Thoughts On Being Transgender

A pink balloon attached to the string by a white chair in a grey setting.

I’ve hesitated posting this, because it’s part of my identity that I’m still… coming to terms with. The whole reality of gender identity and gender expression and biological sex—it’s a mess in my head, but there are a few things I’m certain of: I’m bigender. I’m gender non-conforming. I’m queer. I’m still questioning. And I’m just as transgender as the Trans Poster Child who plays with “opposite-gender” toys and transitions with surgeries and full social transitioning.

I’m keeping my breasts and my given name and my female sex reproduction organs.

And that doesn’t make me less transgender than someone who would have sex reassignment surgery or another type of surgery to alter their body.

I do not have to hate my body to be transgender.

I do not have to feel like I was born in the wrong body to be transgender.

I do not have to identify with the opposite gender on a polarised scale to be transgender. I do not have to go from female to male, or male to female, and then stay that way to be transgender. I am not zero or one. I can be infinite, but I’ll choose the numbers that fit best.

I do not have to be out of the closet or ashamed of being in the closet or proud of being out of the closet.

I am trans, I am trans, I am trans. I am gender non-conforming and I identify with multiple gender roles constructed by society—sometimes multiple, sometimes only one, sometimes none.

I am transgender and I exist within the changing social constructions of gender.

Gender is not an inherent part of existence. We make it. We shape it. We create it the same way we create our identities. We express ourselves in certain ways. We express gender in certain ways. It is a category that societies use.

You are not born with a gender. You grow into one. You learn and you create your identity. You make it the same way you make a sandwich. You choose what to include, what to exclude, and some people will tell you what to put on it and what not to put on it.

Be peanut butter. Be jelly. Be Swiss and ham and pickles on rye. Be your own mixture of tastes and flavours and appearance. Be different today and tomorrow and next year. Be your childhood favourite whenever you want. Be Cheese Whiz and smooth peanut butter on crustless white bread, because it feels good that day, and forget anyone who tells you it’s weird or gross. Be my aunt’s Nutella and mayonnaise. Be a sandwich with lettuce or napa cabbage instead of bread. Be a tortilla wrap.

I am transgender. I don’t have to have pronouns “opposite” to my sex characteristics to be transgender. I do not have to physically transition to be transgender. I do not have to change my name to be transgender. I do not have to be anything except a gender I was not given at birth to be transgender.

I am transgender and that still exists in the gender binary spectrum created by social norms. And I am unsure how to reconcile that, or if I even need to. I am hoping I can embrace the social construction of gender while still urging it to expand and be more than what it currently is. Maybe one day, the notion of “gender” will evolve to a point where “transgender” is a different identity to what it is today. Maybe “girl” and “boy” and “queer” will mean different things, too.

I am bigender and my pronouns are “he/him/his” and “she/her/her” and I am happy with whatever you choose to refer to me, whenever you do it, as long as you understand that my gender is not my body. You don’t have to know if someone is transgender. You just have to know that gender is not genitals.

 

A Typical Switch Day

A photograph of a cluster of light switches and wires.

The Day Before

The day before can be anything—my gender expression and gender identity can be literally anything. It doesn’t matter and I have no inkling of who I’ll be in the morning. I go to sleep restlessly or peacefully, not really thinking about what to wear the next day or how I want to be addressed. The night before is filled with me changing my pyjamas and trying to find what’s comfortable.

The Morning Of

On a good Switch day, I’m very certain of what gender I am. I pick an outfit with conviction and I feel nice in it. But when I see myself wearing it, no matter how calm I am, I get the feeling that this feeling will be short-lived. I’m not going to wear those clothes for the whole day. I’m going to switch at some point. I’ll be myself the whole day, but there’s a connection to all aspects of my gender.

I have yet to have a bad Switch day. I think that’s because all my bad days are dissociated, intensely dysmorphic days—and a Switch day is none of those. (As such, this post will talk only of a good day.) My Boy and Girl days can be good or bad, of course, but any badness or goodness can have even a small link back to my gender and body. Switch days? Switch days are something rare and wonderful.

Interactions

Before the Switch, and depending on which gender I settled on, the interactions are okay. I’ll be misgendered, that’s for sure, but it won’t bother me as much. The temporal aspect of my gender is very present—and soothing. I think, It’s okay that a stranger used those pronouns. It’s still part of my existence.

