“Gender?: Queer” by Ebele I.


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.

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3 thoughts on ““Gender?: Queer” by Ebele I.

  1. Besides your clothing preference, how does being genderqueer affect the way you would prefer the outside world treat/interact you? I know, for some, gender pronouns are a tricky and sensitive topic. In an african home it can be especially difficult, even for heterosexual, female identifying individuals, to cope with the “responsibilities of womanhood” that one’s family can impose on you. But my question is how does it affect your relationships with friends or partners?

    • Thanks for the comment, Akua. My gender identity is very much still evolving, so I do not have clean cut, end all answer to your question about how being genderqueer affects the way I prefer the outside world to treat me, but I will provide some insights.

      Regarding gender pronouns, yes, they do cause me trouble. I am not 100% comfortable with ‘she/her/hers’ pronouns, nor with ‘he/him/his’ pronouns. ‘It/they/their’ pronouns don’t quite suit me either, so I am in somewhat of a bind on that front and it’s quite frustrating. Given these constraints, I would prefer to just be called ‘Ebele’ in all instances, but that gets awkward too (e.g. always having to repeat Ebele where one would usually utilize a pronoun). Maybe one day there will be a legitimate gender-neutral and human-referencing singular pronoun in the English language. As it stands now, I pretty much answer, however begrudgingly, to whichever pronoun someone chooses to utilize for me. Most of the time among friends and partners, it’s ‘she/her/hers’. With strangers, it’s more varied.

      As for the question about my relationships with friends and partners, I would say that, as far as I can tell, my genderqueer identity doesn’t affect these relationships very much. Now that I think about it, my gender identity is the actually least salient when I am in the presence of friends and partners. It’s mostly in the prescence of family and strangers that I become hyper-aware of my gender identity. That said, I do make a point to explain my gender identity to my friends and partners. It’s usually a positive and engaging discussion. Not all of my friends and partners fully understand what it means to be generqueer, but they all still love, support and accept me for who I am.

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