Androgyny

gdragon
G-Dragon

Apart from being *really* hard to spell, what is androgyny and how does it apply to this blog and indeed this blogger?

Note: As with pretty much all my blog posts, this is a “stream of conscientiousness” ramble

As with almost all such questions in this day and age, let’s jump over the the font of all knowledge that is Wikipedia! (Certain amount of sarcasm intended….although a lot of this article had it’s jumping off point there)

Androgyny as a noun came into use c.1850, nominalizing the adjective androgynous. The adjective use dates from the early 17th century and is itself derived from the older French (14th Century) and English (c.1550) term androgyne.

So straight away we can see that this is in no way a modern construct. The word itself is a mesh of two ancient Greek words:

Andr – Man
Gyne – Woman

Brian Molko
Brian Molko of Placebo

There have been references to androgyny for as long as we have records. The ancient Greeks had the legend of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis who fused to become one androgynous immortal being. Hermaphroditus of course gave it’s name to the term “hermaphrodite”, which in the common parlance is used to mean one living being/animal that expresses both sets of genitalia. I won’t be discussing this as it muddies the water at times and has no impact on androgyny at all.

One of the earliest mentions of androgyny is from Plato. He tells a tale of how humans used to be very different than how they are now, they were like two people joined back to back. A person which was both halves male was from the sun, both halves female was from the earth, and male-female was from the moon.

These people tried to usurp the gods and when they failed Zeus cut them all in half, leaving the navel as a reminder that if they tried it again he would slice them up even further and leave everyone hopping around on one leg!

Plato says that the people who are descended from the “Moon People” are now what we would call androgynous. Another interesting and important snippet from this story is that Plato states categorically that homosexuality is not shameful, thanks Plato! Seriously though, this is just one example of how someone many thousands of years ago, growing up in a completely different era with a completely non-christian set of morals saw what is blatantly obvious but missed by so many today…

Anyway, moving on…

luisacapatillo
Luisa Capatillo

Androgyny has, since the start of the 20th century at least, been closely connected with the gender equality movement. Luisa Capatillo is a great example of this. She was the first woman in Peurto Rico to wear trousers in public and a strong women’s rights campaigner in a very masculine culture during the late 1800’s and early 1900s.

The androgynous look soon got into fashion, most notably Coco Chanel promoted the androgynous look, and Marlene Dietrich took it on and ran with it, being the first female star to wear trousers to a premiere.

Up until the middle of the 20th century, it is primarily women who are identified as choosing to appear androgynous. In the 50s and 60s this started to change though. Something that I found quite surprising (until I actually thought about it and revisited soem early photographs) was that one of the earliest examples of male androgynous appearance was none other than Elvis Presley! As soon as you think about it, it makes sense though!

elvis

In his early incarnation and right up until the 70’s, Elvis was a “pretty boy” and enhanced his looks with makeup, one of the very first male pop/rock stars to do so. He was such a success (and I don’t need to say how much the girls loved him!) that the androgynous look was taken up by many other pop/rock artists.

Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, John Travolta and even Jimi Hendrix can all be said to have embraced the androgynous look to a greater or lesser extent, and to great success!

Outside of the music world, it was much more a “women dressing as men thing” than a “men dressing as women” thing. Yes I appreciate that this statement tramples all over modern thinking (thinking that I 100% subscribe to) but it is how it was seen at the time. The majority of people would probably still see it that way today.

The androgynous look continued in the pop world through the 80s with Grace Jones and Nick Rhodes to name just a few.

Skipping forward to the modern world, androgyny is discussed a little less than “gender fluidity”. I blow hot and cold on this term. In one way I like it, but in another I think that gender fluidity encompasses a lot more than androgyny, which tends to be a purely visual statement. Gender is such a hot topic and at the cutting edge of understanding for the world at large that I think any widely used term which includes the word needs to be very careful.

Lady Gaga VMA 2011Artists like Lady Gaga, Ruby Rose, Jaden Smith and Lily-Rose Depp are being pointed at with regards “Gender Fluidity”, but for me it’s unfair and impossible to label them (as well as plain wrong) as such because I don’t know what their Gender Identity is. I can see how they are dressing and how they are portraying themselves, but that’s it. Are they doing it for artistic reasons? Are they making a point? Or is this how they actually identify their own gender? I don’t know.

Wikipedia says that:

An androgyne is a person who does not fit neatly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles of their society. Androgynes may also use the term “ambigender” or “polygender” to describe themselves. Many androgynes identify as being mentally between woman and man. They may identify as “non-gender”, “gender-neutral”, “agender”, “between genders”, “genderqueer”, “non-binary”, “multigender”, “intergendered”, “pangender” or “gender fluid”.

Using the above description, I would have to identify myself as androgynous. In a previous post I described how I do not identify with either male or female despite being in appearance an obvious male with a beard and a bit of a podge. My brain simply will not put me into either bracket when I think about my identity.

Out of interest, I recently carried out an online Bem Sex-role Inventory Self Assessment. This is a test designed in the 70s by Sandra Bem and is apparently one of the more widely used gender measures. The possible outcomes are Masculine, Feminine, Androgynous and Undifferentiated.  Interestingly, and fitting with my statement above my result was “undifferentiated” since I had Masculine, Feminine and Androgynous scores all under 70/100. I guess this reflects the fact that I really don’t care, and it’s not a “thing” for me.

