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in between masculinity and femininity



Since I started to learn about feminism at university, I’ve been thinking about not only my sexuality but my gender identity and gender expression. I wonder how feminine I am, and what this gender binary is in the first place. Have you thought about these before?


* ノンバイナリ― = 男性、女性という二元論(ジェンダーバイナリー)に当てはまらない、またはその分類を越えた人々

Today, I’m going to talk about my struggles to express myself in a society where gender binary is the norm. Gender identity is how you see yourself and what you call yourself, and gender expression is how you outwardly show your gender identity by clothing, language (including body language), and behaviour. Although I see myself as a woman, I don’t like to be expected to be feminine, and to be made to feel that I’m a woman. Gender identity can be fluid, so my gender identity might change in the future. Currently, I think that I’m a woman close to non-binary -- a person who does not define oneself by a gender, male or female.


I feel a lot of things are placed into male or female categories in society -- a gender binary. I started to question this binary since I’ve learned about gender and feminism issues, and got access to more information in English. As I mentioned this before in the article “How I learned about feminism”, I didn’t feel weird about why things were categorised until taking women’s studies class.


When I was little, I used to like playing with train models and jigsaw puzzles, which is generally considered to be things that boys like, along with wearing trousers. But I didn’t receive any comments like “you should be more girly” from my family and relatives -- it was at school that I was made to realise that I’m a “girl”. When I first wore a school skirt after entering junior high school, I still remember how I felt weird around my thighs. Even though I always wore trousers except while at school, I always thought that girls were supposed to wear skirts, and of course, I got used to it by wearing one every day, eventually losing that weird feeling. At school events like school festivals and sports day, boys would take a leading role, while girls took a supporting role. However, it was normal for me at that time because boys are physically stronger than girls.


My thoughts on gender and sexuality have changed a lot in the last four years after entering university. Since I took a women’s studies class, I’ve paid more attention to the discrimination rooted in society, and looked for something empowering to help me realise that it’s okay to be who I am. I’m inspired by relatable stories I found not only on honeyhands, but Korean literature which I’ve been into since last year, as well as music and Netflix. And I think having things like this by your side when feeling insecure can be good self-care as well. I’ve become more aware of my sexuality and gender identity, and was starting to feel that I want to get rid of social pressures dictating “how you should be” and what is normal, and prioritise what makes me comfortable.


At the same time, I feel that what society defines as feminine is completely different from what I want to be, and I question why so many things are created based on gender more often than before. I’m currently going to a women’s university, so I don’t really hesitate to talk about gender and lgbtq+ issues at classes. I think it’s partly because there are many female professors at my university. However, when it comes to something outside of classes, I often struggle with the expectation to be feminine. For example, on a job interview, we’re expected to have different manners based on gender, like how to bow and sit down on a chair. While I think it’s easy to just accept that a lot of things in society are still categorised into men and women, I feel pressure to play a feminine role.


As I mentioned in another article, it’s not that easy for me to look for and choose clothes, because they are usually categorised as male clothes or female. When I look around clothes stores with my friends, I often end up looking around a lot of feminine clothes, and find myself tired after getting home. Also, what we talk about is usually based on the assumption that everyone is straight, so I feel a little lonely or sad when I see or hear my friends’ saying that they want to improve their “joshiryoku” (direct translation into English is “girl power” but in Japanese, this term indicates femininity, or the “skills” to be a “proper” feminine woman). They want to improve their “joshiryoku” to be attractive to boys, or being good at cooking, etc. Femininity is related to patriarchy and heterosexism. If you’re interested in this, please check out this article (in Japanese).


I sometimes think of covering up the feminine parts of my body. In recent years, it feels more comfortable to wear something that doesn’t hug my body. I’ve imagined how my body looks without my breasts while looking at myself in the mirror. I’ve thought that I might be able to be what I want to be without them. I googled how much chest surgery would cost and found out it’s much more expensive than I’d expected. And it seems like the surgery is seen as something to get close to a male body. I realised how difficult it is to get out of the gender binary by feeling hesitant and insecure writing about this. How would I feel if the boundary between men and women is more ambiguous?


