Performative Gender

Performative Gender

Teddy’s got his angry hat on again.

Performative gender is exactly as it sounds: it’s the outward performance of traits and roles that society has dictated define a specific gender.

Naturally, this causes a lot of problems for a lot of trans and non-binary folx.

Let’s break it down.

Non-binary Folx

Non-binary folx, as the label suggests, don’t fit into the false gender binary, and so their expression of gender also doesn’t fit this binary. It becomes troublesome when society tries to push them back into this binary, and reacts badly when they refuse.

An example would be an individual who was AMAB, but is non-binary, and so part of their gender expression are things society has coded female. It can be simple things like painting nails, wearing dangly earrings, up to things society has a bigger problem with, like wearing make-up or dresses. For the person in question, this is simply who they are, but wider society uses it as an excuse to abuse them, be violent towards them, fire them from jobs they desperately need. The ignorance over how gender actually works causes a lot of grief.

Also note I used an AMAB individual as my example because, in a perverse way, society is ok with read-female individuals co-opting gender expressions assigned male, as it still holds male as the ideal, and the idea of “tomboy” still exists. Society also seems totally fine with AFAB individuals existing in the androgynous zone, but the moment someone AMAB tries it there is panic.

Trans women

Trans women have it worst. Absolutely, no arguments, society has a lot to answer for in our treatment of trans women.

Trans women exist in a world of ridiculously high scrutiny. We put so much pressure on cis women to be stick thin, wear their hair a certain way, always wear make-up, to try and fit the mould of “beauty standards”, and that pressure is applied a thousand-fold to trans women. Naturally, any trans woman who refuses to conform to this disgusting standard is nigh on denied their existence.

Way back at the beginning of this blog I talked about passing as a trans person, and how this is the cisgender expectation of all trans people. This expectation is used as an excuse for violence and abuse of trans women so often it would make your head spin to see it.

And the simple fact is not all trans women are going to pass. Not all of them want to, but the expectation that they will perform their gender to an even higher standard than their cisgender counterparts is disgusting. There is no other word for it.

Trans women are women. That is a fact. Whether or not they fit the ridiculous mould of “women” that society presents us does not undermine this fact.

Trans women do not have to perform to be accepted.

Trans men

Us trans men don’t have it as bad, because in a lot of cases trans guys do pass, and blend into the cisgender society quite easily. It also doesn’t hurt that men are held to a lot lower standard than women will ever be.

The fact that trans men are still judged by how big a bulge they have in their trousers really pisses me off though.

Because men aren’t expected to be all dressed up all the time, or to have manicures, wear make-up, have £100 haircuts, it’s a lot easier to hit the standards expected of men. Heck, loafing about in the jeans and t-shirt I wear for work I can pass as a dude if I wear my binder. It’s that easy.

The thing is, I like make-up. I like painting my nails, and spending time on my hair. And society HATES that.

And I know it’s actually relatively few trans guys that do break this mould, it still bears saying that we deserve to be respected as men regardless.

Performative gender, be it the clothing you wear, the make-up you painstakingly apply, the way you pitch your voice when talking to strangers, is just another thing on the massive list of checkpoints trans folx are expected to hit to appease the cisgender majority, and frankly we’re exhausted with it.

Trans folx are trans, regardless if they fit your idea of gender. Listen to the individual and they will tell you who they are. That should be all the evidence you need.


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