I have been telling people that my identity lives as non-binary trans feminine person. I have been telling people what essentially boils down to a bold-faced lie. What I am is a Trans woman. Kinda full stop. When I say that I’ve been lying, I include myself in the list of people affected by this deception. You see, I grew up with a certain set of societal expectations, and all along I’ve been talking about how those forced me to live my life in the way that I saw society dictate was the path to masculinity. This, as has been documented in earlier posts, is because of what I affectionately call my “stupid brain”. My brain isn’t in fact stupid, just mean spirited and against me and maybe a jerk. What I was failing to realize was that once I started transitioning, I would then immediately take on a new set of expectations to fail to live up to. Those of a feminine path.
You see; I was 7 when my brain, back then remarkably smart, was all too keenly aware of the disconnect between my body and who I am. I knew who I was supposed to be, and I knew who I was not. This put me at odds with myself for the next 29 years. In that time, I just told myself that I was supposed to be a woman, but I didn’t really put too much thought into what that entailed. I was so busy forcing myself masculine that I didn’t consider the feminine. When you’re trying your best to avoid something, you don’t spend too much time also considering it. So naturally, I let society dictate to me what a woman should look like. Cue Admiral Akbar “it’s a trap” meme. This almost immediately let me know how much I would fail to measure up to what was expected of a woman. I’m 6’2” tall, I hover around 180 lbs, and I have an obvious masculine bone setup. This does not lead oneself to a land where they feel confident looking at themselves and saying “lady”. My jaw is too wide. My shoulders too broad. Tall enough that everyone at the grocery store says, “excuse me sir, could you reach that for me?”. So, what I did with my identity was trick myself.
When I first started transitioning, I called myself your basic she/her trans woman but once I started failing all the beauty tests, I started to look inward. Maybe the problem was me? Maybe I wasn’t good enough. Also, no one had invited me to be a woman. Is it fair to call myself one? How does one get an invite like that? Is it like asking your friends to put you on the guest list, where you sort of have to inception it into them that they should invite you in? Am I a gender vampire? So, after a good 6 months of this internal monologue I told myself a piece of new information: I’m not a trans woman, I’m a non-binary trans feminine person.
I want to digress from the current narrative and talk a bit about internalized misogyny. I was assigned male at birth and grew up socialized as such. My journey through that is fraught with trauma, both self imposed and imposed upon me, and as a coping mechanism I tried to force myself to be masculine af* (*As Fuck). You know what’s super masculine? Misogyny. Here I will also say “not all men” just to cover my bases. I know so, so many men that are not misogynists. I know I’m painting with a broad and dangerous brush here; I’m just explaining myself more than anything. So, I picked up some problematic and bad ideals long the way. And a lot of that was misogyny. So, when one is coming to terms with their identity, along with that comes a level of misogyny. That being a woman was going to make me less than, as opposed to equal to or greater than. It’s basic gender math for bad scholars. A lot of this lived in my head and affected me heavily, and it really twisted the way my brain thought about a lot of these things. So, what if I found a spot along the spectrum that wasn’t male anymore, but I didn’t have to call myself female? Enter non-binary trans feminine as an identity marker. I want to say here and now that that is a totally valid and appropriate identity for a lot of people, and I don’t intend to take away from them. But I was appropriating that language to a degree. I was co-opting identity that isn’t true to me to make it easier on myself. So here I will state here and now, that I know myself better than that, and I should say that my true identity is simpler. I am a trans woman. Here me roar, etc.
Why lie like this? Because I am to a fault a people pleaser. And I always want to make everyone feel safe and comfortable. This includes, at the top of the list, my parents. I am worried that they will see their child as less than if I shed my false masculine skin for the feminine one that has always been there. I found a way to have my cake and eat it too, to a certain degree. I could still be trans, I could still take my HRT and buy a new wardrobe and watch YouTube makeup tutorials, but I’m also not really a woman (they tell themselves, lying). Plus, I’m a punk at heart and a bit of a summer goth, women don’t dress and act like that (they tell themselves, layering their self doubt under a nice layer of misogyny). Internalized misogyny is truly a wonder to behold, at work in the world around you like that. I couldn’t see myself as a punk that doesn’t want to wear dresses except for sometimes and kinda just wears black except for at the time of writing when I’m wearing a pink shirt and rolled up blue jeans. I couldn’t rectify these things into a simple identity because I couldn’t allow myself to be honest about the fact that women come in so many varieties. That regardless of how I choose to dress, or do my makeup, or walk and stand and talk, that I could still be a woman. That no one gets invited into this party, you just show up if that’s who you are, there’s no dress code or set of criteria that needs to be crossed off beyond the knowledge that you are who you know yourself to be.
Transition is such a journey. It was a road that I started with a clear idea of a path forward, only to find twists and turns and secret pathways throughout but to my chagrin, no shortcuts. And that’s what I was trying to do, I thought that instead of allowing myself to accept my identity as a woman and learning to grow into that, that I could just be non-binary trans feminine and that was my identity. End conversation. But that’s an identity I don’t live in or deserve. I can’t co-opt those words to cover my ass because I’m scared to meet my needs as a trans woman. And maybe that will change over time as well, at this point I’m a year and a half down this road. And I know that I’ve been a woman the entire time, i’ve just been lying to myself. Lying because of internalized self loathing, misogyny, failing to meet impossible standards and more. Seeing myself as a girlfriend to someone for the first time, and accepting my identity as a lesbian really opened the door in my head to being more honest with who I am really am. That my pronouns need not change, They/Them still feels right to me, with She/Her as a backup , but the way i talk about myself and the way i see myself can be more founded in the truth.
The thing that I need to keep telling myself is that this journey is all about me. Which is yes, narcissistic but also necessary. To transition is partly to take stock of yourself, to look inward and find not just who you are but also to dismantle your faults. I know that I allow myself to be dictated by expectation. That the idea that my mom, for example, will not accept the idea of me in a dress pushes me to take on a false front identity to cover for the fact that I do want to wear a dress from time to time. And that doesn’t make me weak, it doesn’t make me less deserving of love. But I need to learn to love myself despite what other people’s expectations for me are going to do with that. If I allow myself to lower my defenses enough to let my identity make it past the gates, I need to also be okay with whoever is out there not understanding or accepting me for that. That I will lose people or fall in their eyes because of this. I will not live up to being who people want me to be. And that’s okay. Because ultimately, I also need to be more concerned for now with who I want me to be. That I can’t expect people to hang on and not walk away when I’m not even being honest with myself. That my biggest hurdle is accepting myself most of all, that I can be beautiful and strong and weak and flawed and human how I am, all 6’2” of bones and 35 years of masculine training aside.