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As a child, I spoke as few words as possible. The sound of my feminine voice disgusted me. I hated to be called a girl, while loving the color pink. I was a budding genderqueer.
Boys are different from girls, they said. Fundamentally different, they’d persist. Boys don’t have long hair. Boys don’t like pink. Boys don’t cry and boys are tough. Girls like playing with dolls. Girls do poorly at math and enjoy frilly things.
Boys. I studied them. I developed obsessions with male classmates with the utter desire to someday become all that they were. I would play make believe with my siblings in which I’d only be satisfied if I took on a male role. I connected with boys in a way I never could with girls, and never quite understood why. I would wear suspenders as a tween and feel like a boss because they would make it look like I had no chest. When I started to develop, I would wrap myself in a bandage, not realizing that was a trope practiced all too often in the trans community. I would do this until my gender identity was challenged.
“You are so flat,” my very influential peers would say, prompting me to ask my mother to buy me my first training bra.
And then I discovered the internet. I learned about the term transgender. I looked at hundreds upon hundreds of befores and afters, FtMs. Top surgeries, bottom surgeries, hormones. I would read and read until my eyes would blur from my families’ bright Dell desktop screen, and I’d sink in my chair, feeling the emptiness grow inside of me. It was as if the more I searched for myself, the more lost I got. Because I couldn’t avoid my feelings; I didn’t feel fully male.
I didn’t know any trans people in my anti-queer, southern town, and definitely wasn’t going to be the first. So what did I do? I conformed. Like the scared child that I was, I began to present myself as outrageously feminine, so no one would suspect anything strange. It was as if I thought people could see through me, and wanted to give them no reason to use thier x-ray vision to spot my insecurities…or my weirdness.
I fell into a bout of shame, hating my natural femininity because I’d used a false, hyper-femininity as a wall to hide behind for so long. Oh, what a person will do to fit in.
I wanted no more shame, so I turned to the bottomless internet once again, searching for a reason to love myself. I studied femininity and the power of it all. I learned that being feminine does not equate weakness. There is strength in the power of women. In femininity, there is beauty; not the skin deep kind but the unconditional kind. Through countless articles and books, and studying empowered feminist women like Betty Dobson and bell hooks, I learned to love my female body, and now I don’t want to lose it.
So here I am, yin and yang. Masculine and feminine. I wear my hair long but learned to walk from male role models growing up. The color pink still makes me smile, but I feel like a lie when wearing a dress. I still bind and wear clothes from the men or boys section, and prefer to hide my curves (the little bit that I have anyway). Not because I want to look male, but because it is how I feel most comfortable.
I call myself a boi, a budding term used in the lesbian and queer community, and truly believe if energies were gendered, I would be just that. I have little to no desire to have surgery or take hormones, though I like it when you call me “he.” I don’t mind “she” or “they” because I am that, too. All of the above, please. Sometimes I feel completely male, and wish on those days I had an attractive male body to wear. But most days I feel like both. I know it is confusing. I even confuse myself sometimes, but that’s simply how I feel. I don’t feel masculine enough to be male, nor am I feminine enough to be female. I love and accept my female body, though I ask you to not suspect that makes me a “woman.”
Through my journey, I find that in terms of gender identity, you are what you say you are. A man that wears makeup and has double D’s is still a man if he tells you so. It takes no more criteria than that. What it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman are social constructs, and though the masses follow these standards, you don’t have to. I don’t have to. I prefer to say I am in between genders, masculine of center, and as I feel, I am.
I spoke recently to a dear friend that had a challenging question for me;
“Why don’t you just ignore gender? Why don’t you just be who you are and not worry about what that makes you, be it male, female or otherwise?”
I sat there, stumped and silent, too caught off guard to admit my annoyance. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but this anger boiled inside me. I slowly felt the tingle as my senses returned and I blurted out,
“Because nobody wants to be an outsider!”
I certainly didn’t think before I spoke, but couldn’t ignore the truth behind my words. Nobody wants to be an outsider. No one wants to feel like they belong nowhere. So many queer and trans people walk through their lives never feeling fully human, as if there is something alien about us that no one will ever understand. That is why we search for acceptance. That is why we challenge the gender binary and tell you to call us Zir. We’re fighting for our visibility, because we don’t like feeling invisible. We are not transsexual, we are sometimes not even transgender, but we’re definitely all over the gender spectrum, as a gender “binary” is all but an illusion.
I’ve wanted to talk about this for a while now, but due to the fear of officially coming out as a genderfuck, I’ve avoided it. But as you see with this whole rant, I don’t care who knows anymore. I am tired of hiding in the binary and this is my way of connecting with all you gender queer and trans folk out there that are not interested in going all the way, on either side of the gender binary. We are the in betweeners, and we’re proud. Finally.
Since age seven, I had a very narrow idea of the gender expectations of a young girl. And I must say, I hated them. I despised what ‘being a girl’ represented. A good girl is dainty. A good girl is sweet. A good girl is polite and kind and wears dresses; and heaven forbid she ever gets dirty.
I believed practicing femininity required a certain level of submission that I’ve never been too keen on. Whereas I saw masculinity calling for a bit of aggression and good amount of assertiveness that I’ve always felt was much more desirable, for the simple fact that assertion leads to more control, therefore more agency. Submission linked to femininity is the main catalyst to the flawed concept of womanhood in relation to men; that women are the weaker sex. I didn’t even realize that my ignorance was only fueling this dangerous belief.
You see, I feared for many years to use my assertiveness, in fear of being seen as too boyish, or too much like a tomboy. And this on top of my then closeted genderqueerness made everyday interactions with cis girls and women VERY difficult for me.
It wasn’t until my preteen years that I learned that being a woman does not mean you must be submissive. Let me rewind. In middle school I was very shy and quiet and insecure. One day one of my classmates thought it was funny to pester me with one of the arts project we’d just made in class. It was homemade potato head made of a real potato. Yes. Though I was annoyed, I sat there like a good little girl and did nothing at all. He kept swinging the potato at me and I simply rolled my eyes, hands neatly clasped at my desk. But then I couldn’t hold it in anymore. The real me came out and I flung my hand out to knock his annoying potato out of my face. Before I could shame myself for being so bold, the guy punched me right in the temple. Like, right there. I’m surprised I didn’t faint. Everything I had learned up to that point about being a young woman flew out the window. I got up and beat that kid’s ass like a boss. No inhibitions, and far more impulsive that I’d EVER been before.
It’s not the fight that changed my life but the reaction from my friends and teacher that completely altered my concept of femininity. And it’s all because instead of being scolded, I was congratulated for standing up for myself! For weeks the kids in school gave me the nickname Ali. When I got home my mom told me my teacher called and expressed how proud of me she was. What? I was so confused. I thought girls had to play nice. No. Submission is only a rather negative, stereotypical display of femininity, not what makes a woman. I know now that women can be assertive and aggressive and even crude, and that, I love.