Questioning

Two tree trunks with spray-painted question marks and a text overlay reading Questioning

Lately, I’ve been in that hellish stage of questioning.

Again.

I was here at age 13 and here I am again, and it sucks.

I’m still not comfortable enough to do a broad “coming out” or “here’s what I’ve been questioning” post, but I’m putting this up for a very specific reason.

I’ve written about the fluidity of identity, in a way, when I discussed fluidity in sexuality. I intend to write a follow-up post to that one where I discuss gender identity. But I’ve always been a firm believer of supporting changes in the way people label themselves. There are some parts of your identity that can’t change, like your skin colour and ethnic heritage. There are others, however, that can only change or come about when you find out they exist, like gender, sexuality, romantic attraction, and religious beliefs—and you’re allowed to change your mind based on how much you learn about them.

So I’m posting this to say that I’m wondering if I need to change my mind, too. I’m unsure of the labels I once used. I’m unsure of the identity I once claimed. I’m being intentionally vague here, because I’m not entirely comfortable (let alone certain) of all of this and what labels are accurate. It doesn’t matter which ones I’m specifically questioning. What matters is that I’m back in this space and filled with uncertainty. Part of me is scared—as is normal when something changes—and that part right now is big.

When you question your identity, it often has a domino effect: it can change your relationships, your expression, and your interactions with society. You may have thought you were cisgender, but then you start to question that… and your life changes. There can be small changes or big changes, but it’s not going to be the same after you realise whether or not you are what you thought you were.

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

Types of Being “Out”

Being “out” isn’t a black and white situation. Isn’t life funny that way? Nothing is black and white. Even “black” and “white” have different shades within them (according to paint swatch cards and digital colour presentation).

Throughout my life, I’ve noticed I was “out” in many different ways. Maybe different “levels,” but I prefer to think of them as types. I don’t need to get to the next level to be any more LGBT than I am and have been while I was “out.”

Type A: Closet? What closet?

You might not even know about what closet(s) you’re sitting in. If you do, you might be in denial. You aren’t at the questioning part yet. There’s a chance you don’t even know the name of your identity.

I was this type from age 7 – 12. Yes, seven. One of my earliest memories of school is a group of bullies calling me a lesbo when I was in first grade. I didn’t know what a “lesbo” or lesbian was, since I grew up in a religious, heteronormative family. Whether they used it as a homophobic slur to label me as something wrong, or whether they saw behaviour in me that was on par with being a lesbian, they used the word. And introduced me to what it meant.

Type B: I’m only touching the closet doorknob

Are you questioning? Is this a phase? Your friends and family might wonder as well, and hell, there may be bullies or harassers who see it too. But you’re still unsure if you can own up to this new information about your ever-changing identity.

I was this type from age 12 – 13. During puberty, I came to terms with the fact that I was not straight. I wasn’t sure what I was, but I knew for a fact that I didn’t like just boys.

Type C: Okay, I’m in the closet

You’ve realised that you are such-and-such. You don’t know who to tell, or if you should tell. Who would be surprised? Who wouldn’t be surprised? If you have LGBT+ friends, you might not be out to them either.

I was this type while I was 13. I luckily had a small group of great friends after I evolved from this type, so it was easier to trust them.

Type D: Members-Only access to the closet

You’re out to only a selection of people. These could be your friends, family, or strangers online. But it’s still an exclusive group—you don’t tell everyone about your gender or sexuality. You still guard it, since there may be dangers, discomforts, or disaster if you were out to more people.

I’ve been this type since I was 14. A few things have changed since I started coming out (bisexual to pansexual, for instance; the discovery of a gender identity). But I’m still here, over 8 years later.

Type E: Welcome to my closet—I mean crib!

Your gender or sexuality is one of the first things someone new learns about you. Your friends and family know about it—some may be supportive, some may be uncomfortable, and others may even be malicious. But you’re comfortable enough about your identity to present it as part of you, regardless of who they are. Of course, there may be exceptions, but nearly everyone close to you knows about it.

I don’t think every LGBT+ member can be Type E.

We live in a world where different societies have different degrees of acceptance for gender and sexuality. But the majority of the world is still narrow-minded and bigoted, and anything different from Type A or B can present numerous risks.

Whatever type you are, your identity is still valid. You don’t have to prove your sexuality or your gender by waving a pride flag, just like religious people don’t have to prove their faith by telling everyone they know about it.

Stay where you’re comfortable. The world is still changing—even if it is hella slow.

Types Of Being Out

A Typical Girl Day

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?

Interactions

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.

More On My Gender Identity

Bigender Basics

A Typical Boy Day

A Typical Girl Day