I’m very familiar with the differences between gender orientation and sexual orientation. At the same time, they intertwine in nuanced ways. The more I think about it, the more I want to say my gender orientation is actually Gay.
Let me explain. I believe gender is a social construct. I call myself a woman because my life experiences are informed by people seeing me as a woman; I face sexism and misogyny; women’s issues matter to me; I like women a lot. But other than that, I have no real reason to call myself a woman.
A more accurate description might be nonbinary woman. I’ve also called myself genderfluid, genderqueer, and nonbinary at various points.
Why? Because my gender doesn’t involve a lot of the things which womanhood was traditionally about/set up for. I don’t cater to men’s opinions or attractions, don’t care about earning their attention, don’t care about being any standard of beauty besides my own, and am not interested in many of the things which are “traditional” female interests.*
*(A lot of women fall outside these traditions: nobody fits squarely inside the cookie cutter. But when I’m in women’s groups, particularly in churches, I find myself made extremely uncomfortable by the inferences about how men and women differ socially and psychologically, the “us vs them” gender mentality, and the idea that it’s natural for the men to do camping trips and the women to go to beauty salons. I fall far enough outside the norm that these things aren’t mere annoyances: they make me feel utterly erased.)
People’s opinions will always matter to us because we are social creatures (and that’s how our species survived so well). But the patriarchy’s opinion isn’t one I’m courting. I want to be someone another girl would be attracted to. That informs my identity far more than the desire to be the kind of woman a man would want to marry, or anything like that.
I don’t know how I can explain this. I am just simply me. I paint my toenails and shave my head. I dance traditional ballroom styles and get militant in my feminism without caring if men’s precious egos get hurt along the way. I am…outside the box. Nothing, from my speech patterns to my behavior, puts me as one gender or another.
The only time my gender expression feels remotely important is with other gay women.
Queer women and straight women are different, thanks both to sexual perspective and our culture. I want to be the kind of woman a queer woman would be interested in. I want to be strong and brave and confident, and I also want to be soft. I don’t want to be her mate in a manly way; I want to be her mate in a womanly way, but not in the way of a woman with a man. I want to be a woman with another woman. That kind of woman – that kind of whatever-gender-that-is – is who I want to be identified as.
That is my gender expression: lesbian. My gender is the womanhood other lesbians find attractive. I call myself a woman because the people I would want to date, fuck, and spend my life with are women who love women.
That’s me. Gay for the gays. This is why I think, especially in our patriarchal society, my gender identity can be summed up as WLW (women-loving woman).
I am lesbian. Hear me roar.