I guess I am still a little confused about whether androgyny is a look, a lifestyle, a gender-type expression, or all of the above!

I would be really excited and interested to hear your thoughts. Shoot me down, educate me, discuss any of this post, please!

Above all, thanks for reading.

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Nowhere To Go

I have talked before about my experience with depression. Thankfully now I am decently medicated and able to engage properly with my wonderful partner I am able to turn my eyes inwards a little more and think about those feelings, even fight them when necessary.

I have also spoken about photography and my love for making photographs. I have recently started using old film cameras rather than digital (Although the results are digitised) and am loving it.

So, I am going to put the two together.

One of the key aspects of depression is the feeling that you are trapped in some way; you feel like there is no way out, no options, no alternatives. Nowhere to go…

I have started planning work on a project to combine  my photography with my words on the subject of barriers and depression. This will be the first photography project I have ever undertaken but it feels right. It has been far too long since I wrote prose or poetry; and I have never limited myself in such a way as to have to focus and write on a specific subject. It will be an interesting experience.

I will keep you posted – as a starter here is one of the photographs that I will be including in the project.

bars
bars – 2016

Maybe I can have a photo-book created, perhaps to sell and donate the proceeds to a relevant charity, but I am not jumping ahead of myself, rather my aim is to enjoy the process and get my feelings and thoughts through the lens and pen.

It’s OK

I wasn’t planning on posting today. I was planning on putting together an interesting retrospective of my childhood and all of the experiences that I can remember that were relevant to my recent orientation revelation and posting it later in the week. But hey, this is a diary isn’t it? And diaries are for writing whatever pops up and whatever is top of mind. This is a bit of a ramble, but it does have a point, honest!

I have always fancied girls. My earliest memories of anything even vaguely involving sexual attraction are in connection with girls (Debbie and Cheryl, hope you are well and happy!) and are from the age of about nine or so. I was an early developer, which is damn frustrating! As a trailblazer you have no one to follow if I may state the obvious for a second. I was noticing things that none of my friends seemed to see. All these suddenly interesting bumps and curves and I was the only one that could see them!

Of course at that age I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing with any of them. That changed with the discovery of a large box in the attic of a neighboring block of flats, full of magazines, but I will come to that in a later post.

I think I have always fancied boys too. By which I mean males, I don’t lust after schoolboys now in my early forties. I hate that I have to point that out, but I feel that I can say “I like girls” as an adult man and people will understand that I mean “women”, but if I as a grown man say “I like boys” it is immediately assumed by a vast majority of the population that I mean “little boys”.

I don’t think any schoolchild enjoys the showers after sport, but they terrified me. As an early developer I was noticeably physically different, and in school different is bad, but that wasn’t all. I was embarrassed by the stares, sure, but I also enjoyed the attention and my biggest fear was that I would react, physically. I have vague memories of being the first to finish showering almost every time, and dashing out to dry off and get dressed as quickly as I could to hide what I couldn’t control my sheer mental will. This would have been a little older, maybe 12 or so.

My bedroom wall was covered in pictures. My parents were cool with it thankfully so the wall that my bed was against was absolutely papered with cuttings from Smash Hits, Metal Hammer and Kerrang. I have always been musically complicated, but at least I have always been able to speak about that!

Sam Fox
Sam Fox in the 80’s

The biggest poster I had was of Sam Fox. Remember that this was the mid/late eighties and she was one of the most attractive page three models, and had released a single “Touch Me” and an album so was pretty much everywhere for a while. It was a black and white picture, revealing but not topless. I can remember pretty much every detail. The magazine cutouts were a variety. Fuzzbox were blu-tacked next to Slayer and I can distinctly remember a picture of Andy Bell (Lead singer from Erasure) bending suggestively over a kitchen counter that I was always fascinated by. It was from an interview in Smash Hits and I remember the phrase “homoerotic” being in there somewhere. All I knew was that it was “me-erotic”, as much so as Samantha was on the wall beside him.

Adam Ant
Adam Ant in the 80’s

The funny thing is that at no point in my childhood did I ever think that it was OK to find both of those pictures attractive. Getting aroused by Madonna in “Like a Virgin” was fine in my head, but being stirred by Adam Ant in Prince Charming or Nick Rhodes in Duran Duran was “wrong”. It didn’t stop it happening, or from me enjoying it, but it felt dirty and something that only I was doing, which if I am being completely honest probably added to the enjoyment!

If I could impart one piece of knowledge to a young person having the same sort of experiences it would be that it’s OK! Enjoy it, explore it, revel in it. Sexuality is a complicated thing and it can take a long while to sort out. It took me about thirty years so I know this to be true…. School is a complicated place too, and not a kind one to anyone not following the herd. I think that being honest to yourself and accepting your own feelings and urges and their direction is the main thing. I think that if I had accepted that I was attracted to my friends as well as my girlfriends then my life up to this point would have been a lot smoother and happier.

Have you had any similar experiences? Or are you currently going through something like I describe? Drop me a comment and I will reply as best I can.