01 August 2005

What womanhood means to me

I've been following some discussions over at the Democracy Cell Project blog, where fellow feminists and matriarchy followers Amy and NonnyO have been making some very thought-provoking (if a bit offensive to some men) comments. From their comments, I've even learned of a new website, Matrifocus, which deals with matriarchal religions and their followers, and made sure to include a link here. As I study and follow the world of feminism and matriarchal belief systems, as well as the world of lesbians, I have to take a moment and assess where I stand.

I've often been accused in the transgender circles of forsaking their community in favor of completely embracing the lesbian identity. And they are right. In the straight world, I've been openly identifying as a lesbian for years without any qualms, whereas I have never dared to even mention, much less discuss, my own transgender background until last November - and even then, only because it was relevant to the political discussions going on. And maybe only because I ended up losing my identity against my will in more recent years; if I had successfully retained my legal identity as a woman, I probably may have never come to discuss my transgender background, even today. With this very unusual background, I start my discussion.

I feel that the whole "butch/femme" dichotomy of the lesbian world fails me. For me, butch is not really an option; to go butch, with masculine haircut and clothing and manners, practically takes me back to manhood, period - a place where I no longer wish to be. The only time I need this is when my against-my-will male IDs are actually required, and I need the corresponding presentation, such as when going overseas, or registering for classes. (I hope to end all this nonsense in the near future.) Otherwise, it's femme as much as possible. Though I don't believe in hyperfemininity (i.e. all those drag queens on the Christian television networks), I do end up doing my entire makeup routine, and wearing a skirt or a dress mostly (with high hemlines often, hence my nickname). Even then though, "masculine" survival skills - such as insisting on changing the oil on my car myself - remain, so I really blur the whole butch/femme idea.

Given that my lesbian and female identity sit on this unusual ground to start with, the meaning of womanhood is a different matter to me. For most women, it's a given, reinforced by their mothers and other role models since birth. That's a luxury I don't have. Everyone has tried so hard to constantly "debunk" and "deny" my womanhood, sometimes using my lesbianism and my "masculine" survival skills as "proof" that I am not really female after all. I have to earn my womanhood the hard way - and sometimes, the hard way ends up not being hard enough. And as for people who say I never gave manhood much of a chance, trust me, I did, and could never make much sense out of it, and besides, never liked it anyway. (When you're a "guy" and buy Sarah McLachlan albums, you definitely look odd in the midst of fellow guys buying Metallica and Van Halen.) Even against this hostility, my female identity has grown and matured, to a point where I cherish and value the nurturing maternal energy, and try to make that my own as much as possible. This is one of the many reasons I have moved away from male-centered Christianity in favor of maternalistic belief systems.

I will continue to hit walls in this brave new world though, I must say. Having been raised in male-centered thought systems all my life, and having lived as a male most of my life, there are bad, old habits of paternalism that will be extremely hard to break. And this male past will ensure that I will have trouble being accepted in many women-only spaces. And my biggest physical handicap will be the inability to experience what most women take for granted - periods, childbirth, and other female physiological phenomena - and that will give me one less common ground to stand on with my new allies.

I think the best I can do is this. Recognizing that there IS some good in male energy (such as being able to take initiative), I will make the best of both worlds. I will not be making good friends with militant man-hater feminists anyway, so no need to even try; they are no different from their male counterparts who put women down at all costs. I need to stick to more holistic feminists who balance both male and female energies to make lives better for all women. These people will rightfully see my own womanhood and feminism as something hard-earned through struggles, and that's going to be the key. These struggles will make me stronger, more mature, and most importantly, more female. I will never let that Y chromosome prevent me from living a fulfilling female life.