Body Talk, Gender Walk
If any of you have seen the movie Inception, you may be familiar with the job of “the architect.” Cobb and the Architect venture into a dream, so that the Architect can become familiar with the duties she was hired to perform. As an architect she is able to move and shape the entire structure of a dream however she wants. Excited, that is just what she does, going off to play with this world. Cobb warns her to slow down, and that’s when it happens. Dream charters begin to stare at her and soon start to bump into her. She asks what the problem is, and Cobb warns her that the dream characters have highlighted her as a foreign body because of her sudden changes. Eventually a crowd gathers and around her and attacks her before the two of them wake up.
About a month or so ago, I became aware of something similar happening to me. I am at a point in my life where I feel comfort – excitement even – with my gender identity. Ambiguity is my home, and gender is my playground. This experience does make life feel like a dream. I feel that society is a series of stories we’ve agreed to live by. So off I’ve gone, leaving a mass of hair on my legs, wearing a skirt with men’s dress shoes – or wearing a tie and button-up shirt because I enjoy looking handsome. I am in the margins of our story’s pages, crossing things out and making new notes.
I’d been so deep in my own zone, that I didn’t notice the attention this was creating. Early on, I would walk down the street and get nothing more than second peaks and side glances, but soon people were outright staring at me. I decided to observe people’s reactions to my various gender get ups. When I was blending in as just another female, nothing was wrong. The only stares I would get were from hungry men with sly smiles. Likewise, when I passed as male, nothing was wrong. I’d get an “excuse me sir,” or “hey buddy,” which only threw me off guard a bit. It wasn’t until I towed both lines that I got the looks. Women would glare at me in confusion. Men would stop and stare, but with a blank look on their face as they tried to size me up. The most striking moment came when I was walking home one day and a man drove along, staring in the same way as these dream characters. Moments later it happened with someone else driving by. Even as they drove off, they turned their heads as long as they could as an attempt to rationalize my body. It was the same way ever since in restaurants, stores, and similar places.
Since then I’ve been cautious about my androgyny. It’s an invasive feeling to be analyzed with such intensity, like I don’t belong. I feel like I’m under attack as a foreign body in society’s dream. I have heard stories of people actually being bashed – or killed – for being those bodies. For gesturing a certain way, dressing a certain way, or being with someone that didn’t fit the mainstream dream. As the architect of my body, I am changing things that aren’t supposed to me changed. People are taking watch, and I am not sure what the consequences of that is.