Gender is too complex for binaries.
This post is in response to an article the The Star published a couple years back, titled The Realm Between “he” and “she”.
By now, most of my friends and family know I transitioned. For simplicity’s sake, I often term myself as FTM (female-to-male) or as a transgender man/transguy/some other variation of male-identified. Many of these same people know that, in addition to my social transition that included choosing a new name and pronouns, I also took steps to medically transition to align my outward appearance more closely with my internal identity. Long before I changed my official identity documents, I came out at my workplace, explaining my situation and that my preferred pronouns are male. Now, people rarely misgender me, and it’s a rarer occasion still when I have to come out as trans or correct the pronouns by which people refer to me. Everyone just assumes I’m male by default, and I don’t often correct them, even though that view is wrong.
At best, it’s near-sighted.
The truth about my gender identity is it falls somewhere in between male and female. This can be tricky, because people prefer to define others with terms they themselves understand and are comfortable with. The trans community has taken great strides in the past decade to raise awareness of and protection for transgender individuals. California banned insurance companies from discriminating against people seeking medically necessary transition procedures just a few years ago. I also can’t be fired for being transgender in this state without legal repercussions.
An FTM identity makes sense, even usually to cis people. When I tell someone I’m FTM or transgender, it’s a concept with which most people are at least marginally familiar. Being non-binary, identifying at times with various genders and at other times with none, is not. While I don’t think my current employer would have had an issue if I’d chosen to explain my identity as non-binary instead of saying I was trans, I can’t say the same for all aspects of my job. I’d have to out myself and state my gender-neutral pronoun preferences every time I spoke to a client, and each instance a new employee got hired. Not only would that have been confusing (also not relevant to my day-to-day job duties), it would have been mentally exhausting.
So I picked a male name