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A Conversation, II                    by: Ann O’Nonymous

 

Jack Carlson sat in the small cafe, playing with a spoon, twirling it around and around on the table, finally, he said, "I’ve got this paper I have to do for a class on human behavior, and I have no idea where to start or even what to write about! I was thinking about something along the lines of gender, but I just don’t know! Where do you start? Is there some references somewhere I can use? And just what is gender!"

Mark Townsend took a sip of the coffee in front of him and asked, "Who’s your Professor?"

"Dr. Sharp! You know, ‘look sharp with Sharp!’ "

Mark replied, "Oh, yeah! Nancy had him a few years back. Okay, what kind of paper do you really want to write."

"What do you mean, what kind of paper1"

"Well, you could write the barest essentials to get a fairly decent mark, or you could go all-out and write an extensive paper with lots of footnotes, citations, and an extensive bibliography that would blow his socks off and that you would, probably, forget in a month. That would impress him! Or, you could write a paper that might really teach you something--it might not be impressive to the good doctor, but who knows!"

"I think I’ll take the third option! After all, I did come here to learn, not impress!"

Mark smiled at that answer. "Okay, can you meet me tonight at my apartment. Still have some appointments I must keep! I might have some ideas that could give you a shove in the right direction. At, say, around seven? My apartment is 3649 Sycamore Terrace, Building C, top floor. I’ll have some cold brewskies waiting and we’ll have a chat. You do know how to get there, don’t you?"

Jack dropped his spoon in his cup, and said, "Okay, sounds good. Yeah, I think so. Out Walker to Pine, left turn on Pine to highway, I forget the number, and at second light make a right turn. It should be about a mile to second light where I make a left. Your apartment complex is a half mile down, across from Fairwinds Shopping Center, isn’t it?"

"Right on the nose! My place is all the way back on the left, the third building! Oh, and bring a tape recorder. You’ll probably need it!" Mark got up to leave, turned back, and said, "I’ll get the check this time, you brought the last!"

Jack knocked at Mark’s door at 6:55 pm., and was promptly greeted with a "Hi, come on in, and I’ll get you a beer!" Jack entered Mark’s apartment, and found a seat on a couch. He set up his recorder and gave it a quick test, stating time, place, date and reason for visit. This area of the apartment was a spartan affair with two chairs, a couch, coffee table and several lamps. Along the wall were several filled bookcases, each about three feet high! He got up and walked around the room, roughly estimating that about four hundred books of various types and sizes resided there, along with some on the floor. "Just how many books do you have," he asked of Mark.

As Mark entered, he said, "I don’t know! Each time I go out, the number seems to rise! Here’s your beer. Grab a seat and let’s talk!"

"Okay, I got my recorder already to go! First, the gender issue--I think I‘d like to explore that some," Jack started, "but where!"

"Well, what is gender! We are born male or female; that is, we have certain ‘features’ about us that define our roles, like mother or father, in the world. We call male and female a sex. In our society, certain things are expecrted for us to be due to our sex. These ‘constraints’ placed on us by the outside society determine our gender role. You are considered either Masculine or Feminine by what you do. As an example, girls play with dolls and boys, toy cars! If the boy plays with dolls, he upsets the role expected for his ‘gender’ and he is considered ‘feminine.’ He could be said to cross a gender barrier; that is, he’s trans-gendered. Here’s a better example: let’s say you, a male, are walking down a road, and you see an upright can, and a person, standing twenty feet away. In this society, females kick cans, peel potatoes and wash their feet before eating1 You say, ‘what the hell,’ and kick the can, sending it soaring. Now the other person sees you kick the can, and thinks ‘it’ kicked the can, therefore ‘it’ is a female, therefore ‘it’ peels potatoes and washes their feet before eating! As you approach the person, they can clearly see you are a male. You are a male, but acted in a ‘feminine’ manner! Now you have them confused, you did not conform to the norms of society! ‘How dare you kick that can, only females do that,’ the person says. The norms of a society make it a cohesive unit, and if you do not conform, you must belong to a different society, therefore an outsider. Because societies are cohesive units, they generally do not tolerate outsiders--’you are different, you don’t belong!’ In some societies, you would be pressured to comform to maintain that cohesion, or you would be cast out!"

"So, what you are saying is that if our sex and gender don’t match, we generally don’t fit in with society! We become outcasts, and try anything to fit in, even to the point of surgery!" Jack paused, took a sip of beer, then said, "But societies do change, and, I guess, gender changes--am I right?"

