A colleague, close friend, she's going to be our "Best Man" at our wedding. If she gets married, (more likely), I get to be "Maid of Honor." No, we're NOT intending to wear a Bride's Maid Dress . . . dresses don't work for me. Technically, or perhaps sartorially, a lot of women shouldn't wear dresses. Janet Reno comes to mind.
But we digress . . .
This colleague loaned me Anne Fausto-Sterling "Sexing the Body"
And this introduction launched me into reading Dr. Judith Butler, Ph.D. -- UC Berkeley, "Gender Theory" -- "Gender Trouble, 1990" and anything else on her vitae . . . (Let's note here that ALL these titles are available online, PDF format.)
Butler introduced me to the term "hetero-normative dyad" -- fundamentally cis-F and cis-M having intercourse, and producing progeny, marriage, pair bonding, rose covered cottages, white picket fences . . . mortgage in the suburbs, PTA . . .
Butler is radical feminist, candidly dislikes the phallus. And she brings a complex, textually impenetrable, narrative to the discourse encompassing sex, gender, gender presentation, non-hetero-normative behaviors, the hegemony of psychiatry and the medical establishment vis-a-vis transition.
We read Janice Raymond, "Transsexual Empire (1979) -- actually got banned from a "Trans" site for linking it, attempting to discuss/critique. Some of us evidently don't grasp the theoretical rationale behind the First Amendment and free expression amongst an informed audience.
Of course Raymond jumps on Blanchard's "autogynephillia" bandwagon a bit. "Trans men (MtF) are NOT women, are interlopers, spies, lacking the female ontological baggage, etc." And we can debate these assertions until we swap chromosomal distribution. What Raymond DOES concede, or assert is that gender is culturally bound and we need -- as a culture -- to open options for everyone with respect to sex-role stereotypes and their implicit prohibitions.
And so, in the course of the reading, theorizing -- Gender Critical Theory draws from Literary Critical Theory, most directly from the [French] Post-Structuralists and this is our academic field -- we've come to deconstruct for ourselves the fixed parameters of sex and gender.
We've been successful at dropping a good deal of the "cis-M" clothing features and now mostly present as clearly cis-M (Men's Restroom), addressed as "sir" . . . But, ironically, most of the clothing we choose has "women's" labels . . . Erika, Dress Barn, Gloria Vanderbilt, but also Old Navy, Target, Khol's . . . Pacific NW, and living on the coast, the style is called "beach casual" locally. Basically "uni-sex" styles, shorts, jackets, tank tops, sandals, walking shoes.
Interestingly, and all to the issue that I raise about clothing, fetish, and gender segregation -- We've stopped sorting our clothing according to gender tags. Now we wear what works for us, regardless of labels/tags. Being 5'10" 220 lbs, lace, frills, delicates don't much work. Skirts/dresses don't work.
Important to realize here that I don't "present en femme" -- We're not a "femme" sort of person. Most of my cis-F associates are not "femme" sorts of people. Let's note that Dr. Judith Butler, Ph.D. typically wears black T, black sport coat (women's), short hair, presents pretty "male" although obviously cis-F. We present obviously cis-M, but sartorially "gender neutral" or "uni-sex."
Now, of late we're realizing that we have "transitioned" in some sense, although we still present "cis-M" -- The radical feminist critic in me likes very much pushing on gender margins. We used to pack our "stuff" in a sport vest -- lotsa pockets like a fishing vest. Also it's very cis-M, We swapped it out for a "purse." The purse is a laptop bag for a tablet. Works very nicely as a "purse" -- uni-sex, gender ambiguous.
Hair past the shoulders, never had hair this long. Tied back, in a bun, or free flowing. Got the lobes pierced a year ago Halloween, having waited about 65 yrs. Then a second piercing for Thanksgiving, a third for New Year. We're a bit OCD, tend to accumulate stuff, like wardrobe and earrings. We've been making earrings -- very much like tying flies and making trolling lures. We have probably a thousand earrings. Let's note that there are "mens" earrings, "womens" earrings, and classic styles that are sort of gender neutral (hoops and studs). We push this boundary -- hard!
We've discovered that cis-F wear tank tops as a sort of bra function. But also, it's very practical, comfortable to wear tank tops as a layer, long sleeve T, and button shirt over, unbuttoned, sleeves rolled back.
We found shorts that are actually "culottes" -- wide leg which works like a skirt. They're cut A-Line like a skirt, but present like baggy shorts. Dark blue, heavier fabric, no "frills."
Cargo pants -- marked "Women's" but uni-sex style. Women's pants have smaller pockets, placket on the fly opens to the left. (Men's open to right.) Typically no rear pockets in women's pants, or the rear pocket is flap closure and a "detail" more than a pocket. Legs on a lot of these pants feature tie for rolling up "out of the water." (Beach pants!)
Let's talk button plackets, clothing and gender. The closure in a shirt or pants is called a "placket" and in men's clothing it opens to the right. In women's clothing the placket opens to the left. The fashion reason for this distinction stems from women in the past being dressed and buttoned up by their "Lady in Waiting." Men dress themselves and button their own buttons. And so women's placket is intended to button by someone else. Men's placket is intended to button by the wearer. (Note too that MOST women's pants/shorts have "men's" fly/placket. Cis-women seem to like wearing "boy style" clothing. Boy style recreational clothing (Beach Casual) is generally a bit heavier weight, "boy features," darker colors. (Search the underwear ads for women, "boy cut," "boy leg" panties, with "fly" and look like men's "tighties" . . . )
Women cross dress all the time! Women stay over at the guy's apartment and wear his shirts as a sort of "nightie," Never mind that "cross dress" has all sorts of implications for "presentation pathology" in cis-men, not in cis-women.
Gender presentation is primarily about setting out boundaries relating to pair bonding, sexual union, and reproduction. When cis-M present as "femme" it problematizes the "gender reading" for hetero-sexual men who might find themselves erotically attracted, engendering "homosexual angst." Cis-women, presenting as men ("butch") don't present anxiety issues for heterosexual men. Heterosexual women typically do not actively initiate pursuit (courting) of a mate -- the cis-F sex role being to submit rather than dominate or pursue. And so cis-women do not "risk" acting out and so acting homosexual, in a "gender mis-reading" ("target error") who is cis-F but presenting as male.No target error, no homosexual angst.
Sex boundaries are essential to reproduction, fixed, categorical.
Gender boundaries are socio-cultural, dimensional, arbitrary,
What we are working out . . . currently, work in progress, is a subversion of the hetero-normative dyad, the hegemony of the semiotics of gender presentation. We're working to deconstruct categorical labels, and wearing a lot of deconstructed categorical labels.