One thing that I’ve been having difficulty coming to terms with during my transition (and, of course, during the several years of torturous self-evaluation and pointless navel-gazing leading up to it) is the whole concept of ‘femininity.’ Now, of course, it seems that the naive* view that most people have of transgenderism works something like this: there is a one dimensional spectrum of gender, running between Rambo at the far masculine extreme and Glinda the Good Witch at the far feminine extreme; genetic males who move too far towards the feminine end of the spectrum get enveloped by it, and end up transitioning into women (and, presumably, vice versa, although people don’t generally tell me their unsolicited opinions of transmen then way that they do of transwomen). Thus, many people (including myself, for the longest of times) have had difficulty understanding my decision, as I do not map neatly onto this context.
Ultimately, the resolution that I decided upon was that it was necessary to distinguish between ‘femininity’ (which is and always has been largely a social construct) and ‘being female’ which is something which is in some sense intrinsic to a person (though whether this is some artefact of brain chemistry, or socialization, or perhaps even of the soul itself I do not pretend to understand). Thus, even though I do not, in general, have interests that could be termed ‘feminine,**’ I know that I remain a woman.
I am, however, excited at the prospect of experimenting with my femininity, now that I openly acknowledge my womanhood***; I have had my ears pierced, and I am even trying (so far without success, alas) to find a way to incorporate the colour pink into my wardrobe without offending my sense of aesthetics. One course along which this exploration has taken place (as I have noted in the past) is in the domain of exercise. I had never before realised, for example, just how liberating dance actually is, and as far as I’m concerned, the more ‘feminine’ the exercise, the better. Towards that end, one of Nominatissima’s friends recommended to me an exercise program called “felinity” According to the description available on the website:
“Using techniques from dance, yoga and pilates, the core feminine movement workout helps you discover YOUR OWN natural movement and appreciate your femininity.”
Which all sounds good. So what, exactly, is felinity? In practice, it is the art and science of ‘exotic dancing:’ an activity more commonly (though inaccurately) referred to as ‘stripping.’
Now, please understand, I’m not making any sort of value judgement here; I have nothing against exotic dance and admire the skill and athleticism of women who are capable of making money doing it. I even look forward to trying felinity at some point****. But the reason that I am bringing it up here is because I feel that it is indicative of a very interesting point; namely, that our culture’s conception of “femininity” seems to have an irreducibly sexualized quality to it, which is simply not inherent to conceptions of masculinity. Now, of course, you could just as easily bring-up, for example, any testosterone-soaked, muscles-and-knives action movie from the 1980s as a couterpoint, but my point remains: it is possible to be ‘masculine’ without necessarily sexualizing yourself, but it seems, at the very least, to be much more difficult to be ‘feminine’ without do so. Being as I am an asexual woman, this should be an interesting experience for me.
*I don’t mean ‘naive’ in any sort of pejorative sense; rather I just mean it in the sense of being the hypothesis that gets made before any specific research is undertaken.
**Or masculine, for that matter; my interests have always been gender-neutral for the most part.
***I was never interested in exploring my masculinity back when I still lived as a man, but this is only because I was not a man.
****For example, if decent-sized workouts are ever put up for free on YouTube, or if I ever happen to acquire a pole.