Diary of a Darklady
Gender Fuck Confusion
I don’t “get” gender. I never have.
When I was but a tiny Darklady, my hair was cut into a short “pixie” style and I was given a gender-neutral nickname. It was a derivative of my very female, very Catholic legal name and its use didn’t last long, although my maternal grandfather took it seriously enough that he painted it on my very first toy chest, which I still have. I was, by all accounts, a bright, inquisitive, friendly, active, adventurous, but well-mannered child. Although my life was dominated by role models providing me with exceptionally “traditional” examples of daily living, I lived a surprisingly gender role free personal existence. I wore dresses when it was time to wear dresses and I wore trousers when it was time to wear trousers. I played with trucks and I played with dolls. I wore the label of “girl” with a casual, even indifferent comfort. I knew that girls supposedly did some things more/less often than boys did, but I never felt limited by what others did, regardless of their sex. I wanted to be a dancer, a teacher, a writer, a nurse, a nun, an astronaut… So androgynous was I at the age of four, that when I searched for my parents in a grocery store, I was identified as a “little boy” over the PA, thus confusing my parents when they realized I was missing.
Nobody mistakes me for a boy now, although I have been informed that women don’t act/think/write like I do. In spite of my 42C bra size and accompanying lingerie fetish I’ve been told by one gentleman who’s never met me that I suffer from a “gender identification problem” and probably prefer to be identified as male. Given that I call myself “Darklady” I can’t see how that final accusation can be taken at all seriously. Although I disagree that I have any problem identifying archetypical roles and behavior, I will agree that I have a problem with being limited by gender, since I self-define as a person and an individual. Everything else is a cascade of descriptive modifiers that further clarify the main noun that is “me.”
People often use the words “sex” and “gender” interchangeably, which is probably one of the reasons that I have a problem with the latter. The fact that people commonly assume there are only two biological sexes further complicates the issue. It seems to me that gender, when used properly as a term, refers to behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits that generally associated with one of the two most common sexes (known as “male” and “female”). It’s a social short cut word and the conclusions drawn from its use can change as behaviors change. For instance, when I was in elementary school, girls were not allowed to wear trousers – not even on snow days. Trousers were “boys’ clothes” and thus inappropriate for girls who were to be raised properly. Today there are very few girls or women who do not own a pair of denim jeans, stretch pants, slacks, pants, leggings, or trousers of some sort, including shorts. Skirts, on the other hand, have had a harder time crossing the biological sex line, although kilts, sarongs, and Utilikilts (http://www.utilikilt.com) are becoming more common, thus pushing the cultural line further from immediately identifying a skirt-like garment as being exclusively appropriate for females.
Perhaps it’s my personal unwillingness to be limited by concepts of gender that attracts so many cross-dressers and transsexuals. I’m fascinated by human diversity and especially fascinated by those who accidentally or intentionally deviate from the narrow definition of what is acceptable. I’m largely indifferent about whether or not a person chooses to follow traditional gender roles. My interests are in why each person makes the choices that they make, the process by which they make decisions and, ultimately, the person themselves and how they live with the results of their decisions.
That’s one of the reasons why I hung on every word spoken by the tall, slim cross-dresser in the black beaded dress as we smoked and joked in the chill autumn air, talking about politics and social justice, how we never thought we’d look back at the presidencies of Ronald Reagan or Richard Nixon fondly, how we fear for the future of our nation and the world. As she spoke solemnly, pausing briefly to wrap her heavily painted lips around her smoking device and reflectively exhale into the night, I realized that I’d never seen her out of her female “drag,” just as she had never seen me outside of my Darklady “drag.” Our late night conversation provided me with a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of the person behind the false eyelashes and big hair. It was such a different experience from my night at the Rose Court’s (http://www.rosecourt.org) Coronation celebration, where I carried the leather pride flag for Blackout Leather Productions (http://www.blackoutleather.org). On that evening, flash, sparkle, and standing on ceremony were unquestionably the name of the game.
I think most everyone has dreams of being special in some way and many a child imagines being a fairytale royal. When my fantasies have gone in that direction, I’ve always been content to imagine myself as a princess of some sort, although I’ve never felt tall or delicate enough to fit the traditional storybook paradigm. I’ve not necessarily wanted to be rescued, though. Instead, I’ve wanted to fight the forces of evil while looking great in a kind of a tomboy femme way. My night at Coronation assured me that there are little boys throughout the United States and Canada who dream of being a princess complete with rhinestone crown; elaborate gems at ear, neck, and wrist; opulent gown; and glamorous title. Everywhere I looked were amazing characters bigger than life and twice as fascinating. Chinese dragon ladies with lacquered chopsticks in their hair, amazing impressions of famous stars, smoldering Latinas imperious beneath their towering tiaras, and sultry divas flirting languidly amidst a thick cloud of feathers; they were everywhere.
There were moments when I felt drab by comparison in my sleek black velvet with drop sleeves and plunging neckline – and it was a delightful sensation. For a short while I felt like a child again, looking up at a magnificent parade of magical adults, many of whom could have been either boys or girls and none of whom cared much which sex any of us was or what gender role we chose to take on.
Now that I can “get.”