People don’t grow up in a clearly male or female way.
I’m a nonbinary nerd who played soccer as a little boy – still I have more in common with nerds of all genders than with a male sportsman. (See “Don’t Assume my Socialization” as well)
Still I sometimes show shit behavior which I learned because I was often mistaken for a boy for large parts of my life. Behavior I learned to keep up with the others:
- Either I lack confidence, or I have too much of it. I learned that showing off and conquering the center of attention are necessary to prove yourself to your friends.
- Before I start speaking, I rarely ask myself if I really have something important to contribute.
- I suppress emotions instead of working through them with friends. When I’m subconsciously aggressive or annoyed because of that, others have to deal with it.
- I often avoid talks about relationships, even if they are necessary. Often I’m the one who can ignore the problem easier.
- For most of my life, defining myself by sexual success was normal to me. But sex is not a competition, and with pressure to succeed, it is less fun for everyone involved.
- For a very long time nobody asked me whether I want sex or not. For a very long time I had no sense of my own boundaries. Let alone for the boundaries of other people.
This is an incomplete list, those are just the things which affected me the most. If you have to deal with similar things, I recommend the Zine “Dismantling the Boys Club”.
But it’s not only male socialization that teaches you shitty behavior. For example, I also learned a lot of weird stuff:
- To be so reserved that I don’t stand up for my rights
- To show so much empathy that I don’t pay attention to my own needs
- To put too much emphasis on appearance
In patriarchy, male supremacy is maintained by rewarding these and other behaviors. They trample on the feelings and autonomy of others. Often they are only accessible to men. In recent decades, liberal feminism has won access to these behaviors and positions of power for women as well, so that today Angela Merkel is the head of a patriarchal state. But what place do enbies have in this constant power struggle?
As a non-binary person, I have my very own trouble with these behaviors. On the one hand, it hurts to be mistaken for a man because of my behavior. On the other hand, being mistaken for a man can have its advantages. For example, because I am more likely to be listened to, I earn more money and get more professional recognition, I don’t have to be as afraid of strangers depending on my clothes, or people let me get away with more. I have learned these behaviors to survive in the patriarchy – it is not always easy not to harm anyone else.
There are also advantages to female socialization and passing. I am allowed to wear almost all the clothes that exist and I am not directly suspected of being a pedophile if I want to work with children. I am allowed to cry. Because I don’t have to suppress my feelings so much, there is less chance of me committing suicide. In western countries at least, I experience much less police violence than my fellow male-read activists. In the leftist scene, I am not directly called a macho if I talk too much or have dominant behavior. Everywhere I am very rarely seen as a perpetrator, even when I cross boundaries.
It’s not just the socialisation assigned at birth that is problematic: there are also behaviours we learn to separate ourselves from socialisation that are equally problematic. (e.g. acting overly dominant to avoid being perceived as female).
Why do many AFAB Enbies wear short hair and masculine(TM) clothes, while AMAB Enbies more often wear long hair and colourful clothes? We have to separate ourselves so much from our assigned gender that we reject all of it. Is that so much healthier? We should take what we want from both sides, what we enjoy, not just depending on how we come across.
AFAB = Asigned female at birth AMAB = Assigned male at birth ACAB = Always remember that the first pride was a riot led by poor trans women of color
e.g. there are female-assigned clothes that I would love to wear, and I also like make-up, but only in very tight circles would I dare to use it as an AFAB enby. And learning to stop repressing my feelings would be cool too.
Yes, or sweatpants! They’re just so comfortable. But I always automatically start talking in that macho gang slang from my neighbourhood back when we all listened to Aggro Berlin and tried to be the coolest…. and then I have to be surrounded by very cool people so that they don’t put me in the wrong category.
We should realise what expectations the patriarchy has of us and how that sometimes gets in our way. Only then can we break out of it, change our behaviour and be who we want to be.