I can’t stop thinking about Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart’s essay identifying with macho or misogynistic male authors and protagonists:
I’d always understood I was a she, and I never wanted to be otherwise. And yet somehow I was convinced that the disparaging things my male heroes said about women didn’t apply to me, not because they were untrue about females generally, but because I must not be the sort of female they were talking about. Being a strange kid helped—I had the overdeveloped intellect and underdeveloped social skills that precocious children of all genders seem to share. Since I was comfortable with being different, the masculine aspects of my personality were one more oddity among many. These oddities allowed me to nod comfortably along with sections of a novel where the author paused a moment to explain that women were like such-and-so, and then got back to the important parts, which had men in them. …
It took high school and part of college before I began to grow out of this mentality, but eventually I appreciated that the basic difference between me and other women wasn’t that they were dumber and more frivolous than I was. Dating other women helped—unlike straight men, lesbians aren’t allowed to get away with the assumption that they’re superior beings compared with the objects of their affections. It also dawned on me, albeit slowly, that the rest of the world largely saw me as a woman like any other. I mourned this, wishing for the first time that I’d been born a boy so my combative conversational style and my impulse to dominate and destroy all comers could be met with approval, rather than dismay, from peers, teachers, and family members. But, I also recognized that the same disapproval and dismay was squelching the self-expression of women generally, not just butch lesbians.
While the headline reads, “A Lesbian Dilemma,” as Urquhart herself notes, there’s nothing specifically lesbian about the feelings she describes. Identifying with the man and not the woman in a story is, I suspect, a common female experience. That’s because – as comes up somewhere in the comments to the piece – male characters in fiction are just characters, whereas female ones are woman characters. Indeed, the sense that one is somehow different from all those silly females is its own meme: “other girls.” And one that’s readily obscured by contemporary discussions of gender identity. While there are certainly unique experiences of masculine identification among transmen, butch lesbians, and other gender-non-conforming biologically-female individuals, there’s also plenty feeling-the-guy among feminine-seeming straight women and girls. Remember Simone de Beauvoir’s famous line, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”? That’s what she was getting at.