“Just be yourself”. This is a common piece of folk wisdom that is frequently repeated. On the surface it might seem almost inane.
But when I struggle to articulate how I feel about gender to people, when I find myself bombarded with various opinions – whether anti-trans bigotry, bewilderment and confusion, or constant, constant questions, when I find myself constantly buffeted by society’s rules and gender roles, the marketing, the stereotypes and the various different winds of social change – I cannot help but wonder: “just who is this myself that I should aim to be like?”
But who is myself? It’s an interesting question. The philosopher in me wants to explore every angle to that question, delving into all manner of spiritual, cultural, moral, economic and political dimensions. But I will stick strictly to the matter of gender for the moment. Maybe with a tiny bit of sexuality thrown in.
I know this about myself: I feel more comfortable expressing femininely or androgynously than as masculine. Although I can feel reasonably comfortable in jeans and t-shirt male mode, I certainly feel a lot more comfortable wearing female footwear, female tops, knickers, make-up, bangles, necklaces etc. Ok, I don’t usually wear dresses, skirts, tights or high heels. Part of me even believes that would be “over the top”. But in all honesty I’ve never tried it and don’t know how I’d feel. But I’ve seen for myself how much happier I am when I feminize my appearance, even if I do remain a “jeans and t-shirt kind of girl”. And most people don’t see me as female when I dress that way. They just see me as an androgynous guy or maybe as a crossdresser or “girly guy”. That’s fine. At least no one mistakes me for a male who is happy with his male identity.
But when I dress fully male I know that no one even sees the real me. And that depresses me. As does my own reflection. I don’t want to look male. I want to look beautifully androgynous or feminine.
So my preferred gender expression is feminine or androgynous. Can expression also extend to the way I wish to move through the world – or the kinds of relationships I want from people? Maybe that is gender role or something. But in any case, here my preferred gender role/expression is also feminine or androgynous. Although I am attracted to women for the most part and not at all sexually interested in men unless they are crossdressed or androgynous, I do prefer to play the feminine role in relationships, including sexually. This has caused me to toy with the idea of viewing myself as a lesbian. Although whether I could really apply that term to myself depends on whether I view myself as a woman. That is an identity question – and I’ll come to that in a moment.
But yes, I despise the roles expected of me in sexual relationships because I am male. I want to be treated like a lady by a strong, capable woman. I want to be protected. I would like to be asked out. And I would like to be ravaged by an aggressively passionate mate. Unfortunately those I desire enough to want this attention from happen mostly to be female and so are usually uncomfortable adopting a more conventionally male role. This is a pathos I’ve had to live with most of my adult life.
But what of my gender identity? How do I view myself in my own mind? Do I have a male mind? Do I have a female mind? Or is my mind non-gendered, both gendered, inbetween gendered etc?
My understanding is that this issue of gender identity often affects how you feel about pronouns and how you feel about your own physical body.
Pronouns do not bother me too much. For some reason I prefer “she” or “they” to “he”. But that might just be a desire for novelty. After all I’ve been called “he” all my life, and given my other feelings about gender the male pronoun is inevitably connected in my mind to feeling trapped and unhappy. But I don’t honestly care. “She” makes me smile, I’m used to “he” and “they” seems respectful to the complexity of the matter. So I don’t really mind.
So what about my body? How do I feel about my genitals and chest? Although I am bothered by my body hair and the masculine appearance of my face (it mostly bothers me when it’s stubbly and anything else can easily be fixed with make-up), those are really cosmetic matters – to do with my preferred gender expression, of wanting to look feminine. I am actually very comfortable with and “in tune” with my own body. I don’t mind my flat chest or male genitals. And from a young age I’ve made sure I look after my body and its needs, including the need to self pleasure. I enjoy masturbating and have never felt any disconnect from my genitalia. Well, apart from when someone expects me to penetrate them. For some reason I just can’t get my head around that. Some intersect between feeling feminine and being sexually submissive makes it hard for my subconscious to make sense of me performing such a seemingly masculine and dominant act.
But if I woke up tomorrow and magically had a female body, I think I’d really rather like it. It would take some getting used to. But I would definitely want to keep it for at least a few weeks. If I then returned to being male I might feel some disappointment, mostly because I would have to return to a situation where my feminine gender expression would bother other people and so would be hard for me. But as far as the body itself goes, aside from that annoying body hair I believe I would fit back into it as comfortably as I did before. I honestly believe that it doesn’t really bother me one way or another whether I am physically male or physically female. I could be either way, and reasonably content with it.
And all this fits with how I honestly see myself and how I have always seen myself since I was a child. I do not feel that my mind is especially male or especially female. I don’t really think like other men and often feel very disconnected from men in society, and feel like I have more in common with women. But ultimately I do not think that I AM a woman either. I just like to express femininely. My “soul”, if you like, seems genderless.
So that’s it. I’m genderqueer and prefer to express femininely or androgynously. I just happen to have been born physically male.
My only problem is that it’s hard to explain that to people – and everyone seems to want to believe that I’m either a man or a trans woman – even trying to convince me to “pick a side”.
But I am what I am and from what I can gather, I’ve always felt that way.