Reconciling Dichotomies

Rather than stand in solitary academic confinement, Patrick Califia’s essay, Manliness, is laden throughout with personal experience and accounts of individualized corporeality. This, for me, is one thing which unifies many essays and works we’ve read thus far in Gender in Transition. Personal narrative underlies works of literature within the realm of trans* studies in a way other academic fields might not get away with due to an investment in objectivity. Califia’s essay, however, forays into his almost psychoanalytic thoughts to allow his reader a glimpse into his most personal thoughts on embodiment.

What I find most interesting about this essay is Califia’s testimony regarding the reconciliation of masculinity and femininity and the shade of masculinity he feels he embodies. “Salvaging virtues” obtained by his father and those of ordinary men, Califia calls for a masculinity in which men are able to bond “erotically and emotionally,” as he claims women are able to do (Califia 438).

The idea of congruence in virtues as laid forth by Patrick Califia not only initiates discussions on a “female masculinity” itself, but on femininity and masculinity as separate entities as well. Califia is able to draw on individual aspects of idealized masculinity and femininity and figure out how these aspects create specific corporealities for those who embody them. However, its is not Califia’s goal to negate all dichotomy in the realized identities of people. He is, then, attempting to negotiate gendered virtues as lived experiences, with pasts and malleable futures, ones that can be obtained and repossessed.

Sally Stempler


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