My Switch days remind me that even if someone doesn’t see both of my genders, and the spectrum between them, and instead only sees one gender—it isn’t as bad as it could be. What they see is still a part of me. Sure, it may not be the same as them acknowledging that it’s only a portion of my gender identity. But it’s better than what it could be—constant misgendering of my entire existence. I’m always a little jolted when my gender expression is read in one specific binary way, but it doesn’t set me off on a Switch day. I’m a floaty, fluid, free wave-particle in life.

The Night Of

The Switch can happen at multiple points of the day. I could go back and forth between boy and girl, or settle in between for a spell. The Switch(es) can be in the morning, the afternoon, or evening. But when I go to sleep, the discomfort sets in again. Like the night before, pyjamas are… difficult. I can’t sleep in a binder. I can’t wear certain clothes to sleep easily in.

After trying to go to bed, it isn’t uncommon to find me awake for hours simply changing my pyjamas and adjusting the pillows. Something isn’t right. Today’s effervescence will disappear. There’s an exhaustion from the changes and the freedom I felt. No matter how much I enjoy the Switch days, I can’t cling on to them. They’re too much of a high for me to maintain.

But when they come around, I’m content. I’m more content being able to flow from one to the other or settle between—moreso than settling into one and putting the other on the backburner. Even if one of my genders wants to be a star that day, and another wants to sit back and watch, they work better when they’re together. When I can be truly bigender.

More On My Gender Identity

Bigender Basics

A Typical Boy Day

A Typical Girl Day

A Typical Boy Day

The Day Before

I notice sensations against my skin. The dryness of my elbows scratching on the desk, or pulling on sweater sleeves as I roll them up, and the uncomfortable pressure against my ribcage from the underwire of my bra.

When I get changed out of my clothes and into something comfortable, I stare at my chest, touch my breasts briefly, and find myself frowning. I slip into a large t-shirt and sweatpants and put in earplugs for sleep. I’m not going to bed yet. Just trying to drown out the noise around me. Something is askew in my universe.

The Morning Of

My hair is too long and my hips are too wide, and I stare at myself in the foggy mirror after showering. My body is a freshly washed series of misplaced lumps. When I wrap the towel around myself, I close my eyes and brace myself for the chill of nakedness.

As is my habit, I have set out my clothes the night before. I do not think well in the first few hours of waking (not necessarily the morning; sometimes I sleep past noon. #noshame). Clothes are too many decisions, even the order of putting them on: underpants, bra, jeans, t-shirt, socks, sweater. I put the bra back on its hook in the closet and pull out the chest binder from a drawer. Before I make the effort to slip it over my head, I remember how terrible it is to put on when my skin is even the least bit damp. I pat myself down again. Through the towel, I touch individual parts of a body I hate today—the one that doesn’t feel right and that I can’t temporarily change.

The binder is tight around my ribcage. I inhale deeply, to remind my lungs how much they can expand while being willingly bound. It isn’t nearly as much as I normally can. When I first bought and wore the undershirt-like formwear, it would barely budge past my arms while I shimmied into it. It moved like a starch-laden tank top and rubbed my skin terribly.

I change the shirt sitting on my dresser. The relaxed-fit t-shirt with the beautiful design can’t be worn today: the neckline shows part of the binder and it is too fitted for my waist to feel comfortable. I do not want to be touched. My body is a virus. I open the drawer, place the Girl Shirt back in its place, and pick a Boy Shirt from the other side. It is loose. Crew-neck cut. Longer sleeves. Reminiscent of my preference when I would harm myself and hide the wounds on my biceps.

When I’m dressed and brushing my teeth, I see myself in the mirror and feel better. I mess up my hair, still unsure how to make my face look the way it should. It seems as if it will always be a She Face, regardless of how the rest of my self appears.

I’ve thought of wearing makeup, not for enhancing my lashline or enunciating the shape of my lips, but for contouring my cheekbones, my jawline, and my eyebrows to seem darker; deeper; dastardly. I do not have the money. My teeth are clean. I spit and rinse and rinse and rinse and floss.

Interactions

Either everyone knows my secret or they think I’m angry. My step is involuntarily more aggressive, I think, or perhaps the way I carry my shoulders and arms says something. Do I slouch more? Do I seem more forceful? Do I seem like an angry woman instead of what I am today: a boy?

I can’t walk as fast as normal, or take the stairs as quickly, because of the tightness around my breasts and ribs. The bottom of my binder rolls up toward the bottom of my ribcage, which doesn’t bother me as much as the way my skin and fat tissue are pinched under my arms. (An unfortunate downside of being overweight and trying to combat body dysphoria.)

