I’m pretty sure I’ve been dealing with this all my life, even after discovering the variations in gender, etc. It has caused a lot of frustration and has fucked with my self-image quite a bit. Now, at 25, I am just starting to truly figure this shit out. To figure out who I am. To figure out what I actually like and don’t like. To really discover which parts of me are truly me, and which pieces are just societal influence or rebellion from societal influence. When your gender doesn’t match your sex assigned at birth, that’s tough, because as a society we’re constantly shoving ideas at children, and adults, about what it means to be a boy/man or a girl/woman. It has taken me a long time to differentiate true gender identity from gender expression, because people too often think of them as one bound concept. They are not.
It’s also difficult when your sexual orientation doesn’t match heteronormative expectations. Again, this is one of those things that people push on you. THIS IS WHO YOU ARE, they say, THIS IS WHAT YOU LIKE. But they don’t know you. Nobody knows you. Not at first. You have to learn and grow and discover yourself before you can become somebody that people can know. It isn’t until you’re able to tell others “This is who I am,” that anybody will start to know you. And even then…people still won’t truly know you. Not at the level you know yourself. People will try to tell you who you are from what they’ve seen of you. But your actions are just a small portion of who you are, and your actions may change over time. You may change over time. In fact, everybody changes somewhat over time. That’s the nature of getting older and learning more about the world and having more time to learn about yourself. Some people may stay relatively the same their whole life, and some people may change drastically almost constantly. Is their extreme invalid? No. You are who you are, and who you are is what you create yourself to be. If you want to recreate yourself a million times, go right ahead. If you want to try something on and see if it fits – do it! You’ll never know 100% if something IS or ISN’T you if you never experience it for yourself. Of course, you also never have to do anything you don’t want to either. It’s your life. It’s your identity. You have full control over you.
When you grow up in a society that expects you to be a gender that traditionally is matched with your sex assigned at birth, or expects you to only be attracted by people of the opposite gender, and you’re told very specifically this is what this is and this is what this is – with little room for interpretation – and that ISN’T who you are, you’ll be confused and sometimes upset. You’ll feel like you never fit in, which is only a bad thing because people told you you’re supposed to. You’ll feel like you’re never sure how to be you, like you’re not doing it right, when the problem isn’t with you, but the fact that you’re trying to force yourself into an identity that doesn’t match with who you truly are. And when you question that identity, and people get upset about it, that makes it even worse. You think…okay, what I’m feeling is wrong. I shouldn’t trust my instincts, I shouldn’t follow my heart, I need to do what others tell me. And that can really fuck with a person’s ability to make decisions about themselves and their life and their well-being.
For me, personally, I spent so much time trying to fit in as a girl that I didn’t really think about why I was trying to fit in or that maybe it was acceptable to be different. The girls I saw wore bras, and makeup – they dressed a certain way and liked certain things and had conversations in a particular manner. Not that they were all identical, but they were all somewhat similar, in one way or another. And I never felt comfortable around them. I never felt like I fit in. I kept thinking I needed to buy the thongs and the lip gloss and jewellery and whatever it was they bought so I could be like them and connect with them. It wasn’t just that I didn’t feel like them. It was taken one step further when I realized I was attracted to them. And attracted to myself when I dressed like them or acted like them. So I was completely confused that I didn’t feel comfortable, or feel like I could truly be myself, when I made such an effort to be what I found attractive. I kept thinking… if you think this is what beautiful is, or sexy is, or whatever, that that’s what it is for women, and that’s what you need to be to be a proper woman. I had such strict ideals for myself, and I could never ever live up to them and it made me feel like such a loser.
I’ve never been able to figure out how to put makeup on properly, and I feel so exposed and uncomfortable in dresses. But I knew that it made me look pretty. I knew that the guys I felt comfortable around and got along with so well thought it was attractive, just as I thought it was attractive, so I thought I was doing it some what right. I thought I was on the right track, at least. Problem is… when you’re into women, and you’re born female… it’s hard to decipher sometimes. When you aren’t told the differences between things, and you have no one to discuss your confused feelings with, you end up misinterpreting yourself. It has taken me a LONG time to realize that there’s a difference between what I find attractive in women, and what I want to be like or dress like, myself. Just because I think that outfit is sexy, and when I put it on I think it’s sexy on me, too (because I have a female body that I like), doesn’t mean that it is something I’d actually like to wear. It doesn’t mean that that is who I am. My attractions to things, and the things I feel most comfortably myself in, are NOT the same.
