Ten years ago, the then-editor in chief of this very magazine declared himself to be post-gay. He was also soon, perhaps not coincidentally, declared post-editor.
So its with a little hesitation (I have two mortgages) that Im using this trans issue to declare myself post-gender.
From this day forward Im not going to use the words masculine, feminine, or any of their derivations. Theyre meaningless, useless, and far too often meant as weapons rather than compliments.
Over the years, Ive been introduced as everything from a former drag queen (correct) to an it (on a conservative radio show). Its true that I spent a good part of my 20s wearing heels and wigs. Its also true that Ive spent a good deal of my 30s sporting a beard and receding hairline. But truest of all is that people are far more obsessed with this duality than I ever was.
Dont get me wrong, Ive exploited gender identity every chance Ive gotten. In my work life Ive butched it up for corporate meetings and femmed it up when I needed to appear artsy. Ive been called effeminate, masculine, nelly, straight-acting, and even -- shudder -- matronly. From the first time I used my costume to pick up a straight guy at a club to the first time I used my exdrag queen status to draw mainstream PR attention to my writing, Ive been an avowed gender legerdemainist.
Maybe the fact that Ive straddled the spectrum of man and woman (sometimes literally) makes me more skeptical of the definition of each. Straight or gay, most humans define their gender by their genitalia and what they prefer to do with it. Many are obsessed with it. Hands down, the most oft-asked question of drag queens is Where do you put your dick? My answer, of course: Wherever the hell you want it.
My penis has a fairly extensive rsum. Its slept with other drag queens and been fondled by butch lesbians. It has orgasmed both in and out of womens panties -- often someplace halfway between. Although its been a long time, my penis at one time made itself at home in vaginas -- and it doesnt remember it to be at all unpleasurable. It has been jerked off to straight porn and offered to straight jerks. None of my peniss accomplishments or failures make me less of a man or more of a woman, or more manly or less femmy. They just make me a person very happy to live in an age of antibiotics.
Ive found that pretty much the only people who dont define themselves and others by their genitalia are trans people. Probably because theyve spent more than a passing minute contemplating the existence of their hoo-has and ha-hoos.
So if its not our crotches and their playgrounds that define masculinity and femininity, what is it? This is where time as a drag queen pays off. Ive learned that the dick does not make the man -- or the woman -- the performance does. Having the smoothest tuck on the planet means nothing without the moves and mind-set.
And thats where many problems of a gender-obsessed society lie. We tend to ascribe gender terms to aspects of our day-to-day performances that have nothing, in actuality, to do with gender at all. We describe the ability to share feelings as feminine. We label forthrightness as masculine. Are you empathetic? Youre a woman. Strong-willed? A man. Unless youre a bitch.
We gays are often the worst offenders. We bristle when straights consider us just one of the girls, yet we have no problem insisting upon no fems in our personal ads. And what is our definition of fem? Lisping? Think of all the women you know. Do any of them lisp? We sometimes stoop to come up with artificial constructs merely to be sure that we can put everyone, including our own queer selves, into a comfortably binary world.
Attaching behaviors to gender just doesnt work. As I look at all the men and women and trans people in my life, I honestly cannot pick out any behavioral trend that doesnt cross borders as easily as some of us cross-dress.
So Im done with it. Im post-gender. Let other people worry about whether Im fem, manly, queeny, butch, whatever. Im tired of my day-to-day performance being presented as a sort of cultural quiz show: Name That Chromosome.
Then again, maybe Im just emo.