The Gendered History, Part 4

This is the conclusion of this weekend series. I’ll be taking the next few weekends off before starting the next series (topic tbd). In the meantime, check back Wednesdays for continued unrelated posts!

The Gendered History is a personal history, the evolution and experience of my gender. As such, this series contains frank discussion of sexual maturation (specifically of the FAAB body & its genitals), gender dysphoria, expressions of dissatisfaction with body shape, disordered eating, direct physical self-harm, depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, and similar issues. Other topics mentioned include unsafe chest-binding practices, alcoholism, heterosexism, cissexism, and related.

Skip back to when I’m 20. I live in an apartment with three friends. We drink all the time, we go for rambling walks in the woods, we occasionally stay up all night playing Rock Band just because nobody wants to go to sleep. I am out about my gender in a vague sort of way to my roommates; they use female pronouns but obviously consider me one of the guys (and laugh at anyone who dares to presume otherwise). I wear my binder more often than not in colder weather, and they get a kick out of watching wait staff at our favorite restaurants struggle to come up with the right address for me.

Memory is fuzzy here, but at some point this year, I finally get comfortable with being a GQMF. I’m not out to family, but I’m out online. Most of my friends use neutral pronouns (or avoid pronouns); most of my friends don’t use other gendered words at me. (Protip: calling a gendervariant person “girl” or “lady” or “boy” or anything like that is pretty much not cool unless they tell you it is cool.) Offline, I’ve been using a (still-gendered and still-mispronounced) nickname, but I’m starting to chafe at the existence of my legal name anyway:

<blockquote>I know, everyone likes to tell me that it’s such a pretty and unique name. (Please refrain.) That’s my problem – it’s a very pretty, very feminine name that stands out of a crowd. I am a down-the-middle genderqueer person. I’d prefer a much more ambiguous name that didn’t scream “Look! Female!” because that’s simply not true for me. However, I don’t have a name that I identify with strongly enough or for long enough to make it my legal name outside of pip, and that’s to stay firmly online.</blockquote>

Two months later, I have a large facepalm moment when I realize that some acquaintances are calling me a neutral version of my name. I’m about to move to a new city, and I make a somewhat snap decision to go by that neutral name, with the male spelling. (I say male because it’s more often seen on males than females with that spelling, but it is verbally indistinguishable. Also, it’s shorter and looks less than my legal name.) I do the research on state laws and pull out all information pertaining to a legal name change. I don’t have the money, but even just one week into using the new name, I’m pretty sure it’s going to stick. I’m not putting any effort into being out offline, but I’m also not putting any effort into remaining closeted. This basically means I don’t say anything on my own behalf, but jokes about misgendering and the trans* community are greeted with a firm verbal slapdown. I don’t identify <i>as</i> trans, but I identify <i>with</i> the community.

It gets pretty boring from here. One month after moving, I host the GQFONSFAQ. I call myself transqueer and accidentally become a voice of genderqueer people. I come out to some of my family, all of whom immediately put me straight back in the closet; I give up on being out to them, though that’s not without its stress. I make some speeches (just at school things, nothing big or even particularly well-attended) about how nonbinarism is a thing and using preferred pronouns is a thing. I get over my knee-jerk denial of any classically-feminine interest and start referring to myself as a bit femme (which still doesn’t mean female, got it?) and eventually drop the trans, though I still identify with the community. Some days, I’m okay with constantly being referred to as female. Others, I want to scream until they just get it right. I start Hobbit Activism, get busy and exhausted and don’t update for a while, then come back with a vengeance, even though I’m still busy and exhausted.

There are two very important people from Part 3, two people I’ve since fallen out of touch with but still think of. Neither of them were cisgendered. One wanted to transition their body; the other didn’t. They both listened to my conflicted thoughts and offered validation. Just that – no judgments, no labels, no unsolicited advice. Just validation. It’s okay to feel this way, it’s okay not to know, it’s okay just to want to hide in a box for a while and not face the world. In a way, they were all that I had. Some of my friends knew some, but nobody knew everything on this topic other than these two.

Neither of these two friends ever mentioned harming themselves as part of dealing with their dysphoria, so I gave it a try and found that, for the most part, I can refrain from self-injury and drinking and not eating and just plain old being reckless. I am my brain. My body is just a tool. I have to take care of all of my tools – car, computer, and body – to have the best experience inside my brain. My body works better when I take care of it, which allows me some experiences I couldn’t have when I was undernourished and afraid of showing scars (or worse, fresh cuts). I don’t know if those friends had never even considered self-harm, or if they just didn’t want to bring it up (I certainly didn’t). Either way, I saw them as healthy role models, and that saved me from more permanent effects.

Yet now, in Part 4, in the present time, I have new friends who are openly not cis, some openly nonbinary, and friends who are open about their mental health, and friends who say <i>it’s okay to feel these things, it’s okay to want these things, you are okay.</i> I can look back at high school and know that I was not alone, even if thinking I was alone is what saved me. It’s better now, to know that I wasn’t alone – that I’m still not alone, the way I feel. A dear friend shared his thoughts on disordered eating and dysphoria a while back; rereading that now is what inspired this series. I’ve always thought that my experience, my gender evolution, was bizarre and unique (and several other, less flattering adjectives), but it may well not be. If someone else is traveling a similar path now, I want them to know that they’re not alone. Even if your experience isn’t the same basic path as mine, there might be similarities. And even if there aren’t – you’re still not alone. I’m just one voice of many.

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