"I’m not sure. I could say that the gender ‘roles’ change and come to be accepted by society, at large. At one time, housework was considered feminine and factory work masculine. When we went to war, females had to do war-work, so less housework. Now, a lot of males do housework, and females work outside in factories and offices. So, I guess, a new society was created that accepted the changes. There are still certain boundaries between genders. Your paper might explore that topic!"

"I would guess one of those boundaries would be clothes?" Jack started to laugh, "I can just see myself going to school in a skirt!"

"You bring up an interesting point. At one time, unruly boys were made to wear female clothes. It was called ‘Petticoating, or Petticoat Punishment.’ It was effective because a boy did not want to be seen in girl’s dresses. He had to act like a female to escape detection; that is, he had to be sweet and genteel. You might say that it forced him to draw on strengths deep-down to maintain this facade. He had to learn feminine behavior to survive, otherwise he would be an object of laughter and ridicule. A joke, not of his making and so outside of his control! In his own circle, he would now be an outsider! On many occasions, even after the punishment was over, he still retained those feminine mannerisms and didn’t fit in with the boys. And he was still too male to fit in with the girls, so he was, in effect, his own society--fitting in nowhere! In Scotland, one method of punishment was to send a boy to school in a skirt--a kilt without a sporan." Mark smiled at the prospect of seeing Jack’s hairy legs under a skirt!

Jack thought for a moment, started to speak, paused, then said. "I’m not sure, but I think I understand--in order not to be detected, he had to supress male tendencies and bring out his female side. Not fight, walk away. Cry when sad! Walk, talk, have manners like a girl! But, I’m not sure how this makes him stronger!"

"I’m coming to that. How about religion! How does your prof. feel about church and gender?"

"Dr. Sharp isn’t much of a religious man! I think he goes to church once a month.Why do you ask?"

"Okay, here’s a topic you can explore: Religion and Crossdressing!"

"Whoa, dude. That’s a real strange one! What do you mean. Aren’t they kinda opposites--I mean, isn’t there a prohibition against it somewhere in the Bible, Deuteronomy, I think?"

"I think it’s Chapter Twenty-Two, you can look when you get a chance," Mark replied. "Let’s go really far back! This may be something you don’t know!"

"Aren’t we getting a lttle far afield?" Jack remarked!

"Maybe, but let’s give it a try! One of the Creation myths goes something like this: In the beginning, there was Chaos, and it was all around--all was Chaos! And Chaos separated into two: light and dark, time and space, life and death, male and female. And each was part of the other, although separate. Male and Female joined and became one, and from that union came mankind. Even today, you might say that the act of intercourse is an attempt of the male to rejoin with the female to make the One. In many religious ceremonies, the main ritual is a joining of the male and female! In many of the old Pagan societies, man was the hunter--he would go into the woods to get food. The women would stay at home, gathering berries, tending fields, etc The women were the ones who were interested in seeing the crops flourish, as that was a main food source. In time, they learned to observe seasons, see how various plants could act as food, healing, seasoning. They also saw how they were fertile and brought forth new life, just as the land, and developed a female deity worship, a ‘Goddess.’ Males were excluded from worship, possibly because they could not bring forth new life or they were involved elsewhere--rituals to ensure good hunting! Matriarchal worship preceded Patriarchal by many, many years!"

"Can you cut it a little short. I think I get the idea," Jack said, "but what does that have to do with crossdressing?"

"In the very earliest ‘religious’ context, you have female, well, priests serving a female Goddess. Males, to serve, dressed as females to be acceptable to her. This is still shown in many cultures today, males dressed as females to perform as ‘shamans’ because of a belief in a female deity." Mark stopped for a minute, sipped a beer, and continued, "In many religious fertility festivals, this is still done!"

"This is a little rambling, but I think you’ll get the idea!" Mark continued, "Women: soft, weak, gentle, need to be protected. Men: hard, strong, rough, the protector. Chaos separated into male and female, then they joined. The two separate--joined--producing something stronger. The man, stronger, allowed himself to join with the woman, weaker, to produce something stronger than both."

"Oh, I think I get it! People have a duality of nature, we all have male and female in us. Males try to avoid anything that shows softness or a weakness, their female side. If they learn to accept that side of them and integrate it into their personality, they become much stronger for it! Oh, and marriage, a joining together, right!"

