The thing that no one tells you about identity, is that you in reality never have any idea what it actually is. At the very least, it’s this nebulous idea that we can look at, point to, and reference ourselves against. But it never really feels real. Discovering my identity has been like a dog chasing a car in a Garfield comic. Every now then for sight gags i’ll actually get my hands on it, but then what? The beauty is in the chase more so than then the denouement.
I’ve been a trans person for nigh on a year and a half now. Also for the 34 and a half years before that, but that’s more of a closeted scenario. There was a beard involved, it’s a whole thing. We’re not really talking about that right now. When I was 34 years old i told my partner that i was Trans, and we were off to the races. With a stop at a Walmart to buy my first, and to date last, pair of yoga pants. For some reason, stretchy yet tight yoga pants were my step one. I have worn them twice. I have done yoga in them nonce. When i first came out, i was a Trans Woman. Full stop. My pronouns were to be she/her. I was coming out, i had always known i felt feminine, i had always fought all those urges, and i was also REALLY good at the fight. Turning that faucet off proved difficult.
See, i was raised and indoctrinated as male. I was led to believe that my feminine leanings were bad, shameful. Worthy of derision. I recall being aware of and worrying about the way i stand when i’m leaning on the counter at the bank. Was my one foot planted on the ground and the other a bit akimbo, much like a flamingo, too much? Did people notice? Do they think i’m a fag (do i?). It sounds funny, but when you’re a closeted trans feminine person, this is a real issue. I spent my adult years trying to convince people that i was who society asked me to be, or at least what i was bred to believe. And that was this vision of bearded, straight, white, problematic. I was a grown hipster dipshit. Partially because this identity allowed me to let aspects of who i really am through the door. As a hipster dipshit, i was able to wear skinny jeans, floral prints and/or tight shirts with relative ease. It’s all chalked up under my identity. There’s that idea again. I even had myself convinced.
At night, i would tell myself who i really was. Nights and mornings are the time my brain gets real on me. I would often fall asleep telling myself that i was a woman. That i was Trans. That this wasn’t me. Every morning i would wake up and put my costume on, and assume my identity once more. But every flicker of transness in society and i was laser focused. Did Laura Jane Grace really just write a whole album about being Trans? Caitlyn Jenner is on the cover of Time magazine? That super shitty episode of the IT Crowd? These things were all i thought about.
Totally not trans though, just curious.
Your brain is the most powerful thing in your body that will always be against you if you let it. It’s your friend that’s honest with you, that tells you the things you need to hear but refuse to listen to. Mine was screaming at me by the end. Honestly, I’m surprised it stuck around. It had also turned on me, it was violent. It told me to hurt myself, it put me in bad positions. It has the best intentions just problematic steps to get there at times. Ultimately, one day i couldn’t take it anymore and i said what i would say outloud to myself at night, or just before climax, or in the morning when reading the next bit of news about someone stronger than myself standing up and living their honest truth. This time I said it during the day, to my girlfriend at the time. And then it was Yoga pants and doctors and pills and patches. And i was a Trans woman.
Except i wasn’t. I started to struggle with my newfound femininity. It didn’t always feel right to me. Like a shirt that almost fits but is too boxy in parts. Too stiff around the collar. I was trying to find myself within a system that seemingly gave me two very binary options. M or W. I was moving away from M, but was W where i wanted to land? Is that the label that fits?
I started asking people to use They/Them pronouns for me. I started re-appropriating some of my favorite pieces of hipster disphit male clothing. I kept the high waisted skinny black Levis cause they’re honestly the best. But here i was discovering myself to be much more soft butch than W. Even though i didn’t have the words for that. I put myself deeper into the no-mans land of gender identity. No map or compass to my name, no pre-established path laid out by those who came before me.
It was here that i discovered that identity was something that was designed for me to determine for myself. I am a Trans femme non-binary person. I use They/Them pronouns. I am someone's girlfriend despite my rejection of the W label. These things feel the most “Me” that has ever existed. And it’s striking to me how much of that i’m allowed to tell people as opposed to accepting what they ask of me. When one is Trans, i’m aware that the curiosity is of the direction. MTF, FTM. I’m MT_. That is what works for me, I move away from the box that i lived in for 34 plus years. That box full of internalized anger, misogyny, transmisogyny, homophobia. Fear. I’m able now to stretch out in the field that lays before me. My identity running and hiding amongst the weeds of it all. I’ll never truly catch it, but i’ll move through every day looking for it. Finding new things along the way. Finding labels and aspects that feel right. My girlfriend tells me that i’m such a lesbian a lot, which is a label that terrified me before. Now that feels like the most accurate description of myself. I have always been here, i have always been this soft butch lesbian. A dyke in waiting. I can be a them/them MT_ and a dyke at the same time, and it’s ok. It’s my truth to design, it’s my identity to claim and to hold and to show to the world, and not the other way around.
And that’s the crux of it all. The idea being being Trans is you are rejecting the idea of subscribing to a binary. If your identity happens to align with said binary, all the power in the world to you. But it’s not the only option, it’s not the one true path.
Here’s a story within a tale. When i was in high school, i was told that my options upon graduating were to then go to college or university, or be stuck doing some sort of menial task until my time was up. My options were presented to me in a binary. Success or failure. Left or right. It was only because my father was a tradesperson himself that i discovered a secret new pathway. That i could go into an entirely different area and define success for myself. That i could work at something and find my way in it and still be valued as a member of society. This is not to say that being Trans is the tradeschool of genders, but it’s not not to say that. There are a lot of folks for whom the idea of a binary makes sense. In careers, in sexuality, in gender. There are those that are only aware of the options presented to them.
Presentation is key. The way we’re sold gender, through media, conversation, anecdotes, is very much of a one hand vs the other game. Even when discussing Trans people, we still play by the same standard rules. You’re either moving M or W, and that’s the way the game works. We never talk about non-binary identities, and the myriad of sub genres within. Like jazz for genders, there are a million sub identities within identities. I’m a trans femme person who is on feminizing hormones, that has some thoughts on surgeries and procedures i would undertake, while still not aligning myself as an entire woman. I identify as a lesbian despite this. I am allowed to do this as there are no rules that state otherwise, just a society centered around not understanding, nor talking about, the kind of person that i am. My doctor rolls his eyes and misunderstands and asks questions like “so how are your testicles doing” like their elderly parents he hasn’t seen in a while that aren’t long for this world ( i mean, he hasn’t and they’re not, but that’s neither here nor there). He doesn’t understand that despite my “i’m trans, help me” that got our particular ball rolling, i’m in no hurry to get surgery i can’t afford to remove a thing i honestly don’t care about one way or the other.
The reasons he misunderstands this is because i am the first, and the only, person like myself he has ever been presented with. Not just in his office, but on TV, in magazines. In high profile photo shoots of Trans beauty. My gender is complicated and messy and i need to clean it up and put it in one of the two boxes in order for him to understand. This means my health care is always compromised. My access to social services, my ability to board an airplane, to get into a place that is ages 19+, they’re all hindered by my inability to be properly explained. Non binary people, if portrayed at all, are always portrayed as outlandishly queer. No one expects my soft butch exterior, all monotone colors and casual presentation, to be the type to have an X on their birth certificate, to reject the norms of gendered society and wishes to be treated as a human nonetheless.
This is all to say that at the end of the day, it’s high time to consider the option that gender is not for us to define, but for individuals to define for themselves. That one day we may all find ourselves out here in the fields, using M’s and W’s if we feel so inclined, X’s and Z’s and _’s if that’s more correct. May we one day all find ourselves free. A gender revolution for the masses.