My Life as a Genderqueer Person

Blog_Post_Genderqueer_4.16

If you’ve ever met me in person, you know that I have a woman’s body, but I’m not 100% feminine. I wear cargo pants more often than I wear dresses. I don’t hardly ever wear makeup unless someone makes me, because it feels slimy and gross to me. But I’m not against wearing mini-skirts with leggings, or Renaissance fair dresses with corsets.

I’m not 100% woman, but not 100% man, either.

That statement might weird you out a bit. You’re probably used to the idea that girls are girls and boys are boys no matter what, and that all girls love pink and all boys love trucks.

I’m going to blow your mind a bit and say that gender (being boy or girl) is not fixed, and it’s not either/or. You can be a physical man who feels like you’re a woman, a boy who likes both trucks and glitter, or a girl who loves bugs and martial arts, or anything.

Gender is a spectrum, and you can fall anywhere on the line. To further explain, here’s a video by Hank Green talking about Sexuality and Gender and a comic that explains it pretty nicely.

Now back to me because I want to talk about my experiences as a genderqueer person.

I grew up in the country, in southeast Ohio to be specific, by the Ohio River. There was a creek that flowed in front of our house, and our house sat between two hills. We had one neighbor, but the rest of the town was half of a mile away from us and had less than 300 people. Everyone knew everyone.

I knew I was different since I was wee little: I would play in the dirt and collect bugs, or cover my whole body in mud or paint, or go adventuring in the woods in my backyard pretending to be an explorer. The thing I did most often was crawl through a tunnel, because there was a tunnel that connected a stream next to our house to the creek in front of it. I would crawl through that and just play pirates or mermaids on the beach of the creek. Sometimes I roped my little sister into it, and when mom found us, she would forcibly bathe us and make us stay inside the house for the rest of the day. And staying inside was TORTURE.

My mom for the most part was tolerant (except for crawling through the tunnel. She hated that). She herself grew up as a tomboy, playing volleyball and softball and playing with two of her older brothers. She actually has six older brothers, but most of them were too old for her shenanigans when she was growing up. My point is, she was not adverse to doing more boyish things.

But she also grew up in the 60’s, and believe it or not, gender roles and what was expected of you to fit in them were pretty rigid in that time period. Everyone expected my mom to be a housewife, or at the most, a secretary.

These gender roles affected my dad, too. He grew up with an older sister in a household that fit the ideal of the 60’s mentality: mom and dad, sister and brother, nice house with a garden and a pet, etc. And on the surface, it was all…expected.

He probably didn’t expect to raise three girls, two of which were tomboys, with a tomboy wife.

I wasn’t completely boyish though. I remember watching The Little Mermaid on repeat from the ages of four to six, and I grew up watching the other Disney princesses. One time for Halloween, I went dressed as a mermaid. Of course, I was made fun of for it by a bunch of boys, which deterred me from doing a girly costume ever again (twelve year-olds are vicious no matter what people tell you).

Despite being teased, I still liked my girly stuff as much as I liked my boyish stuff. I still remember playing with Buzz Lightyear as much as I played with my Ariel doll.

One experience, however, stands out to me as the defining moment of my genderqueer-ness. When I knew that I had a LOT more boy in me than people expected, and when I felt more like a boy sometimes than I felt like a girl.

I started watching Dragonball Z.

The girl part of me went, “You know this is a stupid show right?” And yet the boy side of me was like, “I don’t care! I want to see Goku smash Frieza’s face in!”

When I tried to tell my friends (who were girls) about the show, I got the profound feeling that they thought I was dumb. Two of the three thought it was worthy of making fun of (and they did. A LOT) and the third was so into bubblegum pink that she didn’t know what to make of it. She certainly didn’t know what to make of me, who loved the show more intensely than even the boys in the class.

I still loved that show though. It made me want to learn martial arts to defend the people I cared about, to vanquish the enemies I saw in the Disney movies, to be the princess who could save herself.

Actually, I didn’t want to be a princess. I was the weird girl that wanted to be a knight in shining armor.

Growing up, I sometimes wondered if I was meant to be a boy rather than a girl. But I could never abandon the more feminine parts of me. Those were the parts that made me cry in public, that made me love princesses and Disney and cats, that wanted to make cookies so I could eat them all for myself.

