Monday, 7 December 2009

I am.

Apologies for the long silence, if anyone is actually following this on a regular basis. I've started a few posts of late but have found them too concerned with gazing at my own navel - and if I find that tedious, I'm certainly not going to inflict it on anyone else.

But I've just had a lovely weekend of lazing about, doing little of note, but all of it in the sort of company that makes my heart smile.

A rest is sometimes as good as a cure...

At the end of last week I made a flying visit to London; I had a rehearsal, a meeting, a ticket to a play, and 30 hours in which to fulfill these things. Two of those hours I passed at the Wellcome Collection, exploring the new exhibition on identity. If you live in London and you've never been to the Wellcome Collection, stop reading this and go now: it's a beacon of rationality on Euston Road. The Collection broadly describes itself as a place where "you can consider what it means to be human". The current exhibition is more specific in its exploration of identity: how we formulate an answer to the question of "who am I?". I left it with a new interest - Claude Cahun - a French photographer and writer born at the end of the nineteenth century, and dissatisfied with the sexual identity presented to her by society at the time. I have to look up more of her writings. Here is a very cool photo of her pulled off the net - presumably a self-portrait as that is primarily what she produced.

In general, it was refreshing to see the vast grey areas of sexual identity acknowledged and presented rationally, which rarely occurs in the media (remember the furor this past summer about the South African runner Caster Semenya?). It's even more rare to be presented publicly with role models, individuals whose choices in their lives reflect the fact that while human sex may have biological determinants, it is more importantly a matter of what you feel you are - where you think you fall on the spectrum of female to male. It's a topic about which I feel quite strongly. At the end of the exhibition, you're invited to fill out a "monitoring form" unlike any I have encountered before. The very first page, in place of the binary identity question of "male/female", instead offers this (apologies for the poor quality picture, but you may just be able to make it out):

Where do you place yourself? Now imagine if we lived in a world where that was the standard...


  1. Cat, it sounds fascinating and I hope the exhibition is still on by the time I get back to London.

    The scale also begs the questions 'what is female' and 'what is male' to begin with - anything beyond the scientific definitions gets murky. My own assumptions looking at this chart have me assuming the box closest to female represents a 'girly' girl who is into pink and princesses and is passive and all the rest...while the top box nearest to male would be for an aggressive macho personality. Celebrated and arbitrary qualities entrenched in what happens to be my own culture's historical definition of the sexes...

    My point is that even while I think of myself as female, I have absolutely no idea where I would tick along this spectrum - and think wherever I ticked, just to tick somewhere, would be meaningless.

    ps. this is just a thought but don't be afraid that people will think you navel gazing or tedious in your blog - that's what blogs are for and it might be more interesting than you think.

  2. and the scientific definitions are murky too, considering that a portion of the population are biologically "intersex".

    hope you get to see the exhibition too.