Between the sheets: Gender-Bending 101

Tonya Starr, Columnist

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When I wake up every morning, I make a deliberate choice about how female I’m going to be. I can wear a lacy dress with a hair bow. I can wear a pair of Chuck Taylors and a Rolling Stones T-shirt. Biologically, I’ll be a woman either way. But socially, I can be as “feminine” or “masculine” as I want. It’s about gender performance — a concept that’s growing increasingly prominent and may be helpful to you 20-somethings as you continue in your search for sexual fulfillment.

If you’ve ever taken a gender studies course here, you may be familiar with the gender binary. It basically means that people are typically sorted into two gender categories, when really they should participate in a whole spectrum of flexible gender behaviors and sexual preferences.

This is a core value for transgender people, who “identify with or express a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person’s sex at birth,” according to the dictionary. Although there’s been a recent push for a more gender-neutral society, there are still rampant misconceptions about what it means to be transgender.

I’m telling you this because I think it’s important to periodically assess where you fall on the gender spectrum. You may not be transgender, but you’re most likely exhibiting at least a few non-normative gender behaviors, and I want to speak in support of that. There are certain behaviors we associate with masculinity and others we associate with femininity, and supposedly our adherence to those behaviors determines our appeal to the opposite sex. I just don’t think that’s true.

As a straight woman, I defy gender norms on a daily basis. I reject makeup, play video games, watch football and eat burritos. I also sing, paint my nails and ogle babies. I emit a mixture of masculinity and femininity that makes me feel comfortable and sexy. And guys notice that. So girls, don’t feel tied to society’s archaic definition of what it means to be female. Do as you wish, whether it’s “sexy” or not.

Men: The same goes for you. I can tell you firsthand many women are more attracted to men with a touch of femininity than those who are on the far end of the masculinity scale. Some of us love the guy who secretly reads books for leisure or cares about his wardrobe choices or enjoys spending time in the kitchen.

Androgyny, or “having the characteristics or nature of both male and female,” is often associated with the transgender movement but can really be applied to anyone. It’s gaining traction on screen, thanks to blazer- and boy cut-touting celebrities like Emma Watson. And it can gain traction on campus if we all just be ourselves and stop worrying about expectations. So girls — wear slacks instead of a skirt if you want to. Boys — watch “Glee” if it makes you happy. Just remember your gender identity is your own, and no social code can tell you otherwise.

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