One of the issues that I’ve found in the LGBTQ+ community is the consistent use of umbrella terms. I understand why the practice exists, and continues. Writing out the entirety of the community could take years as a new term is added under the glorious rainbow umbrella each day. With the variations that take place even within basic terms, like “lesbian,” I understand the struggle the community faces in finding a home for all those searching for love, understanding and identity.
Then there are those outside the community trying to understand the melting pot our community has become. Many are trying to be allies, and trying to understand so that they make their loved ones feel loved and accepted. It’s hard. Years of conditioning (gender binaries, heteronormativity etc) are working against their attempts in understanding, and for them, understanding is important. It gives them a connection to us. It is something more than just “accepting” us for who we are.
There is power in understanding what you are accepting. Blind acceptance without understanding can be just as damaging as rejection and ignorance. There is this ideology that similarities between people are what connect people, but I believe that differences are what truly connect all of us together. Differences spark learning, conversation, educated acceptance, and can build deeper connections between people. However, no matter the differences or similarities between people, the one ultimate truth is that we are human. That this ultimate similarity, being human, is what makes us so uniquely different is wondrous, if we allow the concept that we are all allowed to be human and live truly to ourselves. It’s sad that this concept of humanity is almost sneered at, because if each human is allowed to be different, and we accept, love and celebrate these differences, then we create the greatest answer for the sins we’ve committed in the name of difference.
Your head running in circles yet? As I was saying, I’m not one who just tolerates acceptance for the sake of acceptance. Understanding is important. Understanding breaks down the status quo; puts a flame to social constructs, even within the LGBTQ+ community. Yes, even we have social constructs within our community. Divisive ideologies of what constructs a term within our community. Even I fall prey to the ideologies. For example, my title of this blog is “I’m Not Transgender.” I have a social understanding of what transgender means. Researching my gender identity lead me to see a lot of articles placing androgyne under the transgender umbrella. This is because I have a form of gender dysphoria, and in the current social lexicon, if you have gender dysphoria then you must be transgendered. At least, that is the ideologies I’ve been faced with.
I need to place it out there that a doctor has not diagnosed me with gender dysphoria, but the term is prominent in our current discussions. As an androgyne person, my gender identity is more non-binary spectrum, or for some genderqueer. Some days I am more effeminate, and some days more masculine, sometimes neither and sometimes both. It isn’t based upon my whim for the day. I don’t wake up and decide I want to be more “manly” today. That isn’t something I do, and it is insulting to have anyone denigrate my experience in that manner. I bring this up because there is a backlash within the community, that today’s youth pick gender like they pick clothes. That is a social bias I would love to destroy, because it forces those who are experimenting, questioning, or simply expressing themselves, back into a dark, dangerous closet. Remember that concept that differences can be a powerful force bringing us closer than similarities ever could? This is where that concept lives.
In regards to myself, my gender represents my life; a constant flux that allows me to adjust in order to maintain my mental, emotional and spiritual balance. Physically, however, I struggle. This is where the gender dysphoria plays havoc on my mind, and it has played havoc on my mind since puberty.
I am physically female. I am not a physically female person wanting to transition into a physically male body. Let this settle into your mind, because in order for you to understand this you must have a strong grasp of the differences between gender, sex, and sexuality. My sex doesn’t reflect my gender because my sex, in accordance to current medical and social lexicon, is female. My gender reflects that I am not female, so my mind is constantly at war between my physical being, and my mental being. My sexuality has absolutely nothing to do with my sex and my gender, although it is fitting.
Because I am neither gender having a sex specific body is troubling to me. I have to physically manipulate my appearance in order to reflect my gender, or the lack thereof if you want to get into semantics. I’ve cross-dressed since middle school to try to address this issue, even though I didn’t realize that is what I was doing at that time. At that time, I just hated being a girl, but that was based in how I was treated based upon my sex. As I grew older, I hated being a girl because of the physical aspects of being female. I wanted a flat chest, short hair. I did like having a vagina, but I hated having a period. I enjoyed looking good, and as I grew older, learned how to dress my body to reflect my actual self. However, I didn’t want people to look at me and immediately say she.