At the same time, however, I feel like the gender binary is getting more complex compared to the past. It’s not uncommon for men to wear makeup and for women to wear men’s clothes. I’m excited when I find stores having unisex clothes and perfume. However, there’ are some people criticise unisex clothes, pointing out that they are men’s clothes for women, and that men are still expected to be manly. I’d also like to do more research on why female masculinity is more accepted than male femininity, as some people still expect men to be “manly”... Other than that, I feel empowered when I find things I want to try on Instagram and Pinterest, and when I read someone’s interview on feeling uncomfortable with the ideas of femininity and masculinity.

私は「自分らしい」と感じる表現をさらに探求したい。それはもしかしたら周りからは「ユニセックス」や「ジェンダーレス」と呼ばれるものかもしれない。そういうラベルは、分かりやすいけれど、私は今そういうものが自分に必要だとはあまり感じていないかも。自分の感覚を大事にしながら、自分に合うものを選んでいくことで、女らしさでも男らしさでもなく、「私らしさ」を作っていきたいと思う。そして、男女の境界がもっと曖昧になって、性別に基づいたプレッシャーから解放されたり、男女の間を漂っていても苦しさや気まずさを感じない社会になっていくといいな。身近なところからもできることは色々あるよ!例えば、私は仲のいい友達から「女の子って〜だよね」「男の子って〜だよね」というような「女性らしさ」「男性らしさ」を強調する表現が出てきたら「なんでそう思うのー?」って質問してみたりする。それからフェミニズムだけではなくLGBTQ+についての作品を見るのも、男女の枠について考える上で、とても興味深いと思う。NetflixやAmazon Primeはもちろん、LGBTQ+映画やドラマを扱う台湾のストリーミングサービスGagaOOLalaも最近知って気になってる。GagaOOLalaの魅力は、アジア各国のクィア事情が知れる無料コンテンツ。(英語字幕のみ)今度、ジェンダーやセクシュアリティについて扱った作品を紹介する記事を書きたいな。

I want to explore how to express “myself”, not necessarily to be feminine or masculine. This might be called “unisex” or “genderless.” Those labels are easy to understand, but I don’t really feel like I need these categorisations at the moment. I want to be who I am not by trying to be either feminine or masculine, but by following my senses and choosing what makes me comfortable. I hope that the boundary between men and women will be more ambiguous in society, that people can be free from the pressures based on gender, and don’t have to feel uncomfortable even if they don’t fit in the gender binary. I think we can take action on that. For example, when I hear some stereotypes that can reinforce femininity and masculinity like “girls are always … ” or “boys are always...” during conversations with my friends, I often ask them, “why do you think so?” Also, it’s interesting to watch films, dramas and documentaries, not only about feminism but LGBTQ+ in general to think about the gender binary. In addition to Netflix and Amazon Prime, I want to watch more content on GagaOOLala, which is a Taiwanese streaming service focusing on LGBTQ+ films and dramas that I’ve discovered recently. What I like about GagaOOLala is that we can watch free videos about how it is like to live as a queer in Asian countries. I would like to write an article on introducing content related to gender and sexuality issues.


Have you felt pushed into male or female categories, or thought about getting out of the gender binary? And what do you do when you feel this way?


Xジェンダーで二次元愛好者な私 ~性別二元論とシスジェンダー中心・異性愛前提主義への疑問~『「Xジェンダー」と「ノンバイナリー」と「ジェンダークィア」

Out Japan 『LGBTとは

好書好日『「キム・ジヨン」だけじゃない!韓国文学が日本で熱い 各社シリーズ化、女性作家が人気

Neol『Search: 韓国現代文学特集

パレットーク / 漫画でわかるLGBTQ+『ICUジェンダー研究センターの先生に聞く「LGBTQ +とフェミニズムの関係って?」

i-D "what can the high street learn from the backlash against zara's ungendered collection?"

Neut Magazine『「性に関係なく体格やバックグラウンドに制限されない」。誰もが“自分勝手に選べる”アパレルブランドを始めた大学生

Taiwan Today 『LGBTQコンテンツに特化した動画配信サイト「GagaOOLala」、全世界でサービス提供へ

Images by Yumi and Azusa

English Edited by Karin

Edited by Kiara and Hikari

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