I’ve written before about my confusion regarding gender identity. I know that I am some sort of gender variant, but I don’t know what that means for me or for anyone else. So this will be a huge, unorganized rant about my identity, history, and expression.
I cannot figure out for the life of me what gender means, besides a weird amalgamation of stereotypes and culturally-based concepts. It seems like something I shouldn’t care about. And yet, I feel so much better– more comfortable and more myself– when I think of myself as masculine. I have no desire to change sexes or names or pronouns, partially because it seems like a hassle and partially because I’m not sure if that would help me be any “right”-er. I don’t want to be a man, I just want to be related to like a man.
I think it says a lot that when I came out as genderqueer to my best friend, his immediate response was “Oh, that makes a lot of sense.” Though it was only recently that I realized the depths of how queer I was, everyone knows I wish I was a guy. Also, the fact that my best friend is a guy is interesting because according to the all-knowing internet, most people (at least as a child) prefer same-gender playmates. Yup. Exactly.
The most immediately obvious facet of my masculinity is the way I speak. I swear like a sailor, and J has often chided me for my frankness and lack of delicacy, especially when it comes to sexual matters. I speak about the men that I’ve fucked just like men speak about the women they’ve fucked– “tits out to here!” becomes “8 inches? I’ve taken bigger.”
Though I’m an intellectual (not bragging, just a description of a tendency), I love working with my hands. That is why I am so attracted to the realm of technical theatre– I get to use power tools, and my practical knowledge of electrics, to help bring literature to life. This is due, in part, to my lifelong admiration for good old Dad. When I was a kid, my plastic tools were my favorite toy. Luckily, I live a blessed life and my parents didn’t try to force a gender identity on me. Besides my tools, I often played with stuffed animals (which in my opinion are gender neutral) and refused to touch dolls. On the other hand, I was very attracted to acting and singing and costumes and for the first five years of my life really enjoyed dressing like a princess. That changed after an on-stage disaster and my introduction to my childhood best friend, a girl who loved bugs and dirt and writing and fishing. I feel like gender weirdness has always been a part of me, or at least is a natural piece, despite some girly presentation along the way. Though my mom forbade me from buying the camouflage clothes that I wanted, and occasionally begged me to dress “like I had some self-respect,” my parents didn’t really care how masculine I turned out. I’m pretty grateful for that.
When I was in fifth grade, I went to a particularly memorable sleepover with three of my close female friends. One girl, who tended to always be in charge, decided that we were going to play at sex. The other girls shoved their pillows into their t-shirts, but I put my stuffed dog in my pants. I rationalized it as, somebody had to be the boy, but in reality it was thrilling (both emotionally and sexually) to be pressing my grossly over-padded pelvis into one of the other girls. Why did I never give this any thought before?
Yes, I cross-dress occasionally, and wear men’s clothes often. I’ve already talked about my cross-dressing hat, which allows me to tuck all my thick girl hair into it. I also wear a lot of boy-style shorts in the summer. I am looking into buying boxer-briefs and sports bras, but I haven’t yet. Generally though, I desire to be seen as attractive by both men and women, and therefore wear at least one article of flattering girl clothing (for example, a fitted shirt with my man pants, or curvaceous skinny jeans with my t-shirts) to show off my assets. Physically, I was not built to pass. If I had a dick, I would be ridiculously unattractive. For one thing, I’m five feet tall. And I have a round face. All the stuff that makes me cute as a girl would make me laughably unattractive as a man, and also influences my ability to pass. I don’t mind too much, but it would be nice to be a little more androgynous. I’m considering working out to smooth my curves a little (although I really should be working out anyway).
The other day I was speaking with an acquaintance, a man in his thirties, about gender identity. He wants to go beyond the transvestism that he already occasionally practices, but doesn’t for family reasons. We were discussing how sex felt for us and our respective genders, which was an interesting conversation in itself. I quelled some of his despair when I told him that anal sex feels very similar to vaginal sex, and his description of what it was like to put one’s dick to use helped me realize that that is what I really want. Then got on the subject of pregnancy. I have never wanted kids. I never will. I know women who will say that of course it sucks, but that it was totally worth it, and other women (cisgender) who are as disgusted at the idea as I am. I am horrified by the idea of having sex to get pregnant, the idea of carrying it around inside me like an alien, the idea of morning sickness and pushing it out and then– horror of horrors!– being expected to take care of it after it’s been spawned. But the man that I was speaking to suddenly gushed about how he wished he could be pregnant, how beautiful it was to be able to produce life, et cetera. I was stunned. To be fair, he’s never been pregnant and might be glorifying it. But his wife has, and he’s seen her go through it, so he’s not just deluded. This is another aspect of femininity that I know that I am not comfortable with, and one that in other eras almost defined the feminine experience.
I used to assume that every woman shared my hatred for the feminine. I assumed they were acting girly for the same reasons I was– to be loved, to be accepted, because they were expected to. I didn’t like hanging out with women because I felt they were pandering, and petty, and short-sighted. Now, I’m realizing that girls who identify as girls actually like that stuff. They like feeling pretty (as do I, occasionally) and are interested in the artistry of all the practices. Honestly, now that I’ve realized this I feel like less of a misogynist. I can better appreciate feminine women for who they are and who they like to be, now that I have acknowledged how I feel about my own femininity.
I have started reading a lot of transgender writing and blogs, and I was struck by how much some of the passages resonated with me. I was reading the DSMIV’s requirements for gender identity disorder, and I started crying when I saw “belief that they will grow up to be the opposite sex.” (I cry a lot. Another reason I don’t consider myself fully male.) I remember how absolutely horrified I was when I first got my period, how separated I felt from everything I wanted to be. Suddenly there was (an imagined) gap between me and my dad that hadn’t existed before. I knew for the first time then that I couldn’t be a boy when I grew up. I was so heartbroken.
I am blessed (in a non-religious way) to have found a partner who is so open-minded. Not only is he cool with and supportive of what I’m going through, he is actively attracted to “dykey” women. (He explains that he wouldn’t date anyone who couldn’t defend herself from pillaging vikings long enough for him to come help rescue her. 😛 ) In fact, his last partner was transgender, male name and pronouns and all. So I mean, even though I’m confused, the people close to me are really supportive and so I’m not trying to say I’m suffering a lot. However, there is still much to be explored.
I like who I am, as a person. I wish (and here, wish is a strong word) I had been born with a penis, but I’m not planning on getting surgery. I generally feel that right now am at least expressing myself fully, and I acknowledge that if I was biologically male some of my cherished behaviors (like crying a lot, and hating sports) would have gotten me more ostracized that my male behavior has as a female.
I just read something that said, in effect, that gender identity is how we think and feel about our biological sex. This definition is the first thing that makes sense to me.