I am a deeply indecisive person. Take me to a restaurant, watch me squirm. In some ways I think I’m a natural economist – I have to model and quantify every single fucking strategy and outcome before I can bring myself to order a side of chips. And it doesn’t stop at calories, at shopping, at another drink.
Whatever label I have ever chosen for myself, I have felt fake. The continual fear regarding my sexuality – that I’m not gay enough. I’m doing this for attention. The first thing I thought, the first time I went down on a girl, was thank god. Not that I’d finally lost my virginity, although that was part of it I’m not going to lie. I was relieved that I hadn’t made some awful miscalculation, that I wasn’t going to have to retract what had become a significant chunk of my identity.
I settled on ‘queer’ because it was easier to explain than ‘bisexual homo-romantic’. And even then, it always seemed to invite questions. “So then, are you…a lesbian?” I’ve gotten used to being blasé about my sexuality, about my diverse portfolio of illnesses, but I can’t yet answer that with, well it’s funny actually, I don’t even know if I’m a girl.
My ridiculous mess of a personality has made coming out the longest process. I choke: rolling the confession to the very tip of my tongue and feeling my whole body tighten, letting it roll back, a jumble of words blocking my throat. There are some people to whom I am straight, whom I have never corrected. There are many, many people to whom I am a girl. Almost everyone. Maybe even myself, a little bit.
And there it is – the fear of being invalid. Because what if I’m wrong? Attention seeking? Misguided? I touch on gender with friends and hit a wall of uncertainty, disapproval, and I ask myself if I’m sure enough to run headlong into it. I think of ex-lovers who’d grimace or smirk and roll their eyes, and how that makes me burn up inside.
This is a long way of saying I do not think I am a cis-gender woman, and I’ve taken the long way because I’m not used to saying it.
I’ve settled on genderqueer because it’s easier to explain than well, a bit girl, a bit nothing, a bit boy even. Part of me still feels female, but I don’t know what to do with it – the legitimacy issue lurks in the shadows. I wake up and think: do I have dysphoria? Is this thing I’m feeling something real? Or, am I bringing it on myself – a psychosomatic reaction? You’re straight, says the voice that is mine but seems to have something major against me. You’re cis.
I’m trying to find out what might happen if I ignored that voice.
It isn’t easy – hardest maybe has been the prospect of relearning my relationship with feminism. I may not identify as a woman but I feel I have still experienced the oppressions associated with being assigned female at birth. I’m aware that parts of feminism I have strongly associated with may now no longer want me. I’m hoping I’ll find new parts. I look out for female and non-binary spaces. I think about the space I’ll take up when people know, the way society will change around me. I’m simultaneously afraid of slipping through the cracks, and excited to find out what is down there.
This feels like the start of a long process, a process I can see so many people have made it so much further along. That can be hard, when it feels like so much effort has gone just into making it here. Every time I come close to taking a step onto the bridge I can feel it falling away under the weight of me, my uncertainty, my anxiety. But seeing other people ahead helps remind me that the bridge is, in fact, there.
And I don’t intend to burn it. Maybe I am illegitimate, perhaps this has all been a misguided mistake. If I am, if it is, I’m so sorry, I genuinely am. If I’m invading your identity, if I’m invading your space.
But for now, call me “they”.
the author wished to remain anonymous