I am DFAB—designated female at birth. This means my anatomy lines up with the gender expression of “female” or “woman” or “girl” or “feminine.” I am aware of this every time I wake up. Every month when my uterus cramps and blood dribbles between my legs. Every time I look at my breasts. Every stranger politely saying “miss” or “ma’am.”
The Day Before
I am calm and collected. My outfit planned for the next day is tight-fitting so I can enhance and admire the curves and lumps on my body. Maybe I’ll wear a dress, I think. I look forward to the next day when I know nobody will misgender me. When I change into my sleepwear, I know that the part of my that is a boy is slightly bitter. A part of my resents the fact that I can “pass” more easily as a female gender—the fact that people read me as a girl. By default, people assume my gender based on my looks. I apologise to myself. Someone will always assume something.
The Morning Of
My hair is easier to manage than it normally is. The way it falls complements my face in a way that makes me believe I’m beautiful. I know that I don’t need makeup to try and change the way my face looks—to make it look more feminine—like I do when I want to look masculine. The bitterness creeps up again: I am not always a woman, but today I am and everyone will agree with me. That bitter feeling fades a little after I get dressed and ready to go outside. The anxiety comes back in full force when I’m ready to step out the door.
Will I get catcalled today? Will a man refuse to move out of my way on the sidewalk? Will the elderly cashier call me “sweetie” or “hun” or “dear” and make me uncomfortable? Will someone on the bus gawk at me? Will someone comment or grimace at my leg and armpit hair if it’s showing? Will people see me as a girl without being a sexist pig?
I power through my discomfort and am aware of all the eyes. Aware of all the men who walk toward me and only move out of my way at the last second, or who don’t move at all and knock into my elbows. Aware of the stare I know is coming from the person on the other end of the bus. Nobody is confused that I am a girl today and everyone knows what pronouns to use, if they use them.
I don’t mind touching my friends today with hugs or by leaning against them. For once, my body matches my gender and I find a sense of peace. I know that this feeling is fleeting, and that next week or afternoon, I’ll feel differently. For most of the day, I feel confident. I don’t let myself be made small, whether I’m sitting on a chair or standing at the bus stop.
Someone driving by calls me a fat whore and my confidence shatters. I want to throw in the towel and go home. So I do.
The Night Of
Some days my body is good enough. To most people, they don’t care about my body. To some people, my body is always good enough. And to others, the small number of people, they manage to find my biggest insecurity and rip it open. My body is not good enough. My body will always have something wrong with it. And even the pieces of scum who drive by and insult women are right about that. They are wrong in how my body is wrong—being fat and sexual is not wrong—but they unknowingly remind me that I will never be comfortable as myself.
As a woman, I am a target trying to make herself as small as possible. As a man, I am a body trying to be different. As both, I cannot exist in this society. Identifying as a cisgender woman is impossible for myself, but the default for everyone who doesn’t know me. Identifying as a transgender man is impossible, and I am not aiming to transition and be rid of the DFAB body, which means someone will always see me as a female because of my anatomy. Identifying as both throws everyone out of whack because they never know which one I am. As if I know all the time. As if my gender identity is black and white, clear-cut, or systematic. As if my gender is a light switch to flick off and on.
In this society, I can’t be both and hope to be accepted as both—maybe as one or the other. The binary exists and I am expected to pick one. I can’t even figure out if there might be a third gender because this binary gender system is so all-encompassing that I feel like I can’t escape. Hell, some days I’m neither, but I still identify as both because “genderfluid” doesn’t sit well with me.
There is always something to be uncomfortable about when you are a woman. As I finish the day, I think about the ways I’d like my body to change—masculine or feminine, female or male. The mantras surrounding body positivity tell me to love my body, and that I should be happy with it, and I should appreciate it. But I still feel broken because only a small handful of people remind me that I am whole no matter what doesn’t line up properly.
Tomorrow will be better in some way.
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