I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gender, and about how it make sense (or doesn’t) to my own identity. I accept others’ identification of gender. If you say you are a man, a woman, genderqueer or otherwise non-binary, I have no reason to question that. But when I’m thinking about myself, I just can’t seem to make myself fit into traditional molds.
When I express gender, it feels like a performance. It’s not a bad performance and I don’t feel pressured to perform in a certain way. I’ve always actually derived a great deal of pleasure from controlling my own expression and especially in behaving ways that society wouldn’t expect of a woman.
I certainly enjoy performing femininity far more than I enjoy performing masculinity. I’ve always presented pretty femme and will continue to do so as far as I can tell. Occasionally I’ll perform masculinity but it’s often either purely for show or to highlight certain aspects of myself for the benefit of shaking up others’ perceptions.
But femaleness, as much as it feels like a part of my identity, certainly doesn’t speak to the entire complexity of who I am. For awhile when I was discovering feminism, it was easy to say, “I’m a woman” because of all the new freedom I was discovering in that. But now it’s getting a little harder to say “I’m a woman” without any further qualification.
Perhaps that was always a part of my frustration with the rigidly enforced binary encouraged by society and especially by the conservative part of society I grew up in. As a child, I secretly longed to be a boy, not because I felt masculine but because I did not feel adequately or completely feminine.
Learning more about transness and the non-binary gender spectrum has opened up a whole new space for exploring my identity. I don’t have to fit into the box of fully female or fully male. And my own personal questions about what gender means to me don’t have to detract from anyone else’s gender identity. Gender is real, in the way that social constructs are real, but the space in between and outside of two clearly defined and opposite genders is also real.
I am me. Gender feels secondary to my selfhood, a contributing but not wholly defining factor. My performance of femininity doesn’t change that. I’m still playing around with these concepts. I feel comfortable with who I am, and I really always have. I’ve always been more frustrated at the strictures placed on me by forcibly-assigned gender parameters than by my own self (even back in the days when I really did believe there was a god-given way to be a woman or a man). It’s not as though I’m learning anything new about me, I’m just learning more words to talk about who I am. And I really like that freedom.