Thursday, November 20, 2008


I comment regularly on a political blog under a male identity. I didn't plan on this, I am just bad at coming up with names and my male cat was sitting on the desk batting at me, and so I used his name. He is a lovely boy, btw, and I adore him. But here I am, stuck with a decidedly male identity, so I just decided to stick with it.

I keep all the relevant facts of my life experience intact when commenting, I just, and others just, assume a male persona. So I am a gay man on that blog. A femme gay man. Whoosh. So I have a bf, not a gf, and okay, I sometimes talk about fabric.

What surprises me is how easy it is to assume a different gender identity, and how much more respect I get from other (assumed) male bloggers as a man. When I write one thing on one blog as a man, I get disagreement but respect. When I write the exact same thing on another blog as a woman, I get some trashing for being "too emotional". Who says sexism is dead?

I sometimes flirt sweetly, as I am sometimes wont to do on political blogs, with other bloggers, as a "gay man". Since these are progressive blogs, most straight men are pretty good natured about it, the gay guys will give it back, and the trolls won't answer. Women (or assumed women, I suppose) are very sweet about it. They like gay men who flirt with women, it's a safe way to flirt. I find all this quite mind-boggling and like a spider in my own web, I wonder how long I can maintain the fiction.

There are a couple of women on the site I frequent most whom I believe suspect that I am a woman, because I will often weigh in on feminist issues, on the side of feminists. Certain progressive blogs still contain a significant number of immature men who think using words like "bitch" or "cunt" prove them daring and cutting edge, rather than expose their limited word base as insipid and trite and sexist. I am often one of the very few male personas who weigh in in support of feminists. It is a weird twist in the anonymous internets, and calls into question assumptions about sex and gender. Perhaps this is why younger people whose childhood and teenage game playing may have included the assumption of an avatar of the opposite sex, have more fluid views on gender and on sexuality.

When I was young, I played games like cowboy where I assumed the identity of a gunslinger. Others assumed that meant I was being tomboyish, but I never actually felt as if I wanted to be a boy gunslinger, just a gunslinger who was a girl. I liked powerful figures, and while most powerful archetypes were male, not all were male.

Coming out as a lesbian, at the time I did, one did a lot of flannel and short haircuts. So I mostly dated girls who looked and dressed just like me. Since I am fairly extroverted and confident and funny (I think) in my regular life, I think there was an assumption by some friends that I fell more on the butch side of the spectrum. It took a little while to figure out that while there is a certain urban street look I like for myself (khakis or black pants, soft black tshirts, black ankle boots), there is a femme variety of this kind of dressing that I prefer in my non-work life. But I also wear sweats and sweatshirts at home, or shorts and tshirts, or when I paint (a house sucks up a lot of paint, and there are always more and more places to paint), crappy painting clothes.

When I work, I wear more typically femme clothing, but butchier femme. I rarely wear a dress or jumper or skirt or skirted suit, though I have them. I tend to wear pants (soft cotton. rayon, tencel or something with drape), a casual top (cotton, rayon, tencel or in the summer linen) and a beautiful, often expensive, scarf. I tend to wear scarves like the women's version of a tie. It dresses up outfits, and makes them more "professional". The clothes are comfortable, and I don't have to think about them, or how I sit, or how I will have to move, and I can focus on the work crisis at hand. I do notice that when I am dressed for work (or wear my work topcoat over my casual clothes) I am treated more deferentially by others.

Anyway, it's interesting how easy it is to influence a response based on malleable conditions. As a person of color, as a woman, as a lesbian, I know there are some things that are (for me) unchanging. And I live with the sometimes oppressive responses of an outside world, but it is an eye-opener for me to see how different my life experience could be if I was not who I am.

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