In Iron Pentacle class, we explored the point of Self. Part of this involved stripping away all our roles. Wife, mother, daughter, entrepreneur, witch, scientist, lesbian, bisexual, poly, and so on and so forth. Stripping it all away to see what Self is underneath. Who am I when I’m not being myself for someone else?
All of a sudden, WHOA. I realized that “female” is yet another role. People feel like it’s an intrinsic part of themselves, and in some sense they’re right, otherwise there’d be no transgender people, but in another sense it’s not true at all.
Take me, for instance.
Six years ago, I identified as male. There I was, boy Pace, bopping along, doing my thing. I have friends, I have girlfriends, I have a job.
Then *BOOM* something hits me, I have a massive gender avalanche, and now I identify as female. So I take steps to shift my body and my gender role from male to female.
There, look! I said “gender role”. It has “role” in it. Gender is a role!
It’s a mask we put on when we interact with people. It’s a set of assumptions and scripts about how we expect others to act and how we’re expected to act. For instance, when I was wearing the boy mask, I went to the men’s bathroom and it wasn’t okay to chat with other fellow bathroomers. Now, when I’m wearing the girl mask, I go into the women’s bathroom and it is okay to chat with my co-bathroomians.
Male and female are roles that we play.
Whether it’s socially okay for me to talk in the bathroom has nothing to do with my Self. But whether I’m happier playing that role versus playing a male role does have something to do with my Self. One is comfortable for me, and one was unimaginably uncomfortable for me.
When I transitioned from male to female, everyone started treating me differently, because I was switching gender roles, and roles tell people how to treat you. But I was basically the same person. In other people’s heads, there was this switch that got flipped. One day, I’m boy Pace, and the next day, I’m girl Pace. But from my point of view, one day I’m me, and the next day I’m still me. My core sense of self didn’t change when I changed my gender role.
One day, I’m having heterosexual sex with my girlfriend. The next day, I’m having lesbian sex with my girlfriend. Same girlfriend, pretty much the same me, and kinda-different-but-not-entirely-different sex, but the labels change as if I had crossed a huge chasm.
It’s like clothes.
I can wear bellbottoms or I can wear slacks. On any given day, whether I’m wearing bellbottoms or slacks doesn’t change who I am. My pants don’t define me. Heh. That would be a pretty funny thing to say out of context, so I’ll say it again.
My pants don’t define me.
But I do have a fashion sense, and what I prefer to wear is part of my Self. So if I really really prefer bellbottoms to slacks, I’ll change, even if it costs $30,000 and is very physically and emotionally painful. (;
This metaphor is silly.
Pants are easy to change and gender role isn’t. But I hope you get my point. That there’s a difference between your core Self and the roles that you play. And that a lot of things you might take for granted as part of your Self, like for instance “I’m male” or “I’m female”, might be, at least partially, just roles.
People are people.
Before I transitioned, when I’d meet someone, I’d immediately say to myself either “I’ve just met a man” or “I’ve just met a woman.”
Now I say to myself “I’ve just met a person.”
Because when you get down to it, past all the stereotypes and all the bullshit, people are people.
Okay. I’m done talking now. Your turn.
What roles do you play in your life?
Which parts of yourself are core parts of your Self, and which parts of yourself are just masks that you take on and off?