It’s really exhausting being nonbinary, like you’ll go shopping and in the stores the cashiers will say “have a nice day ladies!” But you use up so much energy hating yourself three different ways and the rest of the world at least five, and you get so tired of not saying anything, and of being too scared and polite to say anything. You get tired of forcing yourself not to care.
A few days ago my friend expressed great frustration to me at their ex’s unwillingness to talk to them, and their inability to do anything to mitigate this. I have been used to express sympathy for this plight, but for whatever reason, in this particular case I was unable to do so. Perhaps it is because I have experienced this from the other side–I have been extremely unwilling to interact with certain others because they make me uncomfortable, or because I do not like them. I have been terse, I have ignored, but I have never let vitriol escape my lips. This is not rudeness, but politeness to myself and others (for would it not be less polite to tell them to piss off?). My friend, however, complained that the object of their continued affections did not talk to them except by outside initiation. To me, this seems an absurdly privileged view, as it assumes that having attention paid to one is a right.
I wonder, Best Beloved, whether you have noticed the recent–or ancient, as it may be–trend of martyrdom as impressive and laudable. Suffering is particularly in fashion right now; we glamorize the mentally ill, the poor, those incapable of helping themselves, and most especially those who put others before themselves to their own detriment. This has become so deeply ingrained that we criticize those people who value their own happiness as paramount instead of making themselves available for use by others. I am one of those people, and it frustrates me endlessly that one is often forced by convention to associate (closely even, at times) with people one dislikes, else risk being labelled ‘toxic,’ ‘bitch,’ or simply bearing the full emotional brunt of someone else’s unhappiness.
Dislike is not a crime. Others’ perception of my dislike of them as a heinous insult is flattering, to be sure (how much they care about my opinions!) but I have no obligation to like anyone, nor to put myself in their way if that will decrease my happiness significantly. As I am somewhat angry, allow me to reiterate: nobody has the right to your time unless you have made a contract to give it to them. Nobody has to right to receive conversation, support, or favor from you. Human interaction is a privilege to be earned, not a natural right.
As most on the internet know by now, a hater is someone who not only hates something, but does so volubly and often scorns any who disagree–either directly, or by the patronizing implication that others disagree only because they don’t know better. The worst thing is that nearly everyone is a hater under some circumstances, once they are reminded of whatever it is they hate so much; any perfectly reasonable person can become a hater when considering Republicans, or people who leave the toilet seat up, or valley girls, or internet trolls. My father is a hater of the religious, anyone who does things differently than him, and the ninety-five percent of all humanity he considers imbeciles; and thus I have plenty of experience with hate, although I try never to participate in it and often find inexplicable displays from other people.
A common (and here eponymous) reassurance when confronted with this phenomenon is that “haters gonna hate.” It means “I don’t care whether you hate me, and I will not change my behavior because of you.” While this is admirable, it seems to me somewhat problematic to treat haters as a force of nature that can be neither checked nor reasoned with. It can be extremely frustrating to try to persuade those adamant in their moral and logical rectitude that they are incorrect, but perhaps we owe it to the hated–and to ourselves, for everyone must be part of a group hated by someone–to try. My chosen path is the judicious (is this wishful thinking? oh, probably) application of comments intended to foster thought on why exactly my conversational partner hates a group or ideology so much. I have no idea whether this works, and have a suspicion that it almost never does, because of the irrational knee-jerk nature of hatred. I only wish I were gifted with the silver tongue necessary to persuade haters to become wonderers and lovers.
It is the nature of humanity to hate those who are not like us, or who are too much like us. Yet we have conquered some aspects of our nature, as societies in not individually. We have outlawed murder, rape, and theft–surely it is not too much to hope for that we could one day outlaw hate.
Having thought long and hard on the subject of my own gender identity, I have come to several disparate conclusions, usually (though not always) at different points in time. Approximately thirty percent of my conclusions are that I am or should be agendered, because gender is really much too much trouble for the advantages it allows one. Or is it?
I read a very interesting piece of fiction recently, in which a race of hermaphrodites abandons the concept of gender, despite its members’ possessing common human secondary sexual characteristics. Is this only possible in a species with one sex? Or, in a species with one body type? Humans today have a staggering amount of variety in body type, with weak males and strong females, though the averages do support sexual bias in terms of physical strength. Yet this is completely irrelevant, except culturally.
This leads me to my second, oftener-used conclusion: that I should very much like to be a woman (the “lady” gender). This has less to do with the way society treats women–as objects, with appearance-based favoritism, as deserving extra help–and more with the feminine identity that has struggled through oppression and hatred, and come out stronger ethically and mentally. I do not, I confess, really want to be part of the gender that has committed oppression and hate so systematically, any more than I wish to be part of a race that has done so. For whatever reason, one cannot choose one’s ethnicity, though (it is considered extremely bad form by those whose culture one wishes to borrow, generally, and by those who consider themselves defenders of same), but we do have some freedom to choose gender.
The real reason that caused me to write this post, however, is this thought: that everyone should think carefully before choosing a gender, even if they decide themselves cisgendered. It seems unfair and sad that anyone should have the privilege and the misfortune never to realize that they could be anything other than what Society tells them they are.
It came to my attention while I wandered home from the laboratory that when I think of men I call them ‘dudes,’ (uncouth, aren’t I?) and women ‘ladies.’ Why is this? I have always known that I have a high respect for ladies: most of my friends are of the fairer gender. Very few women I have known are not, in my opinion, eligible for the title ‘lady.’
Sadly, this does not seem to be true of the boys. I am sorry to say that I know only no true gnetlemen at all; even my brother does not seem to qualify. But what do I actually mean when I say ladies and gentlemen? In my humble opinion–and how I shall strive not to misuse that phrase, as it is so often ill-treated–a lady does not bully or harass, nor seek her gain to the detriment of others. In fact, the same definition holds for gentlemen, although as Society would have it they must also hold open doors and possibly wrestle slavering bears in the woods. Many slavering bears make better gentlemen than some of my acquaintance, being evener of temper and less apt to injure. But I digress, having neglected to mention that ladies must speak softly, avoid thinking or physical activity at all costs (though I believe table tennis is all right), and maintain a slim figure that pleases others.
I cannot continue, Best Beloved. I was not meant for satire, alas, but rather to tell you honestly that all I want in a lady or a gentleman is consideration of others and the use of this consideration to avoid injury for any and all parties. Why do women possess this in such abundance, while men are sadly lacking? My hypothesis is that Society, that nebulous yet monolithic villain, teaches women to be demure and that kindness, faith, hope, charity, and get-back-in-the-kitchen are the greatest virtues to cultivate. Naturally men must cultivate the virtue of domination and practice it whenever possible.
Do I sound bitter? I am. Have I read too many feminist blogs? Perhaps, if that were a concept I could recognize. My complaint and/or pontification today is the distressing lack of gentlemen in my vicinity. This is another reason I wish to explore the world: maybe somewhere there is a high density of gentlemen and I can settle there some far-off day. I imagine it to be a small mountainside town where the grass is incandescently green and the moon cinematically large. Everyone is everyone’s friend and men, women, and non-binary individuals of learning discuss philosophy, art, and science late at night with bottomless mugs of cocoa in warm yellow rooms with patchwork quilts.
It is a pretty dream, Best Beloved.