But I didn’t want them to immediately say he either.
I mean, I did experience joy when I was “mistaken” for a male, but that was because I wasn’t “mistaken” for a female. I played off any issues surrounding my gender and my identity, using term that have always been used to describe me “tomboy,” “butch,” and so forth, because I was afraid of the truth of what I was feeling. I was afraid of being out casted, both in and outside of the LGBTQ+, and honestly…I had no idea what it was I was going through. I felt crazy. I felt alone. I felt like there was something wrong with me.
It wasn’t until recently that I felt strong enough to face down my issues with gender and gender identity. It took an irrational thought for me to admit my gender identity aloud. But in doing so, it opened the tightly controlled floodgates that surrounded my gender. That included me admitting to the issues I have with my physical self.
Admitting that the reason I don’t like my breasts isn’t for monetary reasons, or out of annoyance, but because when I view my body in my mind, my chest is flat, is scary for me. I wear sports bras that don’t give me much lift, but are binding, and am currently saving up to buy my first binder, because I hate how my chest looks. I’m terrified. The few times I’ve explained how I feel, I’ve been told I’m crazy. That I look good and I shouldn’t change myself. That I’m “all woman”, that “everyone has something they don’t physically like about him/herself.”
It makes me afraid of hating how I’ll look in a binder…that what other people say is true.
I’m even more terrified that I’ll love it.
That level of self-validation is terrifying to me, because I’ve held myself back for so long, hid myself for so long, that I simply don’t know what to do with myself now. This identity that is rising so quickly to the surface feels so much like home. Feels so honest and freeing. But I’ve been homeless for so long that I’m struggling to navigate these feelings.
I’ve spent so long not being able to identify with my body, not being able to identify with my socially assigned gender identity and role, that I don’t know what to do when I feel right. What does right feel like? How do I explain to people how I don’t want to be a man? That I am comfortable from the waist down, mostly, but not comfortable from the waist up?
I guess I just did. Still…it’s exhausting.
I did, however, deal with something that caused me grief in a manner that was comfortable(ish) and has eased a lot of anxiety for me. I went on birth control. I was always a bit lucky in regards to menstruation. As I got older, my cycle got shorter and shorter. But it was still…uncomfortable. I don’t ever want to carry a child. The few times I thought about what it would feel like ended with me anxious and uncomfortable. Having a monthly reminder of being physically female also didn’t help my anxiety levels. So I chose a form of birth control that not only helps in preventing unwanted (extremely unwanted) pregnancies, but eliminates my period. I don’t want to be on testosterone. I do not want to be a man physically. I just don’t want to be a woman physically.
If you could hear me sighing.
But not having to deal with having a period has given me a relief that I never realized I needed. It has also given my mind, which was constantly dealing with being anxious and overwhelmed in regards to my gender and sexuality, a respite so I can address other issues surrounding my gender. I now address the issue of gender roles, and how I experience my gender and how I represent myself to those around me. I can now look at pronouns, and how pronouns impact me. I can be afraid, but in a safe place. I can talk about what I’m experiencing. Just altering one aspect of myself to reflect MY gender gave me strength to begin addressing my other issues. I guess that’s part of dealing with gender dysphoria, the outcome of addressing and changing those issues. The freedom you begin to feel. The validation you feel.
I’m terrified, but I’m excited. I’m not transgender, I’m Androgyne. I’m not female. I’m not male. I’m Faith, and I can’t wait to see what happens as my mind, and my body, begin to change to reflect my identity completely. It won’t be easy. I expect a high level of confusion and mistakes on my part, and on the part of those around me. I’m no expert in this. But life can grow out of the dark if one is willing to find the lightswitch.