Most people in my country town did not know what to make of me. I still remember being in first grade and saying, “I want to be a fireman when I grow up,” and people told me, “Girls don’t do that.” So I went, “Fine, I’ll be a spy.” And they said, “No, girls can’t do that.”

But if I said I wanted to do something more domestic, like being a writer or a painter, they said, “Oh, you can do that. But boys still do it better.”

This despite the fact that both of my parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be. They never discouraged my dreams of being a spy or wanting to learn how to kick people’s faces in.

Over time, my parents divorced, and my sisters and I moved to a larger town closer to central Ohio.

For the first two years of high school, I dressed like a boy: baggy T-shirts and jeans, my wild mane of a hair tied back into a pony tail. I kept my love for martial arts and boy stuff a secret, because I had learned to hide it after being teased for it throughout middle school.

I eventually made friends with the token lesbians of the high school, which OF COURSE prompted everyone to think I was a lesbian too.

At the time, I didn’t know if I was or not. But I never dated a girl and had no urge to, despite the fact that lesbians had crushes on me (and still do). I thought that girls were pretty, sure, but they didn’t strike my romantic fancy like boys did.

Over time, I changed my clothes to be more girly: I started wearing tighter T-shirts to show off my narrow waist, and even…skirts (skirts! The last refuge of vandals and scoundrels!). I hid my boyish side deep, deep down, never showing it to anyone.

It wasn’t until college that I started to embrace both my femininity AND my masculinity. I started having friends who understood that I wouldn’t fit the stereotype of what a woman should be. Not only that I wouldn’t fit the stereotype, but that I SHOULDN’T. And several of my friends were that way, too. There were boys who knitted and girls who adored shonen manga, and many people I came to knew started to explore and embrace the people they would become.

College was where I encountered trans people for the first time, which was entirely new to me. But I partially understood where they came from, because of my own experiences of not being certain of my own gender. Yes, I had pronoun slips a few times with them, but I was learning. I like to think I’m better about that now, even though everyday I learn something new about gender and how people embrace it or are hindered by it.

I have to add a caveat: I understood my trans friends’ emotions, but I could never fully understand everything about their experiences. I will never know what it’s like to have a man’s body but hate yourself for it, to long to be a woman in body AND spirit. I will never know what it’s like to want to be a man more than anything despite that your body still menstrates. I will never know the societal sting of going out in public presenting as the opposite gender and being harassed for it constantly. I will never know what it’s like to date someone as a trans person, because that has ALL KINDS of implications and complications.

Being genderqueer is an entirely different experience than being a trans person.

With that said, over the years I accepted both my masculine and feminine sides. There would be days I wore skirts, and days I wore camo pants and tank tops. I sometimes have half a mind to wear men’s deodorant or fragrances, and not just because men’s products are more effective and comfortable than women’s.

In fact, when I started working my summer job, drawing caricatures at an amusement park, there would be people who would think I was a man and address me as “Sir.”

And I didn’t mind.

I still don’t.

I’m fine with being called “he” OR “she” (or even “zhe,” if you want to get into the invented-but-not-quite-accepted pronouns. There’s a list, which you can find on this Wikipedia page).

I grew up being called “she,” so I’m used to that. I’m still getting used to being called “he” more often, but I don’t mind if you call me a “he.”

If there’s anything I hope you get out of this story, I hope that you understand that what I am as a person is not alien. Just because I fall in the middle of the gender spectrum doesn’t mean I’m less of a person, or a better person than you. It’s not that at all.

My identity may not fit what you expect, and I’m fine with that. And if my story has made you reconsider how you view your own gender or the gender of others, that’s cool.

We need to consider that a person’s gender is not black and white. People are complex and awesome, just as they should be.

16 Replies to “My Life as a Genderqueer Person”

  1. It’s all about being comfortable IMO. If you aren’t trying to impress someone, there’s no pressure to conform to someone’s expectations.

    I find that being forced to conform for the sake of a job, or family is stressful and ultimately one has to get away from both situations to experience that not everyone believes what your upbringing said was true.

    It bothers me less now to hear pronouns switched mid-sentence as long as they’re not used in dehumanizing ways. When in doubt, everyone has a name too.

    1. Looking back now, there was a lot of pressure to conform to other people’s ideals, and I rebelled pretty early on and have been rebelling ever since. But moving out of that country town helped a lot in realizing that not everyone conforms, or if they do they often don’t do it willingly. It usually IS for the sake of a job or family, I’ve found. That’s the worst thing.

