“Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity…This mismatch between sex and gender identity can lead to distressing and uncomfortable feelings that are called gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a recognized medical condition, for which treatment is sometimes appropriate. It is not a mental illness.” (source: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Gender-dysphoria/Pages/Introduction.aspx )
When you hear the phase “body dysphoria” it is usually in the context of the transgender experience. A man or woman is describing the way they feel towards the mismatch of their body parts and their gender, because for whatever reason, they want the traditional man=penis+testicles, woman=vagina+uterus+breasts equation (not all trans people feel this way, but for argument’s sake I’m focusing on the ones that do). But then there are people like me, whose gender is not so black and white, that aren’t accounted for in that equation.
People understand the transgender experience because it fits in the male/female binary; it boils down to being the opposite of what everyone perceives you to be. But there is no script for being genderqueer like there is for being a man or woman; there’s no set way a genderqueer person is supposed to look. So I guess you could say our relationships with our bodies are…complicated.
I’ve read things online about genderqueer body dysphoria before, and it seems everyone’s experience is different. Some people want a mix or male/female parts, some people want the entire male/female connotation removed from the description of their body, some people are happy with what they were born with and the male/female status of their body, some people want the “opposite” of what they were born with. In a way, it’s nice not to have pressure to get any surgeries or start hormone therapy, but on the other hand it leaves a gaping hole where there would normally be some sort of frame-of-reference. I can’t just do what everyone else is doing, or do what society sees as the “genderqueer body”; I must sort through my feelings about every part of my body…searching for what I see as “me”.
Though there has been a lot of relief with mostly coming out as genderqueer, there has also been a lot of frustration. Most people don’t use my they/them pronouns, and most still see me as a woman (or girl, if they are being infantile about it). And most of the time I hate it. It makes me feel so angry inside to constantly be put in a box where I don’t belong…”I’M NOT A GIRL!” I want to scream. But usually I don’t say anything because I either don’t want people to feel bad, don’t want to be judged, or have to explain myself. It gets sort of exhausting after a while to try to teach people over and over what you are, especially after living a life where everyone assumed things correctly. People mean well, but it feels sort of alienating to have to explain something so integral about yourself as your gender. No one asks men or women to explain what a man or woman is, or when they knew they were one, but they do with me.
I hate being different sometimes. I hate that people see my body, my face and use it against me—to label me as something I’m trying so hard not to be. No matter how flat my boobs seem to look, people still know I have them and talk about them in a feminine way. No matter how skinny I get, people see me as having hips and an ass that is different from men’s. I can’t see to get away from “woman”…but I don’t want to get rid of parts of my body in order to be seen as something else. I don’t want a penis so I can be “manly”; I want people to see the masculine parts of my personality and know that I can be “manly” as I already am. But looking past the boobs and smooth face requires more work than most people are willing to put in.
So I look in the mirror at my body and feel mixed up. Sometimes I love it as is, other times I wish my boobs weren’t there, or that the curves I was once so proud of would even out… My body now is everything I wanted as a teen: skinny, feminine, mature; but now it doesn’t match how I feel on the inside. Everyone calls it female, making me feel so disconnected and sometimes resentful of it. As someone who has struggled hard to love themselves as they are, this makes me feel even angrier. I want to love my body as it is, but it seems to be the source of almost all of the misgendering that happens to me.
I know in a lot of ways I have it easy. My breasts are easier to bind since they are now smaller, and my skinniness makes guy clothes fit easier (though I definitely do still have trouble finding the right fit). My race also helps, since masculinity is not as hyped up as it seems to be in other races and ethnicities. But even with all this privilege, it will never measure up to the privilege I had as a cisgendered woman.
There’s freedom in being something that society has yet to define, but there’s also loneliness in it. My experience as a genderqueer person is so hard to relate to because I am often the only genderqueer person people have met. I guess that means I can sort of set the tone for what “genderqueer” means in my area…but I don’t want the weight of that burden. I just want to be me…why can’t people see that? Why can’t they see how uncomfortable they are making me when they call me a girl? Why can’t they understand that my gender has nothing to do with theirs, and that my existence isn’t affecting their femininity or masculinity at all? Why can’t people just accept me? Why can’t people just accept me?
