Gender benders

Just the other day I was talking to my best friend about a thesis he’d written back in his university days many years ago. He had focused on homosexuality and the concept of gender versus sexuality. Another friend joined in the conversation and asked us what the difference was between the two. We both explained that gender is something you can choose; sexuality is not. What followed was a fascinating conversation about masculinity and femininity and the constraints that society imposes on us about who we SHOULD be, according to our sex (male or female), which is purely biological.

Literally the next day I opened up my Facebook and Yahoo Mail account to find the news about Ruby Rose, an Australian model, DJ and TV show host who is the latest star in the American TV show, ‘Orange Is the New Black.’

Now Ruby came out as gay when she was just 12 years old, but what I didn’t know (and indeed, most other people didn’t know), was that she had recently also opened up about her gender battle. The article didn’t specifically mention this; it simply had her new video of a song called, ‘Break Free’ (which was actually released in Australia last year, but only became known in American recently). The video features her transformation from typical, ‘girly-girl’ to a tattooed young woman with cropped hair, a suit and attitude to match. Big deal, you say. That could be a lot of women these days. True, but most don’t favor binding/taping their breasts and wearing a strap-on penis.

The video had such a profound effect on me that I immediately sent it to my best friend and then sat down to write this post. What I found utterly inspiring is that there are such courageous people in this world who challenge society’s concepts that are so restrictive and often damaging to people who don’t feel that they fit into these categories. For example a woman who is biologically female, but who chooses to dress as a man because she feels most comfortable like that. In other words, gender is more about your identity as a person than anything biological.

Many people would say the jury is still out on sexuality as being biological versus societal, but what can be said is that you can’t choose it. It’s not like fashion where you can choose what to wear in the morning. “Hmm, today I think I’ll be gay.”

Despite the differences between sexuality and gender, what IS similar is that we are all on a spectrum. With sexuality you have gay people, others who are bisexual and those who are clearly heterosexual. You also have the same thing with gender in that some people are clearly female or feminine; others are male or masculine, while some swing between the two depending on their mood and life experiences. Let me just say too, that being a lesbian does not necessarily make you more masculine, nor does being gay mean you are more feminine. This is strictly related to gender! Of course, I must also point out that choosing to dress as a man despite being biologically female does not mean you are a lesbian!

As for my personal preferences… I’m a fan of being who you really are and not who someone else tells you that you should be. In my life I’ve dated girls, I’ve had a girlfriend and I’ve dressed in a very androgynous way. I am biologically female and sometimes I like dressing as a ‘girly-girl,’ but I don’t feel pressured to HAVE to act that way. I am completely comfortable with who I am and I don’t tend to think too much about any of these ‘labels’ anymore. I’m just happy being me.

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