My last post is not going to explain how we categorize but rather talking about consequences people must face when they do not fit into one sex category. I was inspired to write about this after reading the book “Stone Butch Blues” by Leslie Feinberg.
The story takes place in the 1950th and 1960th in the US. The main character is called Jess Goldberg who is a girl but looks like a boy and runs away from home when she is 15 years old. Keep in mind that at this time homosexuals and transgender people suffered a lot social and legal discrimination and violence against them. For example, there was one law which stated that as a girl you must wear at least three female clothes otherwise the police is allowed to arrest you.
There were many passages that stayed in my mind but I will only talk about two of them which I consider suitable for this post. One of them is that Jess always tries to avoid public toilets. The reason is that because of her rather male appearance women inside the woman toilet stare at her in disbelief or even tell her to leave the toilet or that she is a freak. This is very humiliating and to avoid these encounters she tries to just use the toilet at home or in places she knows it is safe.
The second one is about Jess taking hormones. At one point in her life she decided to start taking hormones because she could not endure any more violence against her or any other humiliation and restriction of her life. She decided to take hormones and have a breasts surgery and try to ‘pass’ as a man. It was the only way she saw to survive in the world. Her hope was that her “world could open up“ (p.163). In some ways it did. She was not looked at when she went to the man’s bathroom and she was able to maintain a job for a longer period. On the other hand, she was more isolated than before. Since she was not a butch anymore she did not belong to the lesbian community but she also was not a ‘real’ man so she did not feel like she belonged to that group neither. After some time, she decided to stop taking the hormones because she felt like her whole live was a lie. After the effect of the hormones stopped Jess notices people staring at her again. “Before, strangers had raged at me for being a woman who crossed a forbidden boundary. Now they really didn’t know what my sex was, and that was unimaginable, terrifying to them” (p.244)
Jess experiences show that categorizing is very important for people in everyday life (e.g. choice of toilet). Not fitting into the categories of male or female made Jess feel like an outsider who did not belong anywhere. Which eventually forced her into taking hormones to get rid of social pressure.
If you are interested in reading the book here is link where you can download the whole story for free: http://www.lesliefeinberg.net/