This is a guest post by BW reader Jack Kaulfus, who also blogs at www.jackkaulfus.com and teaches writing in Austin, Texas:
I’m out there somewhere on the trans spectrum, socially and politically (by "trans," I mean one who self-identifies as transgender, transsexual, or gender variant). But I've always felt more inclined to identify myself as a woman--even if it means coming out to everybody in a 100 yard radius when the soccer referee insists that my coed team needs another woman on the field to continue the game. This past Tuesday, I was reduced to screaming "I'm a GIRL!" down the field after a short but excruciating "Who’s On First" set between my team captain and the ref. My name is Jack, so that complicates things further.
Every time there is a public misgendering in which I am ultimately perceived as a woman, I sit in the middle of a heated exchange between the proud, transmasculine-identified me (TM) and the proud, queer woman-identified me (QM). The internal dialogue goes something like this:
TM: You’re passing! Awesome. But you aren't really a girl, so you just kind of lied.
QW: That was embarrassing. No one else has to prove she belongs on the field. Maybe you should start a fight.
TM: Well, what did you expect? You have a low voice and a bit of facial hair. The other girls have ponytails. People don’t like to be confused.
QW: F**k other people’s confusion. You don’t have to have a ponytail to be a woman. You’re not trying to deceive anybody.
TM: BTW, studly, this particular binding/uniform shirt combo is really working for you tonight.
QW: You need to talk to that ref after the game--educate her about how to deal with situations like these. You need to explain that policing gender at a sporting event is insulting to every woman here.
TM: It’s her job to make sure people follow the rules. One of which you’re probably breaking because you have more testosterone coursing through your system than some of the guys on the other team. You should transition all the way. Quit waffling. Take responsibility for your own identity.
QW: Yeah. Assuming that mantle of white male privilege is going to be a terrible responsibility. Make sure you’re prepared for the raise in pay and automatic deference to your opinion...
TM: Not all men are alike. You are not like other men.
QW: Not all women are alike. You are not like other women.
TM and QW: I’m glad there will be beer after this game.
The next time the ref was down my way, she apologized. I was prepared to just let it go (like I always do), but then she added that everybody was calling me Jack, so she was confused. I told her that Jack is my name, and then the ball came barreling toward us. Conversation over.
At times like these, authenticity feels like a tiresome luxury. I’m not quite prepared to give it up, but it requires living in a state of near-constant personal revelation. I find myself needing to be prepared to answer for my gender in the strangest places and situations.
I’ve been told many times that it just doesn’t matter--or that it really only matters to me, because I think about it too much. Gender is a social construct. Gender is all in my head. If I could only get past this pesky gender hang-up and live freely as Just Jack, I’d be happier.
But so often, identifying and embodying one easily recognizable gender identity becomes the reason other people feel they should treat me with respect: I’m a girl for my co-ed soccer team, a guy walking through a deserted parking garage, a trans writer who can write with authority about girlhood in America. I could really get behind the idea that it just "doesn’t matter" if I weren’t constantly being asked to make a decision about how my identity fits into the paradigm du jour.
BW note: Thanks to Jack for this great article, as well as Guest Post #3. Read more of Jack's writing at www.jackkaulfus.com. If you're interested in writing a guest post for Butch Wonders, email me here.