“Is you a boy or a girl?” I have been asked this question several times by young children. While, I doubt very few of them- if any actual think I am a boy, the question is more about my lack of adherence to their “image” of what a woman looks like.
My hair is cut low and my clothes might not always emphasize my feminine features. I never get mad or upset when children ask me this question, since usually it’s out of curiosity. However, what does annoy me is being CALLED (different from asking) a boy or any type of male. As a child I detested being called a tomboy. Even now it irks when children who don’t fit others perception of what a “girl” is supposed to be or like or whatever is called a tomboy. Or currently in certain communities the term “boi”, has gained popularity for more masculine gender-queer/ androgynous people. My friends have trouble understanding how and why “Oh, Tab you are such a cute boi”- highly upsets. Yeah, I joke about looking like a 12- year old boy, but those are jokes. The gender that I identify with is “woman”, no matter what I am wearing or who I am dating that’s what I am- a woman, so to be called a “boi” even by friends is to me calling me out my name and associating me with something I do not identify with. Simone de Beauvoir famously said “One is not born a woman, but becomes one”, this quote was further popularized by Judith Butler in theorization of gender. It speaks to that fact that gender is not a biological fact rather it is a construction. Whereas sex: male or female can be considered a biological fact; which is why people can be born a certain biological sex, yet identify with another gender or no gender at all. . Yeah, it’s kind of tricky but you don’t have to agree with me about this. Knowing how strongly I feel about my gender identity and the power of being called or haled something you do not identify with I can’t imagine what Caster Semenya had to go through.
If you can recall Caster was the South African runner who was “gender” came into question after she won the 800m World Championship in Berlin in 2009. Her gender as well as her sex became a subject of debate around the world. Was she biological male or female? If she was female, why did she look so masculine? Why didn’t she wear “girls” clothes? Is she gay? Does she take testosterone? Is she intersex? Are just some questions that surrounded her. At some point she got a make-over, but did a dress make her more of a woman then she was before?
Caster story is fascinating to me…who decides what makes a woman? This woman had an 11- month investigation launched about her gender. I just get questions from children. To her grandmother who changed her diapers as a baby, to her friends, to her community, to herself she’s a woman…yet it took a whole organization and 11-months for a decision to be made regarding was she woman, enough. If you have time I would strongly encourage to watch this documentary made about Caster by the BBC. It was filmed during the 11- month wait to receive the results of her “gender” testing. After hearing so much about Caster, it is refreshing to hear from her. It also opens up dialogue on the construction of gender in today’s society, as well as the gender inequalities in sports. Anyway, the doc is dope and I think I might have low key crush on Caster. I admire her strength and her courage. Watch it. I promise it is worth your time.
I would like to ask what makes you a “woman” or a “man”? Is it dictated by your clothes, your attitude, you’re sexual organs? What is it?
~ Just Tab