Contemplations on queerness, transness, and other Otherness.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

a path where a location should be

Originally posted at In Our Words

       As a basic introduction of my current sense of my gender, i identify, among other things, as both trans and genderqueer. For pronouns, i use “she/her/hers.” And if you can do it with respect and understanding of significance, “it.” i use “she/her” and identify myself to most folks as a trans person — or sometimes as a woman. i don’t do this because it represents a true understanding of my gender but because it’s the closest most folks can come to understanding my sense of myself.  This is especially true given our culture’s current climate around the subject.

       That said, i see myself as “neither/nor” in relation to the man/woman dichotomy. i don’t mean that i’m between genders; i’m not. There’s no “man” here at all. i’m, at least in some ways, femme. But i mostly identify as a queerly gendered creature beyond category. i didn’t come to this unique understanding of my gendered self overnight. It’s been a journey, one i’m very much still on.

       In some ways, my narrative fits the commonly known, and somewhat accepted, transgender narrative. i have memories of longing that predate a lot of other memories. i played with Barbies, dreamt of being a Disney princess, hung out with girls growing up. Like many, a normative gender was forced on me by culture, and i learned to hide my feelings from the world and myself.

       But that’s where my story stops fitting the “capital-S” Story. In high school, i found the punk scene, thank god, and learned strategies to not give a good god damn — or at least to pretend with a relatively high degree of success. i painted my nails and responded with a “so fucking what?” to remarks like, “He thinks he’s a girl.” i took dance classes. I learned to fight, both literally and figuratively.

       i went to college and hung out with activists and Gender Studies kids. i dyed my mohawk pink and presented even more queerly. Thinking of myself as a punk-rock faggot and as genderfluid, i started seeking hormones and taught myself how to do makeup.  i experienced a lot of harassment and harsh violence. So, i hid again, this time more consciously. i grew a gnarly beard and cultivated hyper-masculinity into a wall. When i looked in the mirror, i saw a mask. i learned to live with that.

       But it was an untenable strategy and my queerness resurfaced, a cetacean coming up from the depths for air. i got into therapy — because i was under the impression that this was a prerequisite for a hormone prescription. i started taking estrogen and tried to present in a more classically feminine way. i thought that might be easier. But again, i looked in the mirror and saw a mask.

       i felt like feminine standards fostered a lot of self-loathing and self-violence. i committed myself to tearing femininity down, brick by brick, and reconstructing it in a way that didn’t feel poisonous. i was cultivating a femininity that was, in no uncertain terms, completely my own.

       i re-shaved my mohawk and became empowered in the trans part of my identity, in my visibility. i was, and am, something not “normal,” and am at peace with that reality. i am something new and unique unto myself. The harassment started again, but it mattered less. It can still get really hard at times, but this time, i knew i had exhausted all other options. Eventually, and luckily, someone referred to me as “it” respectfully. Someone else said, in a very affectionate way, that they saw me as a creature. It took a lot of reflection, and i was terrified at how hard that identity would be to live. But it felt comfortable, felt right. i came to embrace my itness and sense of self as creature and as Other.

       This is hard for a lot of people to really comprehend, but my gender is just different like that. It’s still evolving, as creatures are wont to do, and reacting to the world. It will probably always operate in this way. My gender has been more of a path than a location and this is sometimes incredibly difficult. But, the newness feels right, the uniqueness gives me perspective, and the queerness feels like home.