It’s been a year since I came out to the world about my gender identity.
“Genderqueer” was the label I chose for myself after much deliberation about my fluid identity, which I used interchangeably with “gender nonconforming” and “on the trans spectrum.” When applied to others, I usually support the notion that sexuality and gender are too fluid to hold down with a definitive label. Because our feelings are always changing, and why do labels even matter anyway? But in spite of that reasoning, I’ve been anxiously grasping at straws trying to settle into one label as my thoughts and gender continue to shift and change. And while I’ve had a million thoughts over labels and their benefits, finding one that suits you can ultimately lead to a greater sense of self awareness and community.
All my life, I’ve felt terribly uncomfortable with femininity. Having always hated dresses and anything even remotely indicative of girliness, I embraced a “tomboy” aesthetic and did everything I could to hide my growing, pubescent body. After years of discomfort, going to college and attending queer club meetings helped me better understand who I was, eventually prompting me to come out. But a few months ago, “genderqueer” stopped feeling like the right word for me. I began using “Agender,” which indicates an absence of gender in myself as opposed to a fluidity that could result in both at the same time or interchangeable feelings. But as I interrogate it further, I’m realizing that I’m certainly not without gender. In fact, I feel like a man.
During a visit home a couple weeks back, my mom and I were discussing my shifting gender identity. I was frustrated over being in a place of confusion again after months of feeling affirmed in an identity that was so inaccurately labeled as “female” for so long. And since my mom is very understanding of me, and also relates to gender fluidity herself, she suggested I close my eyes and imagine my ideal body. This struck me as an incredibly interesting exercise, one that I had never attempted since I’ve avoided bringing it up in therapy for one reason or another. So I tried it: I closed my eyes and hesitantly began to imagine my truest self (whatever that means). And what I saw, after feeling so staunchly in the middle for years, surprised me a bit.
I saw myself in a man’s body with a fully functioning penis. As I imagined it, I remembered all the times I’ve lamented over not having a penis, of not being able to feel everything when I penetrate my partner with my strap on, of the utter joy I felt when I found a dildo that could “cum.” But still, these things don’t always feel enough–I want to feel my dick hanging between my legs, feel it get hard and penetrate my partner, feel it ejaculate as I orgasm. Since I was 13, I’ve wanted to remove my breasts. And more than anything, I wanted to pass as a man.
But my deeply held feelings of not being masculine enough or trans enough keeps me far away from this part of myself; the dream that has always been tickling the corners of my subconscious. As a sex-obsessed person, I don’t want to get bottom surgery and sacrifice any sensation or ability to orgasm. As someone who likes their breasts about a quarter of the time, I don’t think I could commit to something as final as top surgery. And with all my lifelong medical issues I’m dealing with, it’s hard to imagine adding hormones into the mix.
Then, I feel like even if I could transition, I would never pass. I think my extremely petite stature and anxiety make me inherently female. And I sometimes wonder where my love for makeup leaves me on the gender spectrum. Ultimately, I tell myself that I don’t deserve masculinity because I’m not “the right kind” of trans person. Because it makes me dizzy to call myself “trans,” when my friends with chest binders and hormone injections are “the real deal.” Because, well, how could I be trans if I hate men and have lots of feminine characteristics?
My life as a genderqueer person and my commitment to dismantling the gender binary has taught me that femininity and masculinity aren’t fixed things. That being a man or a woman or a gender nonconforming person has nothing to do with the stereotypes we’re taught, but rather a gut feeling that we call “identity.” And these things, masculinity and femininity and fluidity, looks different in each person. Yet for now, something is blocking me from using the same understanding and compassion that I do for other trans people with myself. One day, I hope that I have the courage to be a man or whatever manifestation of masculinity I desire–even if I’m 5’1” and 110 pounds. Even if I love lipstick and often cry in public places. But for now, I am a genderqueer person who got a buzzcut in the hopes of passing as a man more often.