A Gender Mind-Fuck, A.K.A. My Life Now
Posted by diagnosemylife
Hello World! I’m Genderqueer*!
I know this isn’t a very epic way of coming out, on my anonymous blog that only a handful of people I actually know in real life read, but I’m still nervous about coming out. So, baby steps.
Just like when I found out I was bisexual (which later I changed to pansexual, once I realized what that was), I’ve gone through some anger and denial about this facet of my identity. Once again, I got scared of being different, of being made fun of, of further distancing myself from my family, and of accepting the fact that I’m not the adult I figured I’d turn into as a kid. Dammit, I thought to myself, I thought I was done with all this coming out crap.
But nope, here I am, just as queer as ever. And like being pansexual, being genderqueer is often pretty invisible to other people and misunderstood. To most people, I’m sure I look “butch” or “tom girl” or just really gay. I dress in a mix of men’s and women’s clothes, my shoes are almost always sneakers, and I wear a hat about once a week to hide my hair. So I might look different, but people still pretty much treat me the same.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” “Here you go, sweetie.” “She said…” “How can I help you, miss?” “That’s hers…” What I never thought twice about, having my gender assumed by everyone around me, now feels wrong. But what is “right”? I’m not a guy, but I’m not a girl. Maybe I’m a mix, maybe I’m fluid, maybe I’m neither…I’m not sure yet. So what am I supposed to tell people to call me?
Something I didn’t understand about being gender queer before identifying as it was why it requires its own label, why people can’t just think of gender outside gender roles, and continue living their life as a woman/man, but do their own thing. Now I get it–It’s more than gender roles, more than whether or not you wear dresses or pay for dinner. Being genderqueer in my experience means realizing you no longer fit in your gender, or in the “opposite” gender…feeling so distanced from women and men, like you just want people to stop putting you in a box. For me, I realized I was genderqueer by the overwhelming feeling that I just wanted to be treated as simply a person, simply myself, and not a woman.
So, how has life changed since realizing this about myself? In a way, my identity effects nothing and everything. I’m still the same ol’ me, but now I want people to treat me that way; I want people to hold their opinion of me outside of gender. It’s a lot to ask, though. Our lives are organized around gender and our expectations for each gender, including sexual attraction. When I dress feminine, men look at me and talk to me more. When I dress masculine, men ignore me for the most part. What makes this so frustrating is that when I’m feeling masculine I want to fit in with men—I want to be one of the bros, to joke around and feel like I belong—but they can’t seem to get around my breasts and female stature. As for women, I feel like my attraction to them is invisible when I dress feminine, but that seems to be the only way to make them feel comfortable talking to be in the first place. So basically, it feels like their interpretation of my actions is either seen as friendly or flirty based on how I’m presenting, and I can’t actually choose between the two myself.
The spaces I occupy also feel very different. Going on dates I see confused looks because my partner is male, and I’m dressed masculine instead of feminine. Sometimes I feel like because of this, people confuse him as gay (which he doesn’t identify with) or misread us as friends. I feel like everyone is looking at me thinking, What are you doing to him? Aren’t you supposed to be the girl? Other spaces, like public restrooms, also make me feel out-of-place. I use the women’s restroom out of preference for cleanliness (I know I shouldn’t stereotype men as messy in the bathroom, but I’m pretty sure my brother has scarred me for life, haha) and for fear of harassment. But when I go in there, I feel like I don’t belong…as silly as that may sound for a bathroom. Women fix their hair in the mirror, and see me washing my hands at the sink. I catch glimpses of confusion on their faces, and discomfort. What are you doing here? I guess that’s a girl…. Meanwhile, I’m drying my hands, thinking, Guy in the girl’s room. That’s what this is like.
I look back on my past and wonder why I was so comfortable being feminine all the time then, but not now. What changed? First of all, back in high school I had no idea that there were genders besides man and woman. So that solves that issue—but what about college, after I was educated about gender fluidity? Why didn’t it click that I was genderqueer the moment it was explained to me?
I’ve thought about this a lot, and my conclusion is this: When you are growing up, and figuring out who you are, it feels good to go along with the things people praise you for. Once I grew out of my awkward puberty stage, my insecurities were soothed when I realized that guys liked me—they liked my smooth legs, my bigger boobs, the way jeans hugged my ass and my long, wavy hair. And it wasn’t just guys who liked the feminine attributes I had, it was everyone. Girls at school complimented my outfits, my grandma’s friends would talk about how pretty I was, my mom would tell me she envied my legs, my dad mentioned how he liked my hair, my boyfriends eyed my low-cut tops, friends would help me with my makeup…it was constantly reaffirming when I was always feminine. It felt great to walk into a room and know that other people thought I looked good. So that’s what I did; I people-pleased with my appearance like I did with so many other things because it boosted my self-esteem. So what changed? How much I cared about what other people thought.
After coming out with my sexual orientation, I realized what life was like without everyone’s approval all the time…and you know what? It wasn’t so devastating. People gave me dirty looks and felt uncomfortable, but I felt so much better. I was free to express my homosexual attraction, and it was a giant weight off my shoulders. And yeah, while it definitely took some getting used to the stares and the disapproval, I became happier. Without coming out about my sexuality, I probably would have never had the courage to look at the truth of my gender identity.
So where does that leave me now? Honestly, I’m not always so sure. I don’t know how I’m going to navigate some parts of my future like parenthood (do I let my kids call me mom?) or my career (do I tell my employers or clients about my gender identity?), but I’ve got plenty of time to learn. Mostly what I’m working on now is becoming assertive about myself—not being afraid to tell people with pronouns I prefer, or that I’d like to be called by my nickname than actual name. It’s a work in progress. Another issue I’m tackling is deciding who to tell about my identity in general. After coming out to my family about my sexuality, I don’t think it’s a great idea to come out to them about my gender identity, but I’d like my friends and classmates to know. My goal next semester is to start off each class by emailing the professor my pronoun preference and my name preference. It’ll be harder to work on that with people who already know me, but again: baby steps.
Coming out is a strange process that takes time, and what is even stranger is changing the way you see yourself. But like last time, I’m beginning to feel better, more free. There’s a certain strength that comes with owning up to who you are, and this will make me stronger yet.
*What does genderqueer mean? Here is the definition from Wikipedia, because I’m too lazy to write my own: “Genderqueer (GQ), also termed non-binary or gender-expansive, is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity. Genderqueer people may identify as one or more of the following:
- having an overlap of, or indefinite lines between, gender identity;
- having two or more genders (being bigender, trigender, or pangender);
- having no gender (being agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree or neutrois);
- moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid); or
- being third gender or other-gendered, a category which includes those who do not place a name to their gender.“
About diagnosemylifeOkay, if I can't keep all this stuff about my life in my head, how do you expect me to shove it in this little box?
Posted on 10/19/2016, in Feminism & Social Issues, Who The Hell Am I? & Other Stuff You Ask Yourself and tagged coming out, gender fluidity, genderqueer, LGBTQ, self-examination. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.