December 11th, 2004

agent 99

educate me, por favor!

I don't think that anyone here needs anymore convincing that gender is separate from biological sex, that it can be performed, that it is completely separate from sexual attraction, etc. Yay us!

But my question, or maybe issue slash sticking point is that, despite that knowledge, I feel like I continue to be trapped (in my thinking) in the binary of masculine/feminine, male/female. In other words, I understand that gender is performed/constructed, but my imagined range of constructed gender options is a linear gradient from a Platonic ideal of masculine to a Platonic ideal of feminine. Independently, I understand that even though I can talk about a Platonic ideal of masculinity, that the very concept of masculinity is socially constructed and is really only an assemblage of traits associated with typical, or normative male-sexed members of a particular society at a particular time and place. (i.e. European masculinity c. 1970 will be much different than Micronesian masculinity c. 1670).

Yet still it is with this binary of terms that I gender myself. Sure I can grab one from the masculine column, two from the feminine column, add a dash of irony, etc. to result in a more complex identity than just "feminine" or "masculine," but still these are the building blocks -- the phonemes -- of my gender construction, and personally, I feel quite limited by them.

I guess what I'm interested in hearing (aside from general discussion, which I am also excited to hear), are alternative schema that people have constructed from which to construct their gender identities. For example, the earlier (excellent) conversations differentiating drag and gender performativity got me thinking about the variety of masculinities that one can embrace, and how they are in no means intrinsic to each other. That is, that one can be "tough" but not "providing," if that makes sense.

As I started to get at before, obviously the concepts of masculinity and femininity can be broken down into reveal a collection of attributes that we have come to associate with one or the other. I.e. masculinity = tough+providing+responsible+hairy+...What I'm wondering is how these traits can get regrouped to form alternate terms that could serve as the new/additional building blocks of gender construction -- other Platonic ideals of gender identity aside from masculine/feminine, which would allow for a broader imagined spectrum of individual gender constructions.

Perhaps one question to start with is, could the term queer be seen this way? Can it be a *gender* identity that operates outside the binary of masculine/feminine, or is "queer" still dependent on male/female, masculine/feminine distinctions? Since I'm positing these gender phonemes (masculine/feminine) as historically and societally specific, another question (for those who answered no to the first question) would be, could the word queer ever become a third term?

Oh and yes, I realize that the answer might just indeed be that gender is so obviously a linguistic concept, and that language, by definition, operates through binaries, and therefore we are stuck with masculine/feminine and nothing outside and that the point is look at all the variation that gets produced inbetween. But I just thought I'd give it one last shot at looking for something else.