The word queer was a hard one for me to come around to. I remember shortly after coming out a friend asked me in passing if I now considered myself to be queer. I said no, almost as if I was right back in school again, having some kid in metal work class ask me if I was a fag. I hadn’t really thought too much about it, really. I knew I was trans, I knew internal and external me were at odds with one another, but I hadn’t really thought about what that really means, when you factor in the idea of having relationships with other people. When I told my mom that I was trans, and that I was a woman, and that I was going to take some steps to bring that idea to the forefront, she told me two things. Thing the first was that she was worried I was going to tell her I was gay (I kind of was, in a roundabout kinda way) and thing the second was she asked if that made [former partner] a fag. I am certain to this day that if she was to continue down this line she was mere minutes away from shoving [former partner] in a locker and taking her lunch money. I knew that we had taken back the word queer, but I wasn’t really calling myself that.
Here’s a total shocker and surprise I have never told anyone, including my current girlfriend, who knows me better than anyone: I used to fantasize about men sexually.
To anyone reading this that knows me, this will come as a surprise. To elaborate on that, I used to think about it, a lot. To me, this normalized my feelings of wanting to be a woman. In my brain, which I feel compelled to point out early on in this writing is very stupid, that made logical sense. I know myself and that deep in the caverns and sinkholes of my soul that I am a lady. And ladies, they like dudes.
Remember how I said my brain is an idiot like 3 sentences earlier?
When I was grappling with my identity, I would think about dicks, or at least dick like or dick shaped apparatus, and imagine it in relation to me and my body. I never thought about men in the broad scheme of things. Really, I never got past that one part. I don’t have a type of man that I’m particularly interested in. I don’t tend to find dudes attractive beyond the ability to understand why people think Mark Ruffalo is good looking but maybe that’s just because he seems smart and socially conscious but not as smarmy as the rest of the Avengers. Nonetheless, I needed an easy base on which to lay my identity, and I thought for a long time I was either a gay man (nope) or a straight lady (also nope). These are what my self hating brain told me were my two options. I’m as woke and open minded as the next white person, and I know there’s more than two options available for our sexual identities, but all the same. Binary options were what I told myself I could have. But I also knew myself as someone that loved women. I’ve been wary of men most of my life, they’re the ones that taught me that I would never measure up, never be enough. That I was probably a fag. As I got older, men would time and again prove themselves to be, well, not great. A lot of my complexes and insecurities stem from my time spent trying to fit in with dudes, failing, trying harder, succeeding and then feeling worse because I was just like them. I learned how to be strong, speak in a deep voice, treat women like disposable objects that existed for me, all the classic dude things. This is not me saying All Men, but also, come on dudes, you know what y’all are like. Anyway, I didn’t fit in there, because of course I didn’t, more than anything it wasn’t a world I wanted around long term. The first time I ever tried to self-harm (sorry to sneak that in there) was because I didn’t want to be a dude, I didn’t want to be who I had become, but I didn’t see or understand that I had other options.
This is all a long road to walk to get to the point that I don’t really like dudes, in that way. I’ve met a lot of great men in my life, some of the best people I know are men. I have a friend that’s a dude. I just couldn’t be anything other than the stereotype of the manly shitty dude, lest I let down my guard and let people know I cared about fashion and self care and had a lot of feelings I had repressed. Then people would, in my stupid brain, call me a fag. Or they’d think I wanted to be soft like a woman. This is, what my therapist has told me, stupid. These were expectations I put on myself based on how I perceived my environment, but all the same, there they were. I grew up afraid of growing up, as that would mean that I would be the grown up version of the terrible way I felt about myself.
I keep getting sidetracked, what were we talking about?
So, my girlfriend at the time was a fag, according to popular surveys taken at the time. But curious that I was never asked “and what does this make you?” For some reason, the idea of sexual identity was either assumed, or avoided altogether, in favor of determining how my transition affected those around me. This would prove to be a popular trend. People are less concerned about how being trans affects trans people, but by golly, we sure do love a good dissection of how it affects the people it doesn’t affect nearly as bad. That particular partner told me she still saw herself as straight when asked if dating me made her queer. We also didn’t have a great relationship that I ended in a very poor fashion, but that’s neither here not there. That statement from her hurt me quite a bit at the time, and it took me a while to realize it was because her not identifying as anything but straight meant that she didn’t really see me as any different. To her, I guess I was either still a male, or at least not femme enough to constitute changing her mind about herself. Either way it kinda drilled home the fact that even though she supported me she didn’t see me how I wanted to be seen. This led to me adopting a bit of a “I’m like a girlfriend but a dude version of that” attitude that went about as well as you can imagine that clunky theory panning out.
