So, I think we all get it by now: that I’m not into labels, I’m a pretty liberal lad, and I embrace all identities of gender and sexuality. The phrase “Gender is a construct!” is something I yell on at least a daily basis. It has become something of a tagline or an inside joke in my a cappella group. (Have I mentioned that I do that? It’s dorky, but yeah. Look us up! Extreme Measures!) Currently in acting class, my friend Josh and I are working on a scene from Taming of the Shrew between Kate and Petruchio. Obviously, I am realizing my dream of playing Kate. Our substitute acting teacher, Robby, (our normal instructor, Cindy Gold, is busy being famous aka making her Goodman premiere) asked me if I am playing the character as a man or a woman. I, being the douchebag that I am, refused to answer the question, insisting that gender did not need to inform the relationship between two people.
Yesterday, my friend, Ella, told me that her older sister refers to her long-term boyfriend as her “partner”. Personally, I love this concept. Why do we feel the need to gender these terms as if they serve different categorical purposes depending on their sex? The function of a boyfriend or a girlfriend is essentially the same. Why do we need to have two different terms?
Here is where this intersects with my life as of late. Allow me to paint you a picture. I am in a room of crowded people. Some of them I recognize, some of them are dear friends, some of them are complete strangers. My gaze lands upon an individual with shaggy hair, soft features, a flannel shirt, and a cute smile. I walk over to introduce myself and do my whole charming, coy, flirtatious routine. After asking several questions about this person’s history, just as I was about to move to the disinterested, your-turn-to-attract-my-attention phase, I said, “I’m sorry, what was your name again?” “Oh, I’m Nora! Nice to meet you!”
DAMMIT. This person was not an effeminate man, but, in fact, a lesbian. Now, I would be lying if I said that this was the first time that this has happened this year. I have encountered this situation a handful of times recently. And each time, I have reacted the same: feeling wildly inappropriate, I drop the game, and distract myself with something else for the remainder of the time we occupy the same space. But why? Didn’t Nora look the same as she did before? Wasn’t I attracted to that physique anyway? What’s the difference between a feminine man and a masculine woman? Is there one? Does it matter?
If any of these questions were posed to me out of context, my immediate retort would be “GENDER IS A CONSTRUCT!” But can I translate this idea into real life? In this situation, am I supposed to ignore this person’s gender? AM I SECRETLY A LESBIAN?!
I have literally no idea how to even think about finding these answers… What is my life? And how have I not taken a gender studies class yet?
Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! Do something freaky for yourself.
Stay hot and keep it messy,