The Face Underneath

  • Reading time:4 mins read

A thing that always encourages me is to see a familiar cis woman with a clean face and to realize again how androgynous most people look when not performing Gender.

Our notions of femininity and masculinity are cartoons that we lean into, exaggerating the slightest of differences. People, the Big Two sexes, really don’t look that different. Any distinction is subtle and mostly superficial—which requires us to blow what slight nuances there are out of proportion, so as to prevent confusion.

Cis people often are just as scared as trans people of being misgendered. There are consequences—and it’s easy to do! Just fail to perform correctly. Wear your hair the wrong way, demonstrate the wrong body language, and everyone will let you know.

So for me to see the actual face underneath the gender costume, it’s like—oh, right. she and I really don’t look that different at all, huh. Most of this is just about how you declare and assert yourself, more than anything intrinsic. Gender is a verb. And one can always work on that.

Once you realize gender is 90% performance and that sex is only a hair short of arbitrary—there’s no good reason we classify things as we do, our system is broken as hell, and it’s literally all the same hardware, just with some late developmental tweaks—sexuality becomes absurd. Like, it just doesn’t make that much sense to me to prioritize attraction to one person over another except on an individual basis, based on who they are and what it is specifically about them. If you’re gonna be attracted to people, why be an exclusionist dork? What difference does it make. or are you one of those “I like all music except rap and country” people.

I mean, I’m aroace, so I don’t… actually get the two main kinds of attraction that stop people’s brains from working. Maybe if I were more insane I’d get this thinking.

Our whole system of relating to ourselves and each other is based this weird lattice of fiction and generalization and hyper exaggeration that upsets us so deeply when it fails to match the reality. The dismay when we’re faced with the idea that people are just people—I’m sure you’ve seen the cishet bros who express dismay after seeing a girl take off her makeup, like they’ve been lied to. The fact that she just looks like a person; that a moment ago they were attracted to someone who could just as well have been a dude if she’d performed differently, it freaks them out.

It’s all internalized power structures. That’s the script we’re playing out and reinforcing and policing every time we get dressed, every time we interact with another person in this stupid culture we’ve made for ourselves. We’re playing someone else’s game for their benefit. It’s the last thing we’re meant to realize, that behind all this branding and spin we’re all basically the same—because, what then? Why are we doing all this to each other? Why aren’t we all cool and supporting the people we meet like they’re another part of ourselves?

What’s the point of this garbage we’ve been filtering? Well, it’s to keep us busy, lest we address the, like, twelve people in the world who are taking everything from us. All these rules are there so we don’t take apart these fucking systems that do us no good, that drain us of our basic humanity, to elevate the most inhuman of us all. of whom there are scant few.

I’m not saying, don’t do gender, kids. I’m not saying, do away with makeup or gendered dress or behaviors or this that or whatever. I love being feminine. It just makes me so happy with myself. It makes life worth living. I’m just saying, it’s all dress-up. None of it is real beyond the meaning that we individually give it.

And just seeing that baseline of androgyny, seeing just how close the prettiest woman in the world can look to just, I dunno, a soft boy, feels to me like such a weight off. It’s this reminder of commonality—that it’s all cool. Just, be you. Everyone is an individual. Everyone has these choices.