Narcissism of Small Differences

Jun 16, 2021 | 2020 Winter - Women's Space

By Tamsin

As a non-binary individual who has been part of the Boston Bisexual Women’s Network for years, I feel like I have an interesting point of view on “women’s space.” I will admit, part of my motivation for writing is to justify my own presence; for many months after being aware of the topic of this issue, I felt attacked by its very prompt. Why must “non-binary world” be contrasted with “women’s space,” as if the former somehow challenged/negated the other? And, given that the concept of “women’s space” was made to be the central topic, how could I not feel anything other than, well, “othered”? But I wouldn’t truly be part of the LGBTQIA+ community if I didn’t put aside my pride for the greater good, now would I?

So now that I have paved my self-righteous war path, let me tramp down it. First, there is no one agreed-upon definition, nor has there been, nor should there ever be, of what it means to be a “woman,” nor is the very idea of “woman” some sort of platonic truth. We all have different experiences, and it is beyond any individual’s rights to deny the experiences of others. It is not contradictory to value one’s views and experiences, while realizing their limits. To do otherwise is to lack humility. On these grounds, I can assert my views on the topic of women’s space as valid, if not universally espoused.

If you as a reader are politically minded, you might wonder what right I have to assert my views on womanhood while rejecting that label. In response I have two lines of thought. The first is to assert that, to the best of my knowledge, womanhood in the West has never been defined (contested?) in isolation; there is indeed a reason why people use the phrase “the opposite sex,” for womanhood and manhood [to say nothing of androgyny] have always mutually informed each other in the popular consciousness. Whether we like what “the other half ” has to say on the topic does nothing to negate my point. My second assertion is that perhaps I do not fully reject the label of woman at all, not because I internally espouse it, but because it has been applied to me. At a certain level, yes, I am “othering” myself in the way I decried a few sentences ago. On another level, how others see me has practical implications. I have been discriminated against, and have been socialized in certain ways despite my best efforts, born with a body that bears certain consequences in this world. I therefore partake in the experience of “womanhood,” whatever that is, even against my will. So how “invalid” were my thoughts on the matter to begin with?

So why have I participated, you ask? Well, for one thing, I didn’t fully know the words to understand my non-binary identity at the time I joined the group. For another, I wanted to meet people and make friends, especially with women, which I have always sucked at. I can’t say I’ve gotten much better. But the main reason I’ve stayed is because I’ve had a place. I could DO something for someone, even if what I do is small and I’m not the only one who could do it. To be given the chance to do it meant something to me because it is harder to fight against concrete actions. I can also say that this group helped me get over my abusive lesbian ex-girlfriend. That was huge. Thanks.

So, yeah, fine, I’ll affirm this place so that you all can feel comfortable while my own position, for all I know, remains tentative (I await this issue with bated breath).

Tamsin is a data analyst living in Boston. Their interests include public health, history, and dogs.

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