"Correct! Each accepting the other --What the Goddess hath joined together--you might try that in your paper!"

"Hey, you know this is getting interesting.," Jack exclaimed, "I’m finding out some things I didn’t know! So, we started with a Matriarchial deity, and now worship a Patriarchial one! And instead of a woman givihg birth, which is natural, we have a man being opened up. I would guess that this is an attempt to reduce the woman’s importance! And now there is prohibition against males dressing as females because of a Biblical injunction against it! Would that be because of the old Pagan practices that Christianity wanted wipe out?"

"Take a look at what some church officers, like bishops, priests, etc., wear today! Tell me that it doesn’t resemble female clothing! There are still many areas where male priests wear female garb! Look at it this way: doesn’t it make sense that if you worship a deity incorporating both sexes, and having neither, that you would try to do the same? And another thought--God made ‘man’ in his own image. If we suppose God to be a genderless being, then wouldn’t ‘man’ be genderless or, having both sexes in him, essentially be genderless? Here’s another thought, God took a rib from Adam--note, a rib, the side--to create Eve. I believe that this is symbolic to mean an equalness between them, neither one leading or following! This idea takes us back to Chaos--one, Adam, making two, Adam and Eve, and joining to make mankind!"

"I never thought of it that way," said Jack. "As I remember it, we were talking last week in class about Transvestism. Someone said that Transvestism is an attempt of the male to reconcile his male side with his female. He dresses to bring the supressed female attributes that he has hidden deep within. Feelings that the male tries to hide but comes forth at times when he does not wish to show them! Wait, I got it! It’s an attempt of the male to go back to Chaos-- the two becoming one! So, this seems to be a way to incorporate both sides! Am I right," he said.

"Let me run something by you and see what you think: You have just been given an award! Now, you stand and make a speach--do you boast or do accept gracefully, humbly, with humility!"

"Humbly, of course," replied Jack.

"Right! You show humility and humble yourself. If you are boastful, you become obnoxious and lower your self! If you show humility, you actually raise yourself in the eyes of others. Okay, try this: women are considered to be lesser creatures," Mark said, with a laugh, "so when a man dresses as a female, he lowers himself to her level. He humiliates himself! But in this humiliation, humbling as it may sound, he actually makes himself stronger! Ever hear the saying: ‘A man never stands taller than when he stoops to help a child.’ Kind of a paradox, isn’t it!"

"Am I to believe that gender is a kind of a paradox?" Jack asked, sounding puzzled.

"Well, in a sense it is. Man makes himself a better man if he becomes more feminine!"

"Well, I’ve got enough of an idea for my paper, but I sure am confused. First, we have sexes, male and female, depending whether you stick in or out. Then, you have gender, which depends on, well, I guess, the way you act in your society . . ."

"No, on the way society perceives you to act! The way you toss a ball, for example--’oh, he throws like a girl’ and he’s a boy who happens to live with three girls! Wouldn’t you learn to throw from them?"

"Yeah, I guess so. But, wait a minute, what about those traits indicative of females, like poor Math skills and good English?"

"That’s a function of how the brain is wired and how they are taught, besides you can read about that! Let’s get back. If society didn’t care what you wore, that you carried a doll to school or you like the smell of perfume then, possibly, ‘gender’ would disappear. You could wear a dress, high heels, have a mustache and beard, and nobody would say a word! Then a man could be soft and gentle, cry when he needs to--he would achieve a total integration of his masculine and feminine sides and have it out in open! Now there’s real freedom for you!"

"Oh, boy! Now I got brain wiring, gender, sex and who knows what else! And I thought this would be easy!"

Mark looked at Jack and said, "You’re talking about humans. There is nothing simple there. And then, male and female--it gets even more complex because you have to consider biology, brain chemistry, environment, society and all the interrelated ramifications of the interactions between. A biological male, of a certain age, with a certain brain chemistry in a mostly female society interacts differently than that same male in a male society. Transvestites interact differently with other Ttransvestites than they do with society at large!"

"Mark, thank you! Now that you have me thoroughly mixed-up, this biological and gendered male is going to go home and take an aspirin!"

"Don’t be too sure about that gendered part!"

 

 

This is, in a sense, a non-TG, non-completed discussion, but I do think some of the ideas presented are relative. At least, I do hope my readers take some of these thoughts and, possibly, explore further some of the ideas presented herein!

Finis--That’s all folks!

Annie O’nonymous

 


2001
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