In classes, I take notes and keep my head down. I don’t chat with acquaintances. I’m on a mission: survive the day. Running errands, I ignore the casual “hon” and “miss” the older cashiers use. Am I a flat-chested girl to them? How do they know what to call me? My confusion is hidden after a brief moment. I don’t know if they notice—they probably don’t. I walk in a fog and jolt when I can’t remember if I put away my wallet and cards and cash and receipts. Disorientation, over and over again, and I settle into the movements like a mix of floating and sinking.

I don’t ask friends for hugs. I don’t want them to squeeze me. I don’t want to be touched.

The Night Of

When I’ve returned home and after I remove the binder, I return to the baggy clothes from the day before (sweater and sweatpants). The first time I removed the binder was in front of my boyfriend. He was the first to know about my wearing it the first time it was on. He said I looked good. He helped take it off, since I got stuck. It was like I had shimmied myself into a plastic Chinese finger trap.

But removing it now is an easy slip. I’m always sad to take it off, but the discomfort on my skin hinders me from wearing it too long.

Any intense efforts to feel better about the femininity of my body would make things worse.

After I place jeans and a t-shirt on the dresser, I snuggle into bed. The binder sits in the drawer and the bra hangs in the closet. I will decide tomorrow when I feel and see myself moving.

A Typical Boy Day

Bigender Basics

Some days are chocolate chip cookies: primarily sumptuous dough, but interspersed with rich, tiny clumps of semi-sweet chocolate.

Other days are full-on triple-chocolate cookies, with a cocoa-enriched dough, hunks of chocolate throughout, and a drizzle of melted vanilla sweetness on top.

And even other days, there are some none-chocolate cookies on my plate and other double-chocolate cookies that I pick from. I nibble at both, but never eat an entire cookie.

Another analogy: hot and cold. I put on layers of sweaters and camis and button-ups, or undershirts and t-shirts and sweaters and coats. I can wake up and the weather is below freezing. The sun comes out. The temperature changes. I become warm. I started the day cold, and tried to be warm. Then I warmed up, and now I want to be cold.

The basics are this: I am never one or the other. I am always two. I can lean toward one side of the spectrum, or I sway back and forth between them.

For me, being bigender means I am a boy and a girl. I can be both at once. Sometimes I’m one for the day, sometimes I’m the other. Sometimes I’m both all day, neither one of them exclusively.

Pronouns and gender-specific identifiers cause me the most issues. I can never tell on any given day which of the genders I’m more inclined to until someone identifies me as one of them. Sometimes the person who identifies myself as one is myself—when I look in a mirror, or when I feel my body move. In person, I’m only ever labelled one gender. I haven’t exactly come out to many people I know in person, mostly because they won’t see me very differently. (As my boyfriend put it when I told him: “You’ll still be you.”) And if they will look at me differently, in a negative light, then it doesn’t matter that they know or don’t know.

I don’t exactly correct people when they misgender me, because the majority of society I interact with associates gender with a body.

gender =/= body parts

I pass most easily as one gender on the spectrum, and not very easily as the other I identify with. And this disappoints me. I put in effort to make myself look a way that makes me feel comfortable when I look at myself and move around. But most people don’t notice this. I’m still gendered as the other one by people who don’t know me.

It isn’t easy to have people misgender me on a daily basis when I fluctuate so much between two of them and it’s very much an internal experience.

Sometimes I misgender myself because I’ve been told I’m one for my entire life, even when I started thinking I wasn’t just that one when I was 13.

The binary view of genders in modern society is my biggest obstacle, aside from my body dysmorphia. There’s a resistance to spectrum and dualities.

I feel like I can’t identify as transgender because I can identify with the gender I was designated at birth. I’m able to. But it isn’t the only one. Of course, I still hold internal transphobia and stigma; I’m trying to unlearn the “you can only be one” mentality in terms of gender identity. A transwoman doesn’t need to transition to be a transwoman. A transgender person doesn’t need to go from one binary to the other to be transgender—they can fluctuate along a spectrum, too, even if it’s between two socially enforced binaries (as I do).

Internalised bigotry. I think a lot of marginalised individuals still hold internalised bigotry, whether it’s sexism or homophobia, or transphobia or all the others. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All I’m trying to do is make peace with myself and how I view myself. Being bigender is one of those ways I’m legitimately achieving that peace.

Basics of a non-binary gender: bigender.