I am gender nonconforming.
I tried writing this blogpost over and over again in different ways, starting with different stories, taking different tones, but in the end I just needed to say it.
I have never felt the categories of “male” or “female” fully encapsulated who I am. As a child, I idolized Amelia Earhart, partially for her daring feats of aeronautics, but mostly because she wore bloomers when it was scandalous to do so.
For a long time, I thought it was because Amelia Earhart was a woman transgressing that I found her so attractive, but now I realize it was the transgression itself.
Playing on the playground when I was five or six, all the boys started taking off the shirts because of the heat. Not knowing any better, I started to do the same. I was quickly reprimanded and told that girls weren’t allowed to take their shirts off the way boys could.
I was outraged by the seeming injustice of it. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was just as tired and sweaty as any of the boys. I couldn’t understand the need to differentiate.
There are so many other signs, of course, as well as times when my gender identity wasn’t at the forefront of my thinking. I’m a human being the same as any other and sometimes I was worried about food or sleeping or my cat or going on dates and I wasn’t thinking about whether I needed to be perceived as a woman with a vagina or a man with a penis. I just wanted to be me.
This past year I started dressing in drag and everything changed.
I had had a few experiences getting to dress as a man in college theater, and I found it exhilarating and freeing. It was around this time that I was also coming to terms with my bisexuality (although I wouldn’t act on it for another few years).
Then this last year I realized that I wanted to start dressing as a man, not just in the theater, but in day-to-day life, too. I first floated the idea by some coworkers as casually as I could.
“I’d like to start dressing like a well-dressed young man,” I said.
“Okay,” my coworkers said, “can you please steam this latte.”
So, I purchased my first item of specifically men’s clothing. It is a green jacket, not high-profile, very low-commitment. I told myself that I could just be a woman wearing a man’s jacket.
No one commented although my palms were sweating when the cashier asked “Is this from the men’s section.”
“Um, yes?” I said and tried not to hyperventilate.
I walked out of the store feeling giddy, as if I had gotten away with something. Suddenly I felt freer.
Whenever I wear the coat, I feel like I’ve got on an invincible suit of armor. I absolutely love it.
I started to step up my game in the summer and fall, even flirting with the idea of performing as a drag king (I haven’t given up on the dream, but maybe letting it take the backseat for a while). The more I performed masculinity, the more myself I felt. I felt alive and daring and wonderfully whole.
To clarify: I am not a trans man. I have given it considerable thought, and at this moment, I do not feel the need to use hormones or surgery to change my anatomy. This may change in the future, I don’t know.
At the moment, though, I feel most myself when I am free to identify as male and female, either simultaneously or alternately. I also feel that neither term or identity fully describes who I am.
I want to live fiercely, curiously, and honestly. I don’t feel these traits are the sole property of any one gender.
Before this post gets too much longer, I’ll go ahead and sum up twenty-five years of existence: I am gender nonconforming, and my preferred pronouns are they/them.