The gender manifesto: Divine, terrifying, liberating, true

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Image Description: Bird lady painting.

The beauty of gender is that it is a mirror. Its tragedy is that we are so seldom able to pass through it. When we do, we are cut adrift, existing beyond the perfect paper fold of a handprint butterfly in a wonderland where nothing seems quite real. Where there is no such thing as touch.

I am in love with a boy but he cannot love me because of the clothes I wear. Because although my body – the wrong one for me – is the one he wants, the face I present is not. So much and nothing at all, gender is how we decide.

Gender is vulnerability. The passion of Christ. The tragedy of Ophelia. Gender is making oneself vulnerable in the belief that the opposite will sustain. Or not. Gender is the belief that there is no opposite. Gender is choosing to replicate rather than recreate, because life imitates art. Gender is the performance of ontology. Gender is the black heart of me. Gender is the originator of beauty.

A man is beautiful because he breaks, a woman because she is strong. A woman is beautiful because she suffers, a woman is beautiful because she is sad. Sadness is the precondition of gender, and sadness makes good art. Thus, gender makes good art. Thus, gender makes good poetry. Gender is not a body part, and neither is sex. Sex is a lie of the body we tell, to each other and ourselves and our children when they are born.

A penis is not a man. A man is not his penis. And if a woman is her vagina then we may as well lock her up. The vagina can be metaphor. The penis can be transformed. Not all women menstruate. Not all women can have children. Not all women want children. Not all women want a job.

If a woman is her vagina then we may as well lock her up

Gender is religion. Gender is a joke. A big fat joke at everyone’s expense, everyone’s expense but mine. The beauty of gender is that it does whatever the fuck it wants. The Angel Gabriel came to me one night and told me I would give birth to a baby boy. I have no womb, I said. I haven’t the room inside. He said that didn’t matter when you are made of stardust, when you are the aftermath of a cataclysm of stars. Stars. Scars. These lines are my scars. Poetry is the performance of the self. Women suffer under patriarchy, but so do men.

Normativity and relativity are not the same. There is no definition of ‘woman’ that does not exclude, no definition of ‘man’ that does not shame. Virginia Woolf recognised this, said she had no idea what made a woman, nor did she believe anyone else knew. Gender is only real if you want it to be. Yet it remains indefatigably true. To deny another’s gender is to deny the beauty of fact. Fact that cannot be explained.

Being transgender is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. And it is still happening to me every single day. Gender is everywhere, and free and divine, and terrifying and liberating and true. Gender is oppression only when misused. Gender is everything that you do.

Image: AnneMarit (Marit) Jarvinen