This week I’m talking about gender, being non-binary and gender stereotyping in a series of Pause For Thoughts for Laura James’ Early Show on BBC Radio Devon. There will be 7 in total, so stay tuned and remember – nothing’s binary.
Tag Archives: gender identity
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted here, but don’t worry, I’ve been busy producing plenty of other content for you to enjoy in other mediums. Check out the Symphony For Happiness Vlog and Kimwei’s music Youtube to see what I’ve been up to in the last month, including my 7 day vlogging challenge, and plenty of new music videos.
In the past week, this original song which I recorded as a duet with Billy Bottle has been doing really well on Facebook, with over 6k in views and 100 shares. We created the video to co-incide with Exeter Pride (13.05.2017). It’s about being non-binary, but also celebrating LGTBQ+ as a whole. This goes out to anyone who seeks to be seen for who they truly are. When we accept each other, we love each other, and when we love each other we change the world.
We’ve been overwhelmed by the response and thrilled that the message has been so deeply received. We believe that expanding beyond the binary notion of gender is not just relevant to those who identify as trans, but to everyone, because we are all affected by the expectations of a society that sees gender in binary.
Now it’s time to take the phrase “Nothing’s Binary” even further. We want to put on events, entitled “Nothing’s Binary”, which are celebrations the full gender spectrum. We envisage a Post-Binary world in which anyone can freely inhabit any part of that spectrum and be seen, accepted and loved. Please get in touch if you’d like to be involved.
Please do keep sharing this video, whether on Facebook, Youtube, or this post itself. You can also view/share this info through kimwei.com. I’ve created a special “Nothing’s Binary” page at kimwei.com/nothingsbinary
THE SONG: Click HERE to download for FREE!
THE MUSIC VIDEO:
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been dressing almost exclusively “as male” (but not trying to “pass” as male). You know what I’ve discovered? Men’s clothes are boring.
Isn’t it weird that clothes are so gendered? Trousers, no longer. A woman wearing trousers is not “cross dressing”, but apparently, a man wearing a skirt is???
For those of us who are gender fluid, transgender or who simply don’t want to be defined by stereotypical gender boundaries, clothing and image are effective tools in sending a message about who we are, since they are both visible and instantly communicative.
I’ve two friends especially struggling with this right now, who will go unnamed. One has a female body and the other a male body. My female bodied friend identifies as non-gender-binary, but looks extremely feminine. She rings me up in frustration at trying to express her masculinity through image, whilst being blessed with curves and delicate features.
My friend in a male body is firmly cis-gendered, but thinks women have all the fun in terms of nice clothes. He is very worried about what male friends or potential female partners would think if they saw him dressed in the clothes he really likes, which are stereotypically worn by women. Is he a transvestite? I wouldn’t say so.
In the words of designer and gender-superhero Arian Bloodwood, I would say more that my male bodied friend simply wants to wear clothes that he likes.
My two friends and I all want the same thing – to be perceived as ourselves. Since, in one way or another, we don’t fit within conventional gender boundaries, it’s difficult to work out how to “present” as who we really are.
When my male friend walks out the door in his favourite outfit, some people will see a guy who just looks fabulous and knows how to dress. However he also fears attracting negative attention if perceived as a gay or transvestite by people who view those groups negatively. Essentially, when he dresses as himself, he worries about being seen as someone else entirely.
My NGB trans friend in a female body doesn’t like being seen as a very feminine woman, whilst the masculine part of her goes unnoticed, since she struggles to send the “right” signals through her mode of dress.
But what ARE the right signals? We’re in a strange intermediate phase as a society, where gender boundaries have started breaking down, but they haven’t snapped completely. Dressing as male has helped people to better understand my gender, yes that’s true. But, would I need the label of non-gender-binary transgender if society’s ideas about gender were blown wide open? If that happened each person would meet me as me, without applying a set of parameters to my personality based on the gender of my body? Would I need to “dress as male” then? Probably not.
I’ve thought a lot about the signals I send out through image and my decision in a couple of years ago to only wear “what I would wear if I had a male body”. Out went strappy tops, bras, anything that showed midriff or accentuated breast size, and in came tailored shirts, waistcoats and… no that’s all really. Told you men’s clothes were boring. And the truth is, if I really did have a male body, I’d wear dresses skirts and other “female” clothes here and there, because they just look fabulous are great fun!
Male and female bodies and brains are different in some ways, yes. But ultimately, I believe we need to throw out our expectations of what people should be like/should do/should be treated based on the gender of their bodies (or clothes). Only then, will both transgender and cis-gendered people alike be free to express and be accepted as who they are fully. In some parts of the world this is a mortally serious point*.
We can contribute to moving this issue forward by opening up to it on a personal level. Support the cause by cross dressing this Christmas, but don’t call it “cross-dressing”, just call it wearing clothes that you like.
