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02 July, 2009

Figuring Gender

I'm eight months pregnant and I finally figured out why it's so weird to me.

I commented the other day to a friend that my gender identity fluxes between 'none of the above' and 'yes'. It also biases to some flavor of 'female', I suspect because I'm cissexual. But under normal circumstances that bias is ... a bias, something that tints a bunch of presentations and adoptions that I think of and experience as some form of neutral, androgynous, epicene, or fey and reflects them out as female, which really doesn't bother me particularly, because it's just a tint, not a major shift.

Under normal circumstances, my body is my ally in this. It is thin, small-breasted, perhaps on the tall side, and I can specifically tell when it is moving in a manner that genders strongly female. The fact that my hair is ass-length does not mean that I have not been sirred from behind. The sort of neutral fluidity of my normal feelings about my gender can be smoothly expressed with my normal body.

One of the things with gender expression is the way that a part of it exists in the liminal space between my experience and others' perceptions. And it's there that the weirdness comes in.

Because no matter how I feel right now, my body screams female. (Even in a post-Thomas Beattie world. His moustache is rather more noticeable than mine.) I don't have the option of fluidity and flux, the normal slight shifts in how I present and feel that reflect my inner understandings of the lability of gender.

Because even if my pelvis were't tilted to shove my ass out as if I were wearing heels, even if one of my breasts weren't a Breast of Unusual (For Me) Size, even if I could walk without rolling of hips induced by the pregnancy waddle and favoring the pains in unmentionable places, I am twice as thick as I used to be, and it's all belly. That normally-approaching-neutral body of mine has no subtleties to mask the obviousness of my cis-woman status; I have no thickness to reduce the impact of the pregnancy.

That space between my feelings about how I am and the rest of the world is swamped with this figure that pins me down to a particular external perception of my gender that no longer can be affected by what's in my head right now. There's too much blatant baby there, and it's not just because I'm starting to feel it in my knees that I'm locked in. Whether or not I like it, whether or not I feel this way right now, I'm Presenting As A Woman - and further, a specific kind of woman.

And there have been times that it's been okay. Times that I've rattled around looking for a nice shirt that fits over the epic curve of that unsubtleness and declared that I was tired of feeling frumpy (as I've spent much of the last while in pyjamas and t-shirts, because they fit and don't require effort); but those times don't last long, and then I drift out of them again, into a spacce where the options are even more limited because all of the stuff in my head fits in a body without a baby in it.

And it's something I chose to do, and it's something I will almost certainly choose to do again, but when I do it again I'll at least know that I. Will. Feel. So. Weird. Weird and thrown a little out of myself, because my body won't do what I am properly anymore.

Somehow I don't think this is what most people are talking about when they stress about their figures during pregnancy.

4 comments:

Aqua, of the Questioners said...

What you're describing is not exactly what I've been thinking, but very very close, right down to Thomas Beattie. And it was so good to hear you describe something near the place I'm in, I figure it might be nice for you to know that in return.

Orlando C. said...

Y'know, over here with the small haploid cells, I can't really relate. But I wanted to throw something your way....

Throughout the later middle ages, the Western European construction of female beauty was pregnancy--big breasts, big belly, swayback stance. And this was completely normalized. Just the way that in comic books today, all women just happen to have massive breasts, in art from this era, all women are pregnant. Including...drumroll...virgins. So in lots of hagiographies from this era, St. Whatsis the Virgin Whatnot is depicted as being about eight months pregnant, because pregancy = feminine beauty and saints are supposed to be beautiful.

I'm stalling here while I try to figure out how this relates to your post.

Oh yes. The visual signifier of being pregnant might read as female, these days, but it's worth noting that it hasn't always. It used to mean "good looking," at least in art. And weird and patriarchal as that is, at least it suggests the malleability of these symbols.

Just something to holler at your pregnant body when you aren't feeling particular female...

devastatingyet said...

I know this is slightly silly and kind of off topic, but I am really excited about your impending baby :-) From afar.

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