Monday, April 27, 2015

Man, I Feel Like a Woman (?)

I've been following the story of Bruce Jenner coming out as transgender with a changing perspective, from distant bemusement to more serious introspection.  

On one hand, it just seems weird. I mean, the concept of men who see themselves as women has been one of those things that lurk about the edges of our culture. Men dressing as women is seen as a lark, to be played for laughs, like "Some Like It Hot" or "Bosom Buddies". Or those "pageants" that schools or churches will have to raise money for charity. Oh, look at the poor school principal or the church pastor having to do a song in a dress and tights; that is so funny! 

Or its a form of deviancy indulged in by men hanging out in bars and nightclubs off the beaten path from regular society. 

On the other hand, what if it's not just a joke? What if its not just a deviancy? And that's what Bruce Jenner's revelation has forced a lot of people to confront. 

 "For all intents and purposes, I am a woman," Bruce Jenner said in his interview with Diane Sawyer on Friday night. "People look at me differently. They see you as this macho male, but my heart and my soul and everything that I do in life it is part of me, that female side is part of me. That's who I am."

The matter of fact nature that Bruce approaches this topic is a bit disconcerting. Here is a man who calmly expresses that he feels more like a woman than a man. Suddenly the concept of gender identity moves from farce to truth, from strange to...well, a bit less strange.  

I'm a guy and I'm straight. I'm attracted to women. Yet I've never been a guy's guy. I tend to find myself in the company of women more than men. I actually feel more comfortable with women than men. While I have the tendency of most men to look at life as a zero sum equation with a logical conclusion, I also have a tendency to factor in emotional considerations as well. Of course this is playing into broad stereotypes of male and female behavior that are not always evidenced across the board. Yet my own observations of male and female behavior have witnessed a tendency towards those general directions for men and women. 

I used to joke about being a lesbian trapped in a man's body. The basis of that was the idea of being attracted to women while having the "misfortune" of being a decidedly less than trendy straight male. I stopped making that joke when I realized that this could actually be a thing for some people. You know, some people like Bruce Jenner. 

While identifying as a woman, Jenner said he is "sexually attracted to women." Which really throws a monkey wrench in a lot of our preconceptions of what it means to be a man or a woman. For a lot of people, it's a black or white thing, a matter of biology: one has a penis and one has a vagina. The truth that Bruce Jenner is leading us to come to terms with is that its more than a matter of the physical parts we possess. It's more of a state of mind, of how we think. 

No, I am not wrapping up this blog post with a dramatic revelation that I see myself as a woman. No, I'm too lazy to deal with all this body hair. But I think the lesson that I can take from this, that all of us can take from this, is that we are some much more than a binary choice between Column A or Column B. Yeah, it can make the world a more confusing place perhaps.But it makes things a bit more interesting. And better yet, it makes things a bit more true to who we really are.  

Everyone, be good to one another.  

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