Exploring gender





Compiled by Vidya, Rainbow Friends and Allies Meeting

Our Rainbow Friends and Allies Meeting invited personal contributions on gender. The pieces below show our diversity of gender identity and the ways we have found to put this into words.

We hope this will inspire you to explore your own gender identity. Could this become a booklet? Would you like to join us on this journey?

Growing up I didn’t really conform to gender as an idea: I don’t know if kids do. When I was a young girl I was active, outgoing, honest, and confident.

Growing up, society sort of crushed this in me. When I reached double digits as a female bodied person, I began getting labelled and told what I should and shouldn’t do with my body. I was also told what’s normal and not normal for me and my body, and as kids are, I was influenced by the adults around me. It’s interesting how a lot of those beliefs have stayed with me and coloured my understanding of myself. Up until recently.

At age 29 I am rewriting what womanhood is for me and what I feel I can be. How I can celebrate and appreciate my cycles, my curves, and my intuition… How I can win and run and dance and learn to take up just as much space as anybody else. Society didn’t teach me this, my chosen Aunties have through their stories and their fights for their womanhood.

This I can say: The future is female.

S,  Victoria RM

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 Mostly I am a woman. There’s a male aspect too, in the background, quietly present. Every now and then, a switch flicks and I become a man – for a few days, or a few hours. People comment that my voice sounds deeper, I wear guy’s clothes. And then the switch flicks back again. Sometimes when I dream, I am masculine, but still me.

D, Kaurna Land

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 Gender… as opposed to biological sex… How intertwined these are probably accounts for some of my confusion in the formidable M’s sociology unit ‘Gender, Sex and Sexuality’. Where do I start? With my childhood gravitation to androgyny and the freedom of imagined adventures? With my teenage despair at the practical implications of having a female body? Later, in the heady lesbian feminism of the 1980s, I rejoiced in being woman-identified.

When I think about pronouns this connection with ‘she/her’ is strong and I’m reluctant to let it go. Yet for some time I’ve been very comfortable using ‘they/them’ where sex is unknown or when disguising identity for confidentiality or privacy. Since pronouns have been talked about more openly, I’ve felt unsure.

Do I have the right to use ‘they/them’ in my own way, if I’m not claiming to be non-binary or in the process of transitioning? I was reassured about expressing my own truth by a wonderful book I read, but I’m still shy about publicly broadcasting labels for myself even in safe settings. Labels I haven’t quite grown into—despite understanding the importance of ally support in breaking open societal assumptions, despite the warm encouragement of those more courageous who are further along this path.

R (she/they)

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 My gender is my own. Like a cat, I rather like boxes – provided that I get in them myself. Heaven help someone who fervently decides to put me in a box of their own choosing. Well, the reaction is rarely that dire, but I will be a most disgruntled feline.

I don’t think about my gender a lot. I know that I have one. Generally, there are boxes I know I like getting into. Woman, non-binary, sometimes bigender or genderfluid. Never male.

Day to day, what I really think about though is my presentation. My gender expression.

Gender expression, for me, is the actualisation of what my gender means. Discovering how I express my gender is joyful, quietly thrilling work. It’s my physical appearance, clothing, yes, but it’s also the furnishings in my house, the songs I sing, the tales I tell. My gender, and exploring it, is discovering who I am more fully. A joyous, confusing, euphoric, endless task. When someone else deliberately or accidentally puts me in a box I did not choose, the task changes. It becomes a defiant act of protest, rebellion, and utmost integrity. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Em Chandler

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Immersed in nature,
ancient trees and the land,
through space and time
into the Everything.

 The question
“What is my gender?”
is limiting and reduces the self.
Beyond questions
of gender or species.


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A few years ago at work, we heard from a speaker for International Men’s Day. As he spoke about his experiences recovering from toxic masculinity, I became increasingly uncomfortable. This was no fault of the speaker. It dawned on me that as a gay man I recognised in the Australian notions of masculinity he spoke about the lingering feeling of menacing hostility that I have had to learn from a young age to navigate around for my own safety.

And yet I am perceived as male, and at some levels and in some contexts I feel entirely comfortable with this. The irony.

What I think this means is that there is no one way to be male and, indeed, there are no hard lines between masculinity, femininity or other gender identities. We are each unique and gender is as diverse and fascinating as humanity itself.

 Evan Gallagher,  Canberra and Region Quakers

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Before I am a man,
I am so many other things.
To name but a few: a person,
a sailor, a mountaineer,
a mathematician, a writer,
a designer, an engineer,

 a maker, a geek,
a thinker, a dreamer,
a Friend,
a friend.


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 Although I live alone and celibate for many years, identifying as a lesbian is very much part of who I am.

I came out as a lesbian after several years of fraught and abusive heterosexual relationships. I identified as a feminist long before my first lesbian relationship.  I was involved in many feminist political and activist groups and studied Women’s Studies at ANU in the nineties.  Addressing the oppression, equalities and violence to women was and still is paramount to me.

Identifying as a lesbian for me clarifies who I am, that is, a woman centered woman, and being clear on my identity, I hope, assists me an accepting other people and their chosen/named identity.

Some years ago, when I was actively writing fiction it was important to me that who the characters were and how they related to others was not determined on their sexual attraction.  At the time I was aware of how writers and musicians who weren’t identified as men were labelled as women – woman composer or woman writer and the like, and I am encouraged now to hear that this happens less, for example a musician is acclaimed for their music and their gender is immaterial.

I notice for example the ABC presenters are using the pronoun ‘they’ oftener and I welcome the introduction of us stating our chosen pronoun.

Maybe we are getting closer to gender identity being irrelevant.

I do hope so.

Wilma Davidson, Ngunnawal/Ngambri land

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