* Each year Amnesty International run the Write For Rights campaign, which is a wonderful thing. Cases are varied and it’s worth noting that each year there are some cases relating to gender/sexuality. Click here to participate in the campaign.
connect with me @:
A 9 year old asked me:
“Because you’ve got short hair, does that mean you’re a boy?”
I thought for a moment… what’s the easiest way to say this?
“Well”, I replied, “the truth is that I AM a girl but often I’d rather be a boy”.
“What, like George out of Famous Five?”
It was an easy conversation, but the child’s mother felt the need to apologise for her son’s question. Apparently it’s offensive to mistake people’s gender. This is probably why the trans community are often so sensitive – it’s difficult when people can’t see which gender you plainly are.
This is the first public statement I’ve made of the following: I identify as transgender.
I’m comfortable with this, but have been reluctant to be public about it so far. But now it seems important to talk about it in order to raise awareness.
In this day and age, most people have got to grips with the fact that some people have a sex change (gender re-assignment). People can just about cope with this because fits within the mainstream ideas of binary gender. Yet, being transgender simply means this: my gender identity does not match my assigned sex. Those like myself, who neither identify as male or female and whose gender identity isn’t constant, open up a whole new can of androgen worms.
In the late 40s and early 50s, The Kinsey Reports made waves by showing that rather than people being simply gay or straight, a spectrum of sexuality existed. It turned out that people were straight, bi-sexual or gay, to varying degrees, with blurred lines and overlap. Why should the same not be true for gender?
A debate on gender-spectrums is tempting, but I will discipline myself into putting it aside to give my own personal account. Here I’ll explain why and how I identify as mid-gendered.
To start at the beginning, I was born into a female body and understood from a young age that I had a girl’s body. Therefore I set about learning what girls did and did it. By the age of 6 it seemed abundantly clear to me that there had been a mistake, because of course I was a boy.
I knew what boys did and switched instantly to doing those things, insisting on wearing trousers. Spelling “Kim” backwards I found “Mik” and for a while signed all letters as “Micky”.
Completely aware that I had a girl’s body, I realised that if I were to be seen as a boy I would have to act exactly like one. I tried football (badly), wore a baseball cap and bomber jacket. By the age of 11 I had abolished crying or showing emotions that I saw as feminine, especially excitement. I was totally aware that a boy could cry and still be a boy, but since I was a girl trying to pass as a boy, I could never be caught doing anything “girlie”. (I wouldn’t recommend giving up crying to any child, as I am still trying to undo its effects)
Unfortunately by the age of 12, my breasts had fully developed. I realised that I wasn’t going to pass as male anymore. Reluctantly I set about finding out how to be a woman…
…I was rubbish!
After struggling for over 10 years, I met someone who was putting himself through a rite of passage. He decided that to become a true man he would have to set himself challenges that he associated with being strongly masculine. In his case: physical ordeal, walking new ground, hunting and farming. I realised I could do the same thing, by challenging myself to double my physical strength. I managed this within 3 months of weight training. Finally I was strong, like a man and had the androgynous body to match my insides! Then I was set on a course to discover how I could express my gender identity, within the confines of my physical body.
Strangely enough, I never felt the desire to have a sex change or to live as a man. I also don’t feel comfortable simply being labelled as a “strong woman”. I have cried with disappointment to look in the mirror and see a woman’s body, but not frequently enough to want to change my physicality. I see myself as mostly-male, but inside a woman’s body. This means I experience myself as mid-gendered. It’s important to me that those who I’m close to see me this way.
Wait a minute; doesn’t this mean I’m expecting people to accept me as transgender, without even trying “pass” as male? Is this too much to expect from the general public? I don’t think so. People are getting the hang of gender fluidity. I’ve had “the talk” with all my close friends most of whom have seen it coming anyway. I’m not willing to go back to “pretending to be male” by mimicking what other men do/wear/say, just like I did as a kid. I’d certainly be seen as transgender if I did that, but I wouldn’t be myself so it defeats the object. I wouldn’t recommend, “pretending to be male” in this way or “pretending to be female” to anyone male, female or trans.
By the same token I’m not going to start billing myself as a transgender singer-songwriter; it would be false advertising because my voice is female and defines the recordings.
I’m lucky because Kimwei turns out to be an androgynous name. It’s possible to change my title to “Mr.” by deed poll, so that’s my next step. It seems like just the right balance for me to have a female body and a male name. I’d rather be a husband than a wife or a dad than a mum.
If someone you know identifies as transgender, ask them about it – since how they identify their own gender and prefer to be treated will be different for each trans person.
Amnesty International currently have 2 transgender cases in their Write For Rights campaign. I’d encourage everyone to send at least one Write For Rights letter/card this Christmas as it’s a truly effective at helping those who receive them. All their causes are extremely good ones, not just those concerning gender. The letters do more than lift morale – people really do get treated better/pardoned/released from imprisonment as a result this kind of support being sent.
Thankyou for reading
Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei
watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom ,
interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom & @kimwedotcom
everything at kimwei.com