Recently at the trans discussion group I go to, one of the moderators started including gender identity on the list of things every member gives when we go through the check-in process. For a transmasculine group, it’s interesting to see how many members have an answer that’s not simply “male” or something similar. There’s been “furry beast,” “dinosaur,” and “dapper genderqueer,” among others. I actually haven’t known what to say when it comes around to me; the first time I think I said something like “vaguely male-identified” and last week I’m pretty sure I skipped that part of the check-in.
I’ve said for a while that I have a “gender paragraph” vs. a single-word gender identity, but even that might not be accurate. Recently, I’ve realized that I try to avoid having to actually write or speak that paragraph, since most of the time I’m not even sure what its contents will be. I’m not female-identified. I’m… sort of… maybe… male identified? -ish? Some of the time?
Not really feeling like a man isn’t new to me. I moved through a very strong genderqueer identity before I felt comfortable identifying as a trans guy, and as I slid and muddled my way through the beginnings of my transition the details of my gender identity shifted around a bit. Back when I was first wondering what on earth my gender was or would turn out to be, I was really upset that I wasn’t certain about it. I knew I wasn’t a woman but understood almost nothing else, and I spent a lot of time wondering about the physical effects of testosterone and what pronouns I felt comfortable with and feeling like things would always be uncertain and I’d never find a gender that fit me. As I started to feel more comfortable in my body and felt like other people were reading me in a way I liked, the fact that my gender seemed a little uncertain was less of a problem. It stabilized a bit – I have felt comfortable as a not-very-manly sort-of-dude for quite a while – but any fluctuations were pretty easy to handle and didn’t feel as scary as my initial uncertainty had. Recently, though, the fluctuations have been a bit stronger, enough that several times recently I’ve had to stop in the middle of a train of thought to try to figure out where my brain was, gender-wise.
Right now, I feel like maleness is kind of like my beard, or my unicorn tie – kind of fun and silly to put on and inhabit for a while, even long-term, but it still feels a bit like a performance or an article of clothing and not something natural. I can poke fun at it a bit and in the right context can enjoy other people joking too, but it has to be the right kind of joke – I may not actually feel like a man, but the moment some asshole with no sense of nuance or ambiguity surrounding gender or gender performance even begins to say something like “you’re really a woman and nothing will change that,” I get angry. I’m very invested in my presentation being some flavor of maleness. I want people to use male pronouns for me, I like my ridiculous beard and amazing flat chest, and I’m happy to have a deeper voice and more body hair than I did several years ago. But under that outer layer, everything’s much less defined.
I’m still thinking about gender a lot of the time, like I have been for years. But there’s a big grey spot over myself; if I focus my attention inwards, everything starts to blur a bit. I’m not upset by this the way I was when I first started questioning things, but it’s still odd after a few years of a fairly stable identity. I think I’ll try taking a bit of a break from trying to sort it out; maybe if I just let my gender percolate in the back of my thoughts it’ll be easier to pin down later. It’s not a problem that needs to be solved.