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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Gender self-expression/being "out" vs. comfort?

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Author Topic: Gender self-expression/being "out" vs. comfort?
brighter_from_ashes
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I'm a genderqueer and have identified that way (well, first used the term "androgyne") explicitly for 3 years (I'm now 20). Before that, I'd independently coined the terms "bigendered" and "agendered" in a frustrated bout of trying-to-explain my gender identity before I knew what that was all about.

But, overall, I don't have much (if any) body dysphoria, for example. I mostly wear women's clothing because that's what I have. I can live my life simply ignoring the way other people see me, and I will always choose that over hating my body... won't I?

Earlier this year a close friend came out to me as a woman. This is the third time I've had a friend turn out to be transgender, all people met outside of any queer context and not knowing we had this in common. I'm not close to the first two anymore, and I don't know *any* other nonbinaries. But, anyway, my friend coming out prompted me to think about my own gender identity again.

I bought binders, have started buying men's clothes. Even though I hate the wasteful consumerism and feel like I don't "deserve" these things because I don't have body dysphoria. I haven't shaved my body hair in years or worn make up anyway, but now I'm less sure about wearing dresses and regular bras and so on. I worry about what other trans people will think of me, that they'll think I'm not committed or not "serious". I know it's wrong to invalidate someone's gender identity based on perceptions about their gender expression, but *I* do it and I know better (hopefully will stop doing it now that I've noted it in myself). What about everyone who doesn't?

I don't like being called "she". I changed my name to something gender neutral years ago--but now I'm startled when I hear the (very rare) name used for a man--on some level I must see my name as less gender neutral now that it's *mine*. (Actually, come to think of it, I was also jarred by someone mentioning it as their mother's middle name, so maybe I'm just surprised to hear it at all).

The thing is, I don't know how much the displeasure I experience is due to having this genderqueer label I've applied to myself. If I'd never heard about it, could I have gotten over the misogyny I internalized as a teen and lived a gender-happy life in female roles? I used to refer to myself as female, as "she", and in some contexts I still do (for instance I see myself as female sexually).

In this recent spate of questioning, I've decided I'm genderfluid and multi-gendered: mostly agendered, female, and FtMtA, possibly in that order. (By FtMtA I mean I think my body should be male or mostly male and I should be read as male, but I have a disdain for masculinity. This side of myself sees himself/zirself as about as male as my overall self sees themself as female.)

So when I think, "Oh, I should identify as female and not have to clash with the world and be misgendered every time I go to a store or hear people talking about me!", part of me is cool with that. Part of me is like, "Yeah, I'm a woman. It's awesome." I feel female. But then the rest of me, sometimes at the same time and sometimes at different times, disagrees rather emphatically.

I don't think I'm just questioning my identity. It's like the years after I realized I was bisexual: because of internalized biphobia, I kept trying to convince myself that I was really straight or really gay. But since I wasn't simultaneously attracted to men and women all the time, there'd be periods, maybe minutes, maybe months, when the monosexual label made sense. But then I'd run into another part of myself and the concept would be blown to bits. Since I went through that with my orientation, I know that's what's happening with my gender identity too: I can ignore parts of it sometimes, either the female part because I feel like it invalidates my non-female identity, or the genderqueer part because I feel like it's insane, like it's just stirring up trouble and unnecessary. But in the end I'm still a partially-female genderqueer.

I'm afraid of getting certain jobs, for example, where I'll be called "Miss" all the time. I'm afraid that if I admit to my female side to people who recognize or try to recognize me as genderqueer, I'll lose all credibility. Years ago I stopped trying to be out to people because they usually just argued with me, explaining to me why biological sex was the only valid gender, like I was somehow unaware of that ideology. I'm more out again now, and it's going somewhat better, but I'm not sure how to maintain it, or whether I should, whether the stress is worth it, or the material costs of trying to dress more masculinely (which all of me enjoys, although I know from experience that sometimes I get uncomfortable high-femme urges--like a week or two last summer where I wanted to shave all my body hair and wear dresses and heels and make-up).

I joke to myself about being "a gender that doesn't exist," and how hard that is. I'm with Claude Cahun, that "Neuter is the only gender that always suits me," and my intuition before any friends ever came out to me as binary trans people was that gender wasn't anything. There was biological sex, but someone couldn't "be" a man or a woman in any other sense. Now I know that even though I'm not a man or a woman, some people are.

I often feel like learning about gender identity was a curse, maybe a contagious disease, because now I know what I am and know why everyone's perceptions of me are wrong. But of course I can't know that my preexisting gender issues wouldn't have been worse if I never told myself, "Yeah, I'm not a girl, and wearing a dress won't make me a girl. I can care about women's issues without feeling sick and pressured." But somehow I doubt having internal, unnamed gender conflict would have hurt as much as having an identity almost no one sees, respects, or believes in. Can I get rid of my identity or at least make it quiet enough that I don't feel or notice the pain? Or is it healthier/politically preferable/whatever to emphasize my identity?

Posts: 11 | From: SLC, Utah | Registered: Oct 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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It's safe to say that ultimately, when we're talking about our own well-being, what tends to be best for any of us is to be as true to who we are as we can be. Trying to hide who we feel/know we are from ourselves tends to be a losing battle with pretty awful side effects.

I don't think there's anything you're expressing here about your gender identity that is, as you say, insane, or that is anything but what your own gender identity is. Is it more complex than some other people's gender identity is? It is (but you know, it also sounds like you're a pretty complex thinker: seeing the complexity of ourselves when we're that way is certainly sometimes a blessing and a curse). Is it an identity a lot of people aren't going to understand easily, especially in areas where gender fluidity, period, isn't very accepted? It is.

But you know what you're not? "A gender that doesn't exist." Know why? Here you are. You're right here: who you are, as you are, in all your rich complexity. You exist, you're real. So is how you feel and experience gender.

Maybe we can approach this this way: what do you feel like you need in your life and community in order to feel like there's more room for you, however you are, as you are?

(OT: You quoted Claude Cahun. Reading a user do that first thing of a morning is a pretty rad way to start my day!)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
CoatRack
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 50455

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Hey, I see you read my responds to BornPurple in the other thread, so I won't repost that. But if you do want to talk to somebody else doing the gender neutral living thing I'm around and happy to chat.

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Hey folks, my name is Andrew and I was a mod here for awhile a couple years ago. I'll be here for a couple weeks while Heather is out and the site is even more short-staffed than usual

Posts: 441 | From: Boston, MA | Registered: Dec 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
bump on a log
Activist
Member # 60751

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You probably know who Lou Sullivan was. In case you don't, he was a gay transman, back when officially there was no such thing. He went around being a gay transman anyway. We need people to be the genders that officially don't exist, because perhaps then they will officially exist, and that's a small victory that can mean a lot to those of us concerned.

I'm one to talk, though, since I'm not out, though I'm kind of de facto out as I wear nothing but boys', men's and unisex clothes, so my gender expression can be spotted halfway down the street.

Posts: 170 | From: UK | Registered: Mar 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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