Eventually we would break up and I decided to figure out exactly who I was in the context of a relationship with another person. It was in this new relationship that I transitioned (see what I did there?) into being someone’s “partner”. Here’s where I started to actually work on myself and my identity. You see, once I stopped trying to make myself be a dude version of a girlfriend for my not-queer girlfriend, I started to actually ask myself the question very few people did: what does this make me?
And partner felt right. It takes gender out of the equation. Anyone can be a partner, regardless of gender, orientation, social standing and/or membership in any number of secret societies. We’re all able to be a partner. So this felt like a term that would work. I could let go of viewing myself as holding on to parts of a personality and identity to save a relationship that had ceased being one. But as I became more myself, and started to explore, and push myself, and try and determine who I was, who I have always been, and most importantly, who I’ve been repressing, I always had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that I was lying. And it wasn’t a lie that I was Trans, or even non-binary (which I had adopted somewhere in the waning hours of the previous relationship), but that I also wanted to express myself as feminine. This relationship also ended, only for me to then wage this internal battle once more, what does this make me. Am I bad at this because I’m not supposed to date women? I considered trying to date a dude, I would lie awake at night, consider it, and just feel......nothing. Even at this stage, which was also categorically the lowest point of my life for a myriad of reasons we’re not getting into here, I could not bring myself to consider my identity in that way. I still saw myself as a feminine person, that still very much liked women. So maybe that dude in metalworking class was right? Maybe I was just looking at the word through the wrong lens.
It’s a funny thing, this part of my identity. Because one would assume that as someone assigned male at birth, you would naturally assume that because I’m transitioning, I’m going from M to F. An easy road. But, as discussed in some other piece of writing on this website of mine, that’s not so simple. As I played with that identity I always had this thing in the back of my head urging me to talk about my identity more in the context of my sexuality. Sexuality is an important thing, and a big part of who we are as people. I remember the first time I called myself queer, and how it felt when I was referring to myself, and not being referred to from a moving truck or from the back of a metalworking class. It felt empowering, like I had discovered the secret name for myself that gives me the power and autonomy that I need. Like an elder demon. A sexy, queer elder demon.
It’s worth nothing that within this exploration is when I stopped thinking about dicks. Remember that? We were talking about them way up top there, and then kind of got away from them in favor of talking about my inner battles, but while waging those battles with a renewed kind of internalized honesty I realized that I never was interested in men, I was interested in assimilation. I was interested in society understanding my place in it so I could go quietly into that good night. Being interested in men made my story somehow more palatable, because while yes, I was trans, I at least wanted to still subscribe to hetero normative society. I mean, otherwise, what would the neighbors think? But that’s not where I landed. I was only using this because it was easy, it’s more complicated to say “I’m a trans-feminine non-binary person that is attracted to women”.
My current girlfriend asked me recently how she should introduce me to people. As in, “ Hello [insert dignitary/head of state/server at A&W], this is my partner and/or girlfriend Andrea”. And after some internal soul searching, I landed on girlfriend as the right choice. As we’ve been together she has pointed out things that I do and ways that I act that are, in her humble but well earned opinion, “classic dyke”. I wear a lot of black. None of my t shirts contain the sleeves they originally came with. I fall in love really quickly and intensely, but honestly. I told her I loved her after we had been officially dating for like, 2 days, on a couch while we watched Forensic Files. She told me I was such a lesbian before she told me she also loved me too. But the thing about all the examples that are too wide and varied and quite frankly none of your damn business is that when she tells me that I act like such a lesbian, it feels right. It’s the first time someone has noticed the way I act and drawn attention to it and it feels validating. Her seeing me as a huge dyke allowed me to finally drop the last of my guards and agree.
You see, ultimately, this whole long ass road started with me intending to go from point M to point F. It just so happens gender and identity aren’t so simple. I didn’t make it all the way to F necessarily, but I still feel like a girlfriend. And deciding that felt like when you’ve been invited to have dinner with a group of people a few times but you keep wondering “ do these people even like me?”. Eventually you have to acquiesce to the fact that they do, that you’ve been accepted and that people have stopped judging you long ago, despite what your stupid brain tells you. And when I let all of that fall, when I allowed myself to say out loud all the things I felt and have hidden away under piles of old coats in my brain, it was like lifting this massive weight off. To be able to put names and voices to the way I’ve always felt in a definitive manner has been freeing. I’m a trans-feminine non-binary queer person, I’m someone’s girlfriend.
Put simply, I’m a fag.