To take it one step further, I don’t really like most women’s clothes. I feel uncomfortable in a lot of it. I found out about the terms bisexual and lesbian and gay and such when I was in middle school. So I understood that was what I was, even though I hadn’t quite fine-tuned it yet. But when it came to gender…I didn’t realize that was something that was up for debate. I kept telling myself I was female, so I was a girl/woman, and that I had to act more like one and dress more like one. Even when I realized that the things I was attracted to weren’t the things I liked personally for myself, I still had a disconnect…. thinking I had to choose SOMETHING feminine. Thinking I had to find where I fit within the feminine community. And I struggled. I struggled so hard. I have continued, up until now, to mainly try to squish myself into this feminine box. Thinking I had to be a woman or a man. And I didn’t feel like either quite fit me, but I knew what people expected me to be. I was taught about looking elegant and acting ladylike, and so I tried to be that. Enhanced even more so by me becoming a mother and a wife. I had these images in my head about what that meant, and who I was supposed to become to fill these roles. But I never felt content within any of it.
It has taken me 25 years to finally understand who I am. It wasn’t until October 11th, 2019 on National Coming Out Day that I figured it out 100%. But the very moment I did I made an announcement on FB (for National Coming Out Day). I felt pride in my ability to know myself, my real self. So I shared it with the world: I identify as transmasculine, and I am gay/queer. It took me 25 years to find my terms. To truly understand my style, and my wants and needs, and just myself. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to figure yourself out, and other times people know right away when they are very little. It all just depends.
Identity Topics & Children
My big issue is with people who think bringing these topics of identity up to children will somehow sway who they become. 1st off – you can’t decide who someone is, and forcing them to be any type of person will never work. 2nd – of course the things you tell your child or share with them or expose them to will shape who they are or who they become, but not because you’re turning them into something or making them be a certain way or wrongly influencing them, or any of that typical bullshit people say to scare people away from letting their kids know about sexuality or gender. Every single tiny little thing you ever do or say or introduce them to will help to shape their identity, but only because the more you allow them to know about the more options they have to choose from, the more openly and easily they’ll be able to identify what is and isn’t right for them.
Trying things isn’t bad, and it doesn’t mean you’ll like it and it doesn’t mean you won’t and it doesn’t mean if you like it you’ll do it forever. Maybe you will. Maybe you won’t. Exploration and self-expression are positive things. They don’t need to be shut down, especially in children. They allow for the expansion of one’s own perceptions of the world and what is possible, and that’s a really good thing. I wish someone would have been there for me as a child to explain the diverse terms to me, to show me I had options, but more importantly to help me understand that those terms didn’t have to define me, that I was capable of defining those terms. I wish someone had been there to show me the variety within people, to share with me their own struggles in finding themself, and to expose me to things that may have helped me better understand others, and myself.
Who knows? Maybe I would have figured myself out sooner. Maybe not – maybe it still would have taken years of trial and tribulation – who knows? But at least I would have had a solid foundation to build upon, instead of constantly having to dig up the ground beneath my feet and repave it. Perhaps I wouldn’t have felt so much shame or guilt. Perhaps I wouldn’t have felt so misplaced, or broken. Perhaps I would have grown to feel more confident in myself, and to take greater risks to make those big steps happen for myself. Perhaps I would have been more driven, knowing which way I wanted to go instead of constantly questioning myself. Or maybe I would have just spent one more moment knowing myself, truly and authentically knowing myself, and being able to love myself. And that’s what all kids really need, isn’t it? Self-love. The ability to love themselves, for who they are, even in the face of adversity. Isn’t that what every parent wants for their child? I know that’s what I want for mine.