My Struggle with Gender
No media Monday this week, in part because I really wanted to write about gender today. Also because I just wanted a break from media Monday posts.
Looking back and reflecting on my life, I’ve realized that gender is something I’ve always struggled with in some way or another. I was very much a tomboy growing up – I always wore pants or shorts, kept my hair in a ponytail or short, I tended to avoid feminine things as much as possible. I never felt like I was really “born in the wrong body” (like the tragic misconception forced onto every single trans person’s narrative. Not to say that it doesn’t happen but just that it does seemed forced onto the entirety of the trans community).
More than anything, I felt annoyed by the constant pressure to be more feminine, which only made me hate all things feminine. I despised the color pink, I avoided make up and styling my hair, I’ve only ever owned like 6 dresses since I was 13 (three of which were for homecoming or prom in high school so….). Growing up, I avoided feminine things because I felt like all of those things and femininity in general was something that was forced onto me from every possible angle.
There was some points in my life where I did embrace some aspects of femininity, more out of a desire to fit in and “feel normal” than anything else. And I was praised for the times I wore dresses or did my hair. But there was still a large part of me that felt like constantly conforming to being a rather feminine woman wasn’t who I really am.
Over the past couple of years (especially after coming out as queer and being more involved in the LGBTQ+ community in Portland), I realized that there were aspects of societal/stereotypical femininity that I really did like. I love painting my nails, occasionally wearing some makeup, and I love knitting (although I’m not particularly great at it). But I still really love dressing and presenting in a (mostly) masculine way and usually walk that line between femininity and masculinity.
So when I started exploring gender and found a plethora of resources on the trans community, I realized I wasn’t alone in feeling excluded from the traditional gender binary. I soon discovered that there were others who also struggled with their gender and while our stories are not all the same, it was reassuring that I wasn’t alone in my exploration.
The day I started learning about trans masculine, transgender, and genderqueer was such a relief because I finally found the words and identities that better fit into my life so far. I’m still learning a lot about myself, particularly now that I’m out of school and in therapy but I do know that the more I learn and the more I explore gender, the more comfortable I seem to be in my body. And I’m slowly identifying more with transgender as my identity.
There’s a part of me that wants to start binding my chest and appear more masculine (with a feminine flare) and I probably will sometime in the future. However, I do spend a lot of time worrying about how others will perceive me, how my parents and family might react if I were more open about my gender. I spend a lot of time being worried about losing my family, about violence, about losing my life or the desire to just be alive. There have been so many horror stories about the violence and abuse faced by trans individuals (particularly for trans people of color and even more so for trans women of color/black trans women).
So the more comfortable I am in my body and in expressing myself, the more I worry about other things like other people’s perceptions. I realize that no matter how much I love myself, I’ll always have a part of me worried about how others perceive me. It’s been a really long journey for me to understand and experiment with my gender and it’s still an on going adventure. I’m still learning who I am and how I want to express myself.
Anyway, this was a much longer rant about my struggle with gender than I originally anticipated so thanks if you took the time to read it!