Ever since I started to learn more about gender and gender expression, I have become fascinated with the concept of being gender neutral. The fact that there are people in this world who are going beyond the boxes we trap ourselves in and creating a space for themselves is both intimidating and empowering.
I was doing this series of workshops around womanhood and how women see themselves when our instructor told us a story of her thought experiment where she asked people in her network to describe who they are. She said that almost every woman started with a role she played i.e. mother, daughter, sister, etc. and every man started by saying well I am a man.
She then went on to say how we have stopped seeing ourselves as people first. It was her story that inspired my thought experiment where the question was: who are you. I wanted to know if my respondents saw themselves in a particular way.
The results were, well, a bit inconclusive because 42% answered with their name. 26% answered with a role they play and 32% said they were human or a person.
Since my thought experiment failed in the sense that perhaps my question was a bit too vague/open ended, let me instead talk about 3 books that have helped me understand self expression by creating a space for oneself:
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
It took me almost a month to read this book. It is the story of a girl who has been told she has no right to glory or desire because she is a girl. Her fate is to be nothing. But her brother’s fate is to have all the glory in the world. When he dies, she snatches his fate and becomes a man instead, walking on his path. She is constantly wracked by fear that heaven will see through her deception and despite all that she has done, her fate will amount to nothingness. This tussle continues until she decides she only needs to be herself to achieve her fate and desire. She does not need to impersonate anyone. And that’s how she becomes the radiant king.
I read an interview with the author and she was asked if she could describe the book in three emotions, what would those be and she said: shame.
Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
I read this book last year. The thing that we love to speculate, will aliens save us if we destroy our world, has happened. Aliens have indeed saved a few human species but they have their own agenda. They want to create a mixed race and humans have very little choice in the matter. The common theme throughout the series is why violence is our answer to everything. What I loved about this book is Butler’s deep understanding of gender and humans. And how she creates this alien species that is nearly perfect and yet needs to continue to evolve to survive. The species also works as a foil to highlight the barbarity of the human race.
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
The one thing I have always disliked about romances is the lack of communication between the two people who are supposed to be in love. Which is why I loved this book because not only were the characters talking to each other, they also apologized when they were wrong, and demanded an explanation when one or the other would retreat to save themselves the embarrassment. It also showed that no matter how ‘adult’ you are, the way your parents see you is important and so many times we forgive the hurtful things they say because it is couched in – but I care about you.
Even though it has happened to me so many times, it still shocks me when I come across a piece of content that I need exactly at that time and it manages to teach me exactly what I needed taught.
Tell me your favourite read of 2021 and no you cannot say you can’t choose. Also a why this book would be nice [because I obviously want to increase my TBR].
This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter, Gender Talks.