It all started with a conversation trans woman in my car, driving. I remember saying something along the lines of, ‘I’m a girl, obviously,” She seemed to get upset with me (understandably now) and said, “that’s not obvious.” I still haven’t thanked her for this, but this small comment liberated me from my own constraints for the first time, and I haven’t looked back.
When I found language for the way I had been feeling for my entire life, I felt completely overtaken. Fear came first. I couldn’t understand what it might mean to dislocate myself from the role I had spent so very long trying to adhere to. What would it mean for me? Who would I seek out now? I didn’t want to be a part of ‘womens’ specified struggles anymore. I wanted to be a part of trans* and queer communities. I wanted to think outside of what I had been told to, to feel out what I had been hiding for many long years. But I didn’t know them. I didn’t know how to be myself, and at that point, I didn’t even know what the fuck that meant for my relationships, my masturbation, my clothing, anything. I felt screwed up inside.
Those desires haven’t changed, but my feelings around my gender have. I have slowly opened up about wishing to be referred to as ‘they’ in place of ‘she.’ (We’ll come back to pronouns soon) I began letting myself present masculinity when I wanted. I cut my hair short, then shaved my head. I stopped hiding my unshaven legs. Stopped shaving my armpits again. I reevaluated my submissive roles in relationships I had. It was hard and lonely and I’m still there, in the thick of it, as I type this. But it’s easier now.
I spent a few months avoiding feminine dress. I thought, well, now that I’m out, I can’t go back. I thought I would be somehow avoiding the punishment I thought I deserved from society if I conformed to my gender role via dress. But I came to terms with my queer. I learned the idea of gender as a performance, and I’ve been slowly allowing myself to present as fem as I feel comfortable. That’s been one of the most fun parts: dabbling in (what I feel is my uncharted and unsolved) wonder with femininity. Figuring out how it is a part of me, but does not limit me. How I can encompass different elements, and that there is no here or there. I am queer because I am, not because I refuse to wear a frilly shirt and was born with breasts.
Pronouns have been tricky. In recent weeks, I’ve been opening up about wanting to be acknowledged with gender-neutral pronouns. Folks have been awesome about it, but as they begin to use respectful language, I begin to realize how much less I care about pronouns from strangers than I did a few months ago. I like it when people call me ma’am and then see my hairy legs and dyke outfit. I like it when little kids ask me if I’m a girl. I like it when someone calls me sir then gets embarrassed. I like that being in between means other folks might still not have the language, like I didn’t some months ago. But it’s not even about that, to me. For those that respect my desire to be called they, I appreciate that. I appreciate that because they know me, and I’ve asked for it. But I don’t need that as much as I thought.
So being out as queer isn’t what I thought it would be. Nothing changed in me except my willingness to be honest with others about it and the availability of language. It’s been bumpy and scary, but I’m ready for more. I have met some amazing queers and learned which straight-identifying folks are trustworthy and worth counting on. I hope for more.