On Femininity

A friend of mine, who identifies along the transgendered spectrum, wrote in a recent piece that he intends to physically transition in the next year or so. I have been aware to some extent about his progress in that direction (and have a love and affection for him that is, as I have told him, "outside of gender," something I really can't say about anyone else I have known) but for some reason this timestamp, this statement that he's not just going to float about in the middle between genders, has thrown me for a loop.

I think it is because it comes crashing up against recent understandings I've come to have about my personal affiliation with femininity and its role in my artwork.

I've never considered myself particularly feminine. An only child to a father who I suspect would have been much more comfortable having a son, I was raised somewhat like a son. Not to say that he denied my being a girl, but we bonded via power tools. He is the reason that I have an extensive power tool collection today. My mother raised me pretty gender-neutrally as well -- I suspect that, in her mind, being a girl child equated to a very painful experience, so she was conscious not to pass that on.

Jump forward to the current day, my artwork is arguably one of my most feminine expressions of self. Lots of pink, and flesh, and sexuality. Looking at the subject matter itself, it's very much about the physical component of being female: female genitalia, breasts, the consequences inherent in a uterus (birth, cramps, blood). Only sometimes does it break past the purely physical into something bordering on societal: excessiveness versus voluptuousness (fat is a very culturally baggage-laden subject, especially where it intersects with the feminine); the binding or hanging of the flesh, which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, whether gendered, relating to the 'human condition,' socio-economic, emotional, etc.

A work in progress. Ostensibly having to do with the heart, but just as much (for me, at least) about menstrual cramps and the sort of reoccurring, copious blood that is part of the female experience.

So now, mentally juxtaposing our two versions of femininity, my friend's and mine, I don't know what to make of it. His wardrobe is far more feminine than mine; my sense of femininity is mostly related to the anatomy over which I had no choice in being given. Like if you could blend us up and edit out the incongruous parts, we could be a 'complete woman' in both gender expression and biological senses.

Maybe I shouldn't make anything of it. Maybe that's the point of all this, to show me how irrelevant these culturally-loaded terms can become in the face of very real personal experience. How diverse personal experiences really are, and how insufficient language is to express them in their fullness and nuances.

But this friend of mine would probably have something to say about that -- he is a writer, after all.