For the record: I love women, and I loved being a woman while I felt I was one, but I’m not a woman. I shouldn’t represent women any more, or be asked to speak for them and their current experiences. Yes, I did identify as one and had experiences in that cisgendered phase of my life, but that’s not who I am now. I don’t want to speak for women anymore; I want to speak for genderqueer people…people like me.
Hey Readers. Things are happening. This week is the week before Halloween, which means in terms of college students that all of your professors will load you up with essays, exams, and homework. Nothing like Hell Week to celebrate Halloween. But right now I’m avoiding writing one of my papers so I can write on here, and rather than go into all of the ups and downs in my personal life, I’m going to talk about a different topic today: gender fluidity!
Now before you get really excited, let me explain a few things. I’m not one of those queer people who think they know everything about everything when it comes to gender identity or sexuality. Nah. I’m just some random asshole, who likes to write about their experiences online, so if you’re looking for an academic discussion you’re in the wrong place.
It’s been a good 8 months into being out as bisexual, and during this stage I’m starting to notice some other changes going with me. Since dating my ex-girlfriend, who could be described as “butch” or masculine, I’ve been more open about pushing the boundaries of gender expression in my fashion choices. (I use the term fashion choices loosely…I’m not stylish, but I do have a style, I guess). I got used to shopping with her in the men’s sections, and not being feminine anymore once I cut off all my hair, so I started experimenting with my style. I chose more loose pants over tight skinny jeans, baseball hats and beanies over “doing my hair”, I grew out my armpit hair, I didn’t bother with jewelry. I still looked like a girl/woman, just more of a tomboy, more stereotypically gay. And I didn’t mind at all…in fact, I felt confident. I finally got to take advantage of all of my clothing options instead of saying, “If I were a guy, I’d wear that.”
But it wasn’t all that simple. I received more ridicule from my family for “looking like a boy” and I noticed people acted a lot friendlier when I choose feminine outfits over masculine ones. Guys ignored me when I dressed “gay”, and women ignored me when I dressed “straight”—unless they were straight themselves and obviously uncomfortable around non-hetero people. I began to see the stark difference between myself and my roommates whenever we went out, and realized that our femininity had made us closer in ways that I hadn’t recognized before.
When I did dress “gay”, I wasn’t necessarily let into my college’s gay clique, either. There was more notice of me, but not necessarily in a welcoming way. It was more like, “Oh, you’re on our side. For now.” Though I was expressing my queerness externally, I still felt like an outsider for being “half straight”.
And so here I am readers, pondering what all of this means. Am I gender fluid? Does enjoying a more androgynous style automatically mean I don’t want to be perceived as a “girl”? I know I’m a cisgendered woman, and am comfortable with that. So what does it mean that I won’t conform to my feminine gender role? Does that just make me a rebel, or am I something else?
In case you aren’t in tune with the lingo going on here, I’ll explain to the best of my knowledge. Someone who is gender fluid typically uses “they/them” pronouns, and don’t identify as a man or a woman, but something between the two/a third option (gender neutral?). Their style can range from masculine, feminine, androgynous and can either stay in one of those categories, or change from time to time. There’s very little representation for them in the media, but I believe Miley Cyrus and Ruby Rose identify that way.
But do I? I’m not a lesbian, and I’m not straight, but from day-to-day I can fit my appearance into these stereotypical looks. Does that just mean that my style is “bi” as well as my orientation?
Part of me doesn’t want to mess with this stuff. “I dress the way I dress,” it says. “Who cares.” But another part is curious. Everyone at college is stuck on their labels, and so the pressure is on to define yourself. But I don’t need another bomb to drop on my family and friends. Or myself, for that matter.
What do you think, readers? Does any of this matter in the long run, or is it all an experiment? Am I just looking for the key into the gay club, or the key to another part of my identity?
Ugh, these labels are killing me. 😛