity and your daily life is even a thing.

And that feels shitty.

That being said, when situations like this occur, it's not just a reminder that who you are is largely invisible, but that by virtue of being made invisible by how others read you, you can't just correct them and assert who you are without having to jump through a hoop and put yourself out on a limb and have to think about whether you're safe and assess whether you have the energy to have The Conversation tonight. Because you if you assert yourself, it's not very likely they'll know what you're talking about, and that is okay, but sometimes, you just want to be able to be who you are and be who you are out loud without having to give a definition and an explanation and host a question & answer session.

Sometimes you just want to be able to be yourself, and have that be understood, and taken at face value.

And that's it.

It makes me sad when these moments happen, because it's not like if I could go back in time, I would do anything differently. If I could grab a TARDIS and backtrack to last night, I wouldn't open my mouth when I hadn't before. I wasn't comfortable talking about everything the first time, and I wouldn't have chosen to talk about all those things in that case, either. It just makes me frustrated that I live in a world where I can't say who I am and be understood. There's a big knowledge gap that people like us exist, and the communication barrier that ensues in situations like this are kind of demoralizing sometimes.

Now, I know I'm not being quite fair. Most people don't know that intersex people exist. Hell, most people aren't familiar with sex and gender theory enough to know that not all women have ovaries, and not everyone who has ovaries identifies as a woman. Someone who looks outwardly female is most likely going to be sexed & gendered female, and is assumed to have all the body parts and gender things associated with being female. Most people who look like me do have ovaries.

I just happen to be one of the people that doesn't. And I want there to be room for me, too. I don't want to have to sweep my identity under the rug because it's unknown or not considered.

I want to be me.

And that is not something unreasonable to want, or to think I should have.

I just also have to accept that it's not in the public consciousness, and that it will take time to get there. That's part of why I talk about intersex - I want people to know that we exist.

Someday, if I have a similar conversation I want to be able to give them a good-nature sidelong glance, and a grin, and say, "Well, it doesn't really matter, I don't have those anyway." And it won't be this weird thing, and I'll be understood and I could go back to watching old TV shows on Netflix and the event would be so unremarkable I wouldn't even think twice about it.

But it's gonna be a while before we get there.

Someday. I hope that happens.



  1. I know I'm reeeallly late to this post, but I've just found your blog... So sorry about that ^^" But I just had to say, as a queer, and genderfluid person, I can relate to this. People say things offhandedly all the time, having no idea that they're erasing who I am. And I'm so sorry that things are this way, that almost everyone assumes that woman = these body parts and these chromosomes and NOTHING ELSE, to the point where it's automatic, where they say things like that without a second thought. I wish things would hurry up and change for the better, already. Hopefully it will happen soon... I think awesome people like you who blog about it and generally raise awareness help a lot ^_^ So keep going! You're really helping out a lot of people, just by speaking truth.

  2. Thanks so much! Yes, I think people in marginalized groups' identities are so often erased when [x people, identities] are not on someone's radar. Things will get better with more awareness-raising work...

    Thanks for reading. :)