Sunday, December 27, 2015

Reflections of a Genderfluid

[This post is the fourth in a series on the topic of gender. If you have trouble understanding any of the topics discussed below, you may want to read those articles for context.]

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post this personal.

But, here we go.

Sometime around late April or May, I learned about the term “gender identity” after taking a quiz created by a psychologist. I didn’t know what the term meant — so I typed it into YouTube. After a short search, I found the first three videos in my previous article.

For the first time in my life, I heard from people who had similar experiences with gender as I did, and I adopted the label “genderfluid.”

The videos contained the information I had been trying to find for a long time.

Whenever I was filling out the gender question on a form, I had always thought that if I was honest about how I felt, I would mark the boxes for both male and female. I also knew that wasn’t what the paperwork was asking for, and never did.

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to paint my nails. But then I saw an ad on TV that only showed girls painting their nails. I quickly concluded that wasn’t something boys did and didn’t do it.

My junior prom date was a close friend of mine who I met in elementary school. I thought it would be fun to try on her prom dress. However, I never had enough time alone with her to feel comfortable making such a strange request. 

Since then, I have had a strong urge to crossdress — but until recently, I had no idea why.

I wanted to understand why I felt this way. When I was in college, I searched online for information about crossdressing, gender and gender roles, but never found the stories of people like me.

After learning about non-binary and genderqueer people earlier this year, I finally had the tools to begin to understand my own gender.

There are some days, about once a week, where I wake up and really want to be female. Ideally, I’d like to be able to physically transform in order to make that happen. I’d like to be female half of the time and male half of the time. While it would take quite a bit of explaining, I think it would be easier to explain than the concept of gender identity.

Unfortunately for me, physical transformations like that are only found in fantasy and science fiction.

If there were no social pressures associated with gender expression, I’d dress in feminine clothes and carry a purse on days where I woke up feeling female. Under that scenario, however, I would hope people would see me as a woman and not just a man wearing female clothes. 

But in our society, when people see a man in female clothing, they often become confused because they don’t know what’s going on. As a journalist, I feel like that would have created a barrier between me and my sources. The resulting awkwardness would have made it harder for me to do my job effectively.

In a completely unrelated development, I was laid off from my job as a reporter earlier this month.

I want to work in education for a while before returning to journalism. I’ve applied for a couple positions at the local school district.

However, I don’t think it would be any easier to express my gender working for a school. I’m sure many parents wouldn’t want a crossdresser as a substitute or tutor for their children.

I find it very frustrating that I don’t feel comfortable expressing my gender at work during my feminine times. I think it would be so problematic to do so that I have never even raised the issue with a potential employer or a boss. 

(If you happen to be a genderqueer-friendly employer, let me know.) 

As a result, on my female days, I’m very frustrated while I’m getting ready. Fortunately, the frustration mostly goes away once I’m actually at work or interacting with other people. 

There are other times where I experience gender dysphoria. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I think my face should be female. Other times, it looks just fine.

Sometimes, when people use the term “sir” to describe me, it doesn’t feel right. It is both gendered and formal, and doesn’t match how I think about myself. Other times, when someone calls me “sir,” there’s no problem at all.

In my imaginary world without social pressures, I’d like to be referred to using female pronouns when I’m presenting as such. But without being able to change my appearance, I believe being referred to as female would seem odd and out of place, no matter how I woke up that day.

I would feel more comfortable presenting as female on the weekends when I’m not at work. But doing so could give the impression that it’s something I’m just doing for fun, rather than expressing who I am. 

I also know from experience that I’ll have a good time going to the bars or other places on the weekend when I’m presenting male, regardless of how I feel about my gender at the time.

It just feels really bad to think that I’m never going to be able to express the female side of my gender. The only time I ever did so was last Halloween. But that was only possible because I could pretend that I was just playing dress-up like everyone else.

I would like to thank my former girlfriend for her help with the outfit. 

Thankfully, after Halloween, I can now browse the women’s section in clothing departments without being paranoid about people judging me.

Because I don’t feel I can present as female when I want to, I settle for half-measures.

When I was picking out my new glasses, I looked at the female frames at Walmart. The associate suggested that I stay “on this wall” where the men’s frames were located. I asked what the differences were between the male and female frames. She replied that the female frames had smaller temple lengths and were more decorative.

I wanted a more decorative frame and was offended by the encounter. I took my business elsewhere. The clerk at the other store asked if I was sure I wanted the glasses frame I picked out because it was so feminine. I told her I was.

I have used other half measures as well.

I enjoy wearing neon jackets in the fall. I purchased a neon pink jacket this fall in the women’s section at Walmart. It was nice and warm. Originally, I tried to wear it only when I wanted to feel more feminine. However, the pockets on my only other working jacket were too shallow and my phone and wallet fell out of it too often. So, I wore the pink jacket all the time.

Sometimes, I would look down when I was wearing it and felt more feminine, which was nice.

I was originally nervous when I started wearing the jacket and wondered what people would say. Thankfully, it didn’t cause me any problems.

I’ve ran into other complications with gender expression as well.

When I was younger and I was getting my hair cut, the barber or hair stylist would ask how I wanted it cut. I wanted to say, “like a girl’s,” but thought that would be too weird.

The last time I got my hair cut, I took a picture of a young woman with a pixie cut. I was worried what the stylist would say. The first stylist I went to wouldn’t cut hair based on a picture. The second one did. Neither mentioned that the person in the picture was a girl.

Gay people use the phrase, “coming out” to describe sharing their identity with friends and family. I’m not sure what it means to be “out” when you have a gender identity no one has heard of. Being truly open about my gender would mean a lot of explaining about something very personal.

Many binary transgender people say their dysphoria goes away after they take hormones and/or have surgeries. At that point, others can see at first glance the gender they identify with.

I have no interest in doing those things. For me, they would be expensive and invasive. They would also create as much dysphoria on my male days as I currently have on my female days.

My gender is an important part of who I am. Unfortunately, I can’t envision a scenario where I will ever be able to truly match my gender as it changes from day to day. I find this very frustrating.

Some people have dysphoria so bad that they are suicidal; others appear to have serious anxiety problems. I can gladly say that I have neither, but I still worry about not being able to fully be myself.

On one of our dates, my former girlfriend, who is a transwoman, said, “It’s amazing what can happen when you let your mind be the way it wants to be.” Because she continued talking, I never got to tell her my response, which would have been, “I wonder what that’s like.”

I’m not sure I’ll ever know. 

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