  2. Just don’t call me late for dinner…

    Honestly, I don’t care as long as someone isn’t intentionally trying to insult me. Then they shouldn’t expect to get their stuff fixed.

      1. In the earlier days, when I was trying to sort things out, I tried a various clothing styles, makeup, etc.

        After awhile, I decided to go with what is comfortable and what I need to wear for my work. That tends to be a collared pullover shirt, jeans, and sneakers for work, and whatever is comfortable for around the house or working in the garden. I tend not to go out to a lot of public funtions, since my work has me out of the house and on the road most of the time anyway.

        I deal with a lot of people and have very little problems, and I work with US military and Korean Nationals for the most part. Not your easiest audience.

        1. I understand the military being a tough audience. My brother-in-law is in the Air Force and Marc the Boyfriend is in the National Guard. There’s a lot of crap to put up with regarding them. But they haven’t given you too much trouble, have they? I know DOMA was a crapfest.

          1. I’ve been retired for almost 19 years. I’m “just” a contractor now.

            Many of the people who knew me from way back then are still friends as they are friends with who I am, not how I was. Those who know me well enough tell me they can see how much happier I am these days. I have made peace with myself and who I am, instead of fighting it and trying to be what others had expected of me. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone else but myself.

  3. I found this post from a google image search for “genderqueer.” Your starter image jumped out at me and I immediately wanted to see the site that went along with it.

    Thank you.

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve only just started thinking about the fact that I might be genderqueer, but I thought maybe I was just trying to be a “special snowflake” or something. Surely just because I spent my entire childhood playing in the creek and catching snakes and preferring Legos to dress up just meant I was a tomboy, right?

    Reading through this post has ticked every “Me too!” box I could possibly come up with, and it’s so reassuring to see that I’m not the only one in this boat. That I’m not the only woman who’s okay with her body but keeps her hair short and doesn’t mind being called “Sir.”

    So again, thank you. Knowing that there’s at least one other person out there who sees the world of gender the way I do is such a comforting thought.

    <3 Tagg

  4. Found your blog via google. Your writing style is great and I love the illustration at the top of the page. Your experience being genderqueer sounds a LOT like mine. Thanks for being so honest and brave! :)

  5. What I don’t understand about the concept of being genderqueer is how much does it really have to do with gender rather than personality? Sure, maybe you’re going against what society has traditionally accepted as girl and boy things but there are plenty of people who can enjoy activities on both sides but still identify as their own gender. The way you dress and the shows you watch is part of your character and doesn’t have to make you a not-girl or not-guy – perhaps a little more unconventional but there’s lots of people like that. I have nothing against genderqueer people or the use of the label or anything, I’d just like to know what really defines it as a lack of gender rather than just a wide range of interests.

    1. Well first, it’s not always LACK OF gender. To me it’s expressions of both.

      Second, I actually wrote a follow-up blog post about this, which you can read here.

      But in summary, I talk about how we as people define a lot of our gender identity on outside markers, like clothes, the presence or lack or makeup, manners, gestures, interests. Take that away and you’re left with just you. How do you define yourself without outside objects to define you?

      Even taking away these things, I still identify as genderqueer. I am my own human being.

      I am not going to change myself to fit in 100% with the masculine box or the feminine box. I like taking things from both boxes ;)

  6. As someone who’s been hoisted in the air by my underwear, by six f!@#$%g Boy Scouts on suspicion of being “queer”, I appreciate your article. I am pretty much hetero. I’m an engineer, I mess around with model airplanes*, power tools, etc. But I’m not comfortable with all of the programming I’ve absorbed. Nor am I comfortable disregarding it. Seems to me that most people, even if they don’t realize it, would be better off if all that BS went away.

    I’m sure you’ve encountered FAR more crap about this stuff than I ever have. You must have more guts. Good!
    ———————–
    *Now THERE’S a gender segregated hobby! Not sure why.

    1. I really appreciate your comment! I agree, the BS of gender norms and what’s considered “feminine” and “masculine” are outdated and limiting. People should be people, and be free to pursue whatever it is they like. While there are some things I don’t mind as far as “feminine” things go, I don’t like being 100% pegged as “feminine” because that doesn’t reflect all of me. It sounds like that’s a lot of what you experience too. I wouldn’t call myself gutsy for expressing my identity the way that I do. It’s just a more accurate and comfortable reflection of who I am.

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