I do not know how to engage in Healthy Bodies Week.Rather, I do not know how to engage in gender. I identify as a man, but some might argue I am a man by narrow margins. I do not fit nicely into a patriarchy, and I assume a far more effeminate identity than other individuals that identify as men. I cannot tell you how many times I have been referred to as “ma’am” or “miss” on the phone, and you would be surprised at how much of my apparel is labeled women’s clothing. I love my ability to explore my gender identity in new ways.
That being said, I felt underrepresented in Healthy Bodies Week.
The most formative people in my life have been women. Within the home, my mother and sisters have been examples of power and grace unlike any a man could provide. Outside the home, I am exposed to incredible women that I can call professors, friends, and coworkers. I have been loved, held, and supported by women.
I struggle with building a community of men in my life. My lasting friendships and close ties have almost solely been with women. This may stem from a reality that, for most of my life, I have not had a father figure. Or it may be due to my experiences witnessing violence against women – with a male mentor as the perpetrator. I grew up interacting with women much more than men, making me much more comfortable with the presence of women.
That being said, how does someone who is not pulled toward the archetypal male or female identity engage in Healthy Bodies Week? With every event there is an audience attached: often “WOMEN ONLY.”
I recognize the need for spaces solely for individuals identifying as women. The world is dominated by misogynistic, capitalist, heteronormative, lesbophobic, white supremacist, transphobic, patriarchal voices of privilege oppressing those who are not rich, white, straight, cisgender and male.
Though I do not identify as transgender, I see the distinction of “women only,” in the setting of Healthy Bodies Week, to be exclusionary. For example, Monday included an informational table on DivaCups and a panel on female masturbation – both deemed “WOMEN ONLY.”
Is this excluding Trans identities that may have different experiences with menstruation or pleasure? Information on DivaCups may be relevant to individuals that do not identify as women, and masturbation may be experienced differently for Trans identities.
I love my ability to freely explore my gender in new ways, and perpetuating a gender binary feels limiting.
I do not want to point fingers, slyly hide behind a mask of anonymity, or unrightfully speak for gender and sexual identities. I recognize the privileges I hold. Healthy Bodies Week is a very important time and wonderful people executed it. I solely want to raise a concern.