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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Appearances, Gender... & Possibly Sailor Mars

After skipping April's topic, here I am once again writing for the Carnival Of Aces! Maybe I should turn this into a regular event... after all, waxing lyrical about things helps me figure out my own stance on said things.

Anyway. This month's topic is Appearances, and I regret to say I got a little sidetracked and ended up writing about gender, as well. Right now, I can't see one without the other. Right now, I can't even see how anyone can see one without the other.

I'm deep into the subject, as you can tell.

Possible trigger warnings:
- There aren't any, this time. But I would like to apologise in advance for my... still very incomplete grasp of gender concepts, as a result of which I may have stepped on a crack or two. Do please call me out if that's the case? Thank you.


I've always had trouble with my appearance. Not necessarily with the way my body looks (I've had trouble with that, too, but it's not relevant right now), but with the way I present it. I've always felt a great disconnect between "who I am" and "what I look like". I've never felt like I was a body - instead, I am a mind. And I live in a body.

It happens that this body I live in is biologically female. It's okay. I've said it many times - it's a body, and it does what bodies are supposed to do. Maybe I'd feel the same way if it was a male body. I don't know, because I've never lived in one, and I have no intention of ever changing into one.

I'm starting this piece on appearance with some gender considerations because I can't help but see the interconnection between these two concepts. In general, but also in my particular case. When I was a baby, my whole room was mint green. Growing up, in elementary school, my mom would dress me in button-up shirts and round-necked knits. I had amazing shirts, with military crests and farm animals - and my hair cut in a bob, blunt bangs and everything. It was pretty cool - and also kind of confusing. I would dress up like Sailor Moon - well, Sailor Mars, actually, but that sounds almost too convenient... - and ask my mother whether she thought my voice sounded too deep for a girl.

Uncomfortable clothes were the bane of my existence. Those cute little (read also, murderous) black patent Mary-Janes. Itchy wool. Turtle necks. I was a picky child. Then one day in middle school, mom and I went shopping for a new pair of boots. There were these horrible ones, knee-high, beige (of all colors, beige!) suede with those little... fringes on top. I hated them but mom thought they were great.

That very same day, we bought a fashion magazine for some reason, and I saw this girl wearing a pair of boots very much like those. I changed my mind. There I was, eleven or maybe twelve-year old me sitting on the floor in my grandmother's living room, back against the couch, hidden behind my magazine as the eureka moment slowly unfolded behind my... I was going to say glasses but I wasn't a glass-wearer back then. Damn. But it was still a defining character moment, I assure you.

This parasitic train of thought (see ugly thing in real life -> hell no -> see ugly thing in magazine -> validated) found its way into my mind and my relationship with my appearance, completely shaping it from then on. I went through a lot of phases. That summer, I remember sitting on a chair in our country house, giving serious consideration to whether I should sunbathe, because I didn't know whether that would match my new aesthetic...

This is almost anecdotic, but it happened. It shows how I basically flew from character to character, part to part, trying to find someone I could dress like (and, to an extent, act like). I understand the sheer uselessness of this exercise, and yet, nowadays, I still find myself doing it.

The truth, pure and simple, is that I don't know how to dress myself. I don't know how to portray myself in my appearance. This is so deeply disturbing to me, that I had a breakdown related to this very same subject about a year and a half ago, and it still hasn't subsided. It's a deeply disorienting experience to look in the mirror and feel no connection whatsoever to the face you're seeing. It's getting better. Slowly.

Or is it?
Back to gender. And to asexuality.

I don't experience sexual attraction. By now we're all kind of aware of that. I also have a very low sex drive - and I blame the very little I do have on hormonal fluctuations. Sex is absolutely irrelevant. So are my sex organs, then.

This a relatively new thought, to me. But if I could, hypothetically, snap my fingers and give away my sex organs to someone who actually sees a point in having them, I would. I would keep my hips, because hips hug waists and together they make beautiful geometry, and I would keep my breasts - not because they make beautiful geometry, but because they help with the proportions when I feel like wearing a bit of a deeper neckline. Fortunately, they're also small enough that, with the right clothes, I can ignore their existence altogether. I'm not particularly attached to them - not in the way I am to my hips, which I honestly do consider beautiful.

I also think my back is beautiful. My shoulders are beautiful. My neck is beautiful. My legs are beautiful. They are sexless and genderless and I like to dress with them in mind. For my legs, I like short skirts. I like short shorts. I like tight pants and the illusion of being 90% legs. For my neck, I like tight necklines with my hair out of the way. For my shoulders, I like structure and shoulder pads, or alternatively, soft shirts draped over one shoulder. For my back, I like garments with open, or sheer backs. And for my hips, I like a tiny waistline.

My favorite body parts are all sexless. It's been this way for a long time. But with asexuality added to the mix, and with the extreme devaluation of my sex organs (read also: my biological, assigned sex) that it brought along, I feel like maybe I don't have to dress the same way I always have. I was dressing "like a girl" up until now because I had a female set of sex organs and it just seemed easier. But now, I can effectively imagine myself with no sex organs whatsoever. And that leaves me free to cherry pick from what's generally considered proper presentation for both females and males - with my personal favorite attributes in mind.

It's funny, because when I was younger, reading a book by Giulia Goy, I read a sentence that still hasn't left my mind: "I wanted to be the princess, but I also wanted to be her knight in shining armor". Allowing for some creative interpretation, that was more or less what it said. And back then, the idea I had - very much influenced by the imagery used by the writer herself - was cocktail dresses one day and military uniforms the next. That's cool. But right now I feel up to the challenge of putting both together. Maybe not princess in shining armor, because that would be describing myself as a princess and I don't like that idea. Royalty in shining armor sounds better.

And by "better", I mean "like yet another character I could dress like".
Old habits die hard.

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