“Are You a Man, or Are You a Woman”?: Addressing Androgyny in Society and Culture

Everyone’s favorite guest blogger is back! Josha candidly discusses her gender identity, gender expression, and androgyny in what I believe is her most touching post yet. -Mandy

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genderAs a PT assistant in a skilled nursing facility, I had a wonderful experience with an older man as he lay on his deathbed. I easily connected with this man when he initially came to our facility for physical therapy, however his end stage liver disease caused a major decline in his physical and mental abilities and so he was set up with hospice care.

The following is the experience that I had with him during a 3-day span, prior to his discharge from physical therapy.

Thursday: This very tall, ailing, older adult who is an Englishman found out that I was a woman. His face looked as though he was shocked with confusion. I watched the conversation go down from a distance and I figured that by the next day he would have no recollection of this new information.

Friday: The man waved for me to come over to him in the hallway. With time and with difficulty due to great effort to find the right words, he told me, with slurred speech and an English accent, “Somebody said you are a woman. Is this true?” His tone and disbelief looked as though he was disappointed.

I told him that I am and he said, “but you are Joshua!”

I said, “No, I’m Josha.”

He went on with some more disorganized comments and seemed frustrated that all this time he thought I was a guy, and that people were lying to him in telling him that I am a woman.

Saturday: It was early morning as I entered his room and he was still in his hospital gown, lying in bed, barely able to talk. When he figured out who I was he said “Joshua!” with excitement and his face lit up.  And then he went on to ask me, “I have to know, are you a man, or are you a woman? Somebody has said you are a woman.”

With a slight feeling of discomfort, I replied, “Yes, I am a woman.”

He said, “I’m so confused. “

I said, “I see that this is bothering you.”

He said, “No. Yes. Oh, this cruel world!”

I told him to relax, as he was getting so anxious. I checked his vitals, and then notified the nurse of his low blood pressure and his behaviors of anxiousness and increased confusion.

I came back to assure him that the nurse would be coming to check in with him, and he continued on with trying to figure things out.

Before I left for the weekend, I returned to his room to check in.  He seemed to have cleared up and was not as anxious. We joked about his confusion and his behavior from the morning. He was still a little jumbled but was making more since than before and he went on to say, with his adorable English accent,  “Hey, I realize you are not a man and you are not a woman. But you are a wonderful person. Please don’t think I’m a hater.“

I said, “I’m sorry, I did not mean to confuse you.”

He said, “No, you don’t need to apologize. You are such a wonderful person. Please don’t think I’m a hater.”

I assured him that I did not think he was a hater and that I would see him next week.

With a sarcastic tone and a halfway smile, he stated, “I don’t know that I will be around next week.”

I told him that I was glad he was feeling better and that I will look forward to seeing him next week.

This experience with this man of an older generation was amazing to me. I felt like I was watching him reconcile, in the midst of the end of his life, his view on something he doesn’t understand. Grant it, he was in bit of a confused state of mind, but all the more amazing that he came to peace with the fact that I’m different. I don’t look stereotypically female and I don’t look stereotypically male. Androgynous is perhaps a word he could have found useful in his vocabulary.

It reminded me of one of my most favorite quotes of Jesus, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

I think that statement is recorded only once, but I wonder how many times Jesus actually had to make that statement.

I wonder if God spoke to this man saying, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” It is as though the man finally decided it didn’t matter what I looked like, it didn’t matter if I had a male or female label, and all that matter was that I was a wonderful person.  He stopped focusing on trying to figure me out and relaxed with looking into my heart and the soul of who I am.

I also learned something about myself. It really felt good to hear him say, “I know you are not a man, and I know you are not a woman.” I also struggle with both these labels. I honestly cannot refer to myself as male, but to be even more honest, it has and still feels so awkward to refer to myself as a woman. It felt so good to hear someone say that I’m neither male nor female.  This is just an observation that I wonder if more people out there experience as well.

-Josha

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One response to ““Are You a Man, or Are You a Woman”?: Addressing Androgyny in Society and Culture

  1. Pingback: “Are You a Boy or a Girl?”: Addressing Androgyny in the Church | Coming Out Christian

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