How Does One Feel One’s Gender?

I don’t know what it means to feel “masculine.”

A round sign on the wall with the standard silhouette of a man and a woman.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Ever since I discovered that I’m nonbinary, I’ve been reflecting on what gender is supposed to be, and I’m just ending up confused. Some people talk about feeling “masculine” or “feminine” but I don’t really know what it means, other than acting in accordance with the way that society decides that “men” and “women” should act.

People are born with a certain set of genitals, on the basis of this, society says “male” or “female.” This is already problematic. If you think that the biological sex binary is a given, I invite you to listen to this TED talk:

I already knew that the biological basis for the binary is on shaky ground. However, there is nothing like someone speaking from actual lived experience to sharpen your understanding.

I’ve mentioned above that on top of biological sex, society imposes a series of behavioral conventions that define what men and women are. Men should act this way. Women should act that way. This is the gender binary. When a man acts in the way a woman should, it is deemed unnatural. Same when a woman acts in the way a man should.

I used to think that if I declared myself nonbinary, it was from an ideological standpoint more than anything else, but I don’t think this is the case. I’m just puzzled when people talk about feeling their gender, because this is something I don’t experience, or that I experience only faintly.

The gender binary is a complete fabrication from society. It is mere convention. It is not nature itself that compels those we call men to be competitive, or to be the provider in a couple, but society. It used to be that women couldn’t get credit without their husband’s approval. It is not nature that dictated this, but society. This restriction disappeared, not because of any change in nature, but because of changes in how society sees the gender binary.

Thus, it is that when I talk about my nonbinary nature, I talk about behavior. This is only because society itself distinguishes one side of the binary from the other in terms of behavior. It happens from time to time that someone interjects that gender identity is not the same as gender expression. Yes, this is true, but it has no bearing on what I am saying.

Let me make this clear. I’m not the gender police. You absolutely can be a feminine man, or a masculine woman, or any other variation. I won’t get on your case for it, and may even give you romantic love. However, as far as I am concerned, when it comes to evaluating whether I am man, woman, or nonbinary, my behavior is a critical component of the analysis.

So society, just like it has made me think that I was neurotypical by treating me like a neurotypical person, has also made me think that I am a man by treating me like a man. This is where gender dysphoria sets in. Yes, I am well versed in looking the part. Yes, I’ve been encultured in manhood, and, usually, I role-play a man. However, there are some behaviors that are required of me, as a man, that I don’t want to engage in. Hence, the gender dysphoria that occurs when I’m pushed to engage in those behaviors.

Still, I don’t feel the male gender in my life. I don’t feel special enjoyment when I do manly things. The notion of whether an act is manly or not does not figure in my decisions. For instance, my relationship with sports has been quite tepid. I used to watch racing, and that was it, as far as sports were concerned. I don’t anymore. I don’t think I’m missing anything important. I’m not pining after sports. It is not somehow missing from my life as a man.

It is only because society insisted that I am a man, and I believed society, that I thought that I was a man. Since I do not feel my gender, where does this lead me, but to the conclusion that I am in fact nonbinary?


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6 responses to “How Does One Feel One’s Gender?”

  1. Dimestore Diamond :blobcat_flagEnby: Avatar

    @yourautisticlife That’s an interesting question. Naturally, I can only speak on my own behalf, but I do feel my gender. The key word is “feel”.

    Thinking back to when I thought I was a guy, I’m not sure if I ever really felt my gender. Once I understood I’m non-binary, I’ve taken a deep dive into it. I’ve found the place in me that is my gender.

    The feeling itself is beyond words but there are terms that I’ve found that seem to fit. I feel them and there’s no other way to describe it. My gender is fluid and sometimes I feel the masculine, but most of the time I don’t.

    If it’s “on”, it usually has a very specific gendered feeling that’s not masculine or feminine. I’ve found the term maverique fits it the best. Then there are times when I don’t feel it at all, or I might feel that the place where it’s supposed to be is blank. That’s when it’s genderblank or even agender.

    Overall, nonbinary is the best term, followed by genderqueer.

    #NonBinary #GenderQueer #GenderFluid #maverique #GenderBlank #agender #ActuallyAutistic

    1. yourautisticlife Avatar

      Maybe my feelings will evolve too.

  2. Christina McMullen Avatar

    @yourautisticlife this sums up how I feel far better than anything I could have written. Thank you. It's eye opening to see what I've always felt put into easy to understand terms.

  3. Alan Langford Avatar

    @yourautisticlife You nailed it. I'm predominantly male, but there is a significantly large set of my behaviours that are distinctly not male. "Hanging out with the guys" often makes me feel like an alien who got beamed into an alternate universe. Still, there is nothing to make me feel like identifying as female.

    Thus: gender is a spectrum.

  4. Bernie Independently Does It Avatar

    @yourautisticlife It sounds like you don't have a gender identity. Most people have one of some sort, but it's more common from what I've seen for us autistics to not have one than for allistics. It's subtly different from feeling like you have no gender, and quite different from feeling like you are neutrally gendered or androgynous. It's kind of hard to talk about because a lot of discussions assume that you do have a gender identity and don't take the possibility of not into account.

    1. Bernie Independently Does It Avatar

      @yourautisticlife While it's more complicated than this, a good start in deciding if you truly don't have a gender identity is to ask yourself how you feel and what you do if someone accidentally mistakes you for (in your case) a female.

      There are plenty of words for the different nuanced shades of agender. I'm personally cassgender, because I find gender to be completely irrelevant to my sense of self and how I behave.

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