I am genderqueer. To me, that means that, although I am physically female, I do not fully identify as either woman or man. Whereas most people easily place themselves on one side of the gender spectrum or the other, I think I fall somewhere in between…or maybe I fall outside of the spectrum all together- I am still analyzing my exact situation. In any case, the bottom line is that, while I identify with elements of both conventional gender categories, man and woman, neither fully captures my essence as an individual.
My genderqueer identity has been one of the most salient in my life, perhaps because it can be so viscerally off-putting to people who do not understand and, perhaps, because it so complex and confusing, even for me today. (Note: For me, genderqueer identity is distinct from transgender identity because transgender signifies an intention or desire to move from one end of the gender spectrum to the other whereas, for me, being genderqueer signifies an intent or desire to exist somewhere in the androgynous middle of the spectrum.)
I have been this way for as long as I can remember. When I was very young, around 3 or 4, I remember declaring to my mom that “I want to be a boy!” As I recall, she simply told me to be quiet and promptly dropped the discussion. From that moment, I knew that gender was a highly sensitive topic, but I still did not fully understand it, or myself. All I knew was that I felt stifled by this ‘girl’ label everyone kept throwing my way.
Nonetheless, for a long time, I followed my mom’s early counsel and dropped the topic. Instead of continuing to fight and rebel against the unwanted gender policing I faced on a daily basis, I just tried my best to fit into what society told me I was supposed to me, namely a “pretty young lady,” with all the appearances and behaviors that the title entails.
Well, the pretty young lady façade worked for a little while but, by the time I reached college, it was no longer worth it for me to stifle my real identity, the real me. The me who, as a child, enjoyed Legos and football as much as Barbies and tea sets and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to get dirty or scrape my knees like the ‘boys’ could. The me who, now, feels more at home and beautiful in a slim fit suit , tie, and wing tip dress shoes than in a colorful sundress, nail polish, and high heels. So, in short order, I dropped the façade and went back to my earlier ‘tomboyish’ style of dress and comportment. Scary as it was, that moment of ‘dropping the façade’ has indeed been one of the most freeing acts in my life.
Still, it is not an easy freedom being genderqueer. In embracing my androgynous identity, I am now faced with a new day-to-day struggle of understanding myself within the context of larger society and of affirming my identity every day within my own life. One of my biggest struggles these days is learning to feel comfortable and okay living ‘in between’ conventional gender norms. There is still this constant internal and external pressure to just be either a man or a woman. It would certainly make my life easier, but I already know that it would not be me and I’ve come to realize that it would not be useful to the world for me to perpetrate the fallacy of the gender binary. Thus, I prefer to do what I can to embrace my fluid nature at all times. In doing so, I hope to do my part to gradually open people’s eyes to the complexity of human gender.