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What Am I?

Discussion in 'Gender Identity and Expression' started by Scamander, Dec 5, 2018.

  1. Scamander

    Regular Member

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    I don’t know what I am. Biologically I’m female, but I’ve never really understood what that meant. As a child I was a tomboy, and had a preference for wearing boys’ clothes, not because I felt particularly masculine, but because they were more comfortable, less flamboyant and complicated, and suited my sense of style better. I’m in my mid-twenties now and have never liked or worn makeup. I don’t think it looks good on me, and have no patience for the amount of time it takes to put on. I couldn’t tell you the difference between eyeshadow and eyeliner.

    I don’t think I’m male, because the notion just doesn’t resonate with me. I like the way people treat me as a female (i.e more “softly” than they would if I looked male), and on the rare occasions that I have to dress up for things, I like putting on a nice dress and being told I look pretty. Since I was a teenager, I’ve asked people what it feels like to be their gender, and no one has been able to tell me, so I can’t identify if I’m missing some attribute that defines one gender or another internally for people. I prefer she/her pronouns because he/him feels wrong to me, and they/their feels too anonymous and like I’ve been stripped of my individuality.

    It’s not a massive issue in my life, but on several occasions I’ve wished I could, and expressed a desire to, remove my breasts. I find them pointless and in the way, and I cannot stand wearing bras for sensory reasons. I prefer having a vagina over a penis though, because it’s unobtrusive and has a more “streamlined” effect on body shape.

    How can I know if I’m a gender/gender neutral, or just a tomboy female? Does it even especially matter, and how can I explore ways of expressing my gender once I find it? I’m a little overwhelmed because I’m already aromantic asexual, which my family doesn’t take seriously and thinks is a bit of a joke, and I’ve been diagnosed with autism, anxiety, depression and PTSD, and I don’t know what effect, if any, mental health has on determining one’s own gender. Sorry this got so long, it’s just frustrating and confusing not knowing something about myself that should be fundamental.
     
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  2. tystnad

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    Hey Scamander, welcome!

    Gender can be an awfully complicated thing, because there is no one way to know which gender you are. For some people, it's an obvious feeling, they just know they are and don't doubt it, and that allows them to navigate it quite easily. For other people, it's the feeling that their gender is completely, 100% wrong and once they start trying on another gender, it turns out to feel much better. For yet other people it's a really long journey to find a word that accurately describes their experience. And some people never know! There are quite a number of people who forever doubt, or struggle with whether they're not their gender or whether they're just uncomfortable with gender roles, and people who will label themselves differently depending on context.

    I can really relate to your experience though - my story is sort of the same as what you're writing here. I'll call myself female if necessary and use she/her pronouns (or they/them, but only in contexts where that's common, ie among other genderqueer people, because in other contexts I feel like it just draws so much attention to my gender, which is something I don't consider important at all) simply because it's easier in this society. I mean, if my passport can only have two gender options, female suits me better than male... so I figure I might as well use that. But I don't "feel" female at all, I have huge issues with gender - I just try not to let it get in the way too much. As in, my gender is there for legal reasons, but I'm not really letting it mean anything else to me, simply because I feel like gender shouldn't mean anything in itself.

    Here's the thing: your gender isn't what determines your gender expression. I would say, turn this around. Explore ways of expression you, become yourself before you become a gender, and then let that lead your journey. Because here's the thing: a tomboyish girl and a (trans or cis) man can present the same way - but still be two completely different genders. Just because they express their gender in ways that may look similar to the outside world does not, at all, mean they're also the same gender. Female =/= feminine, male =/= masculine, and non-binary identities =/= androgynous by default. So maybe start with experimenting with gender expression first. You can use those forms of gender expression as a starting point: try on feminine clothing, try a masculine haircut, try different kinds of behaviour, etc, to find things that work for you. This can give you a surprising amount of answers. For example, when I wear men's clothes - which is a large part of the time - I know I'm not a man. If anything, presenting androgynous or masculine just makes it more clear to me that I'm definitely not male, even though I express myself in a more androgynous/occasionally masculine way. I can't quite explain to you how it works, but experimenting with gender expression is definitely something that is helpful and I would greatly encourage you to do that before you even know your gender instead of finding your gender first and then seeking to express it, because that might actually make you feel constrained within a label and limit how much you can express yourself in a way true to yourself.

    These things can definitely get in the way of exploring your gender, particularly because a lot of these diagnoses often make it hard to get truly in touch with your feelings, which is necessary to figure out your sense of self - including your gender. Depending on the cause(s) of your PTSD this can also affect your relationship to your body, which makes it even harder to pinpoint all these things exactly. Are you currently undergoing treatment for any of these things? And if so, would it be possible to talk about your gender confusion with a therapist?

    Whether knowing your gender matters is something that is actually highly personal. For me, I wouldn't say gender is fundamental at all, and so I'm generally pretty okay with being in a bit of a grey area when it comes to gender. I personally find sexuality a much more fundamental thing because that, for me, affects the way I interact with people around me, while my gender doesn't really. But for other people, their gender defines their whole being. I suppose the real question is: does it matter to you whether you're a tomboy female, or a non-binary identity of any kind?
     
  3. Verklighet

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    I was in a time where I thought I was trans and went full masculine.
    It changed to non-binary about a year and a half later. I never went any further than
    cutting my hair, wearing a binder, and changing my style of clothing.

    Today, just like you, in the end I prefer a vagina over a penis even if I question it still, sometimes.
    My style of clothing remains rather masculine, but I see it more as just "me" than "masculine."

    Sometimes I don't even like identifying as non-binary because it's a title, I just want to be myself.
    I think I feel very fluid with who I am.
    I will wear what I want, when I want.
    I will act as who I want, when I want.
    I will just simply be me.

    It took me a long time to stop worrying about who I was.
    I kept trying to close myself into a pink or blue box until I realized it was
    not for me. I just wanted to be myself and not care about what others think.

    I like my androgynous style. It makes me feel powerful sometimes (not in a bad way).
    It feels good. In the end, I pass more as a guy due to the coat and sweater I wear
    often in the cold, but that's okay with me. People know who I am and I don't really need
    to worry about being addressed as a guy, but that's okay, too.
    I was just addressed as a "sir" by another student the other day, I did not care.

    I'm not sure what else to say.
    I hope maybe this has helped you even if it came out as a ramble.
    I just kind of spat things out. I know how you feel and with those feelings
    I just want to be me and do what I want. As a girl, non-binary, guy, whatever you want me to be.
    It's okay.
     
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  4. Scamander

    Regular Member

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    Thank you both for your very helpful responses. Tystnad, I think my PTSD does have some impact on how I see my gender. It's definitely a nontrivial contributor to my asexuality. I think somewhere unconsciously, being seen and identified as feminine by others makes me feel threatened and afraid, because it was my female-ness that created the situation from which my PTSD arose.

    I like what you said about experimenting with gender expression in order to help determine gender identity. It makes sense. I need to give my closet a good clear-out anyway, so I think I'll take the opportunity to examine my wardrobe and figure out what needs to change.

    Verklighet, your story was quite helpful, it's a nice reminder that not everything requires a label in order to be understood. At the end of the day, I am just me. I need to get myself to a place where I can be me without feeling guilty about it. My mom always used to criticise my boy clothes as a kid, and made me feel like I was personally hurting her by not expressing myself as the cute frilly girl that she wanted. Years of social skills therapy have also taught me that I'm not enough as I am, that I need to practise skills that don't come naturally to me and suppress my interests in order to make people more comfortable around me. I'm going to make a more conscious effort to find the real me, and let go of the facade that everyone else wants to see.
     
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