Sunday, September 08, 2013
For me, gender identity was a nuanced subject as I grew up, with a moral overtone
I just wanted to jot down a note or reminiscence of my own impression of gender identity when I was a boy, back in the 1950’s.
I felt like I was being pressured to defer to the needs of women and girls and protect them, long before I could understand what purpose that expectation meant.
I was not able to compete well with other boys in physical activities, so I found that expectation humiliating.
Why, I wondered, was I less important than “them”?
It seemed that men and boys were fungible and expendable. For example, they could be conscripted or drafted and maimed in war, long before they were old enough to become husbands and fathers themselves.
Of course, I did not fully understand the social biology of it all. I can remember times when my parents told the “truth” about “Santa Claus”, the “Easter Bunny”, and the “stork”. I had no concept of what it was like for a woman to go through a pregnancy and deliver a baby. I had no idea that in previous generations women had taken their own risks and often died doing so.
It seemed that only women were to be admired for physical beauty while men were to be rough-housed and hazed. The parameters of female beauty seemed to be arbitrary and sometimes artificial, as with the shaving of legs. Men’s physical features were not supposed to be noticed or mentioned.
One of the enticing ideas in the gay male community was that men could also be valued for “beauty” (a frightening idea in old days to straight men). This seemed more line with much of nature, such as with many birds. It seemed that avoidance of this topic was seen as a reassuring way to give lagging males “a chance” (at reproduction) after all.
Even though I was envious of the attention women got, I really did not want to be one. This is different from the psychological experience many male-female transgendered people profess. I admired “virile” men and wished I could have been more like them. Virility itself seemed fragile.
I got the impression that biological males who failed to perform like males (even starting out in boyhood, with group or team sports) were leaving the risk-taking and dirty work for others to do, and in a sense cheating the system. So I grew up with the idea of fidelity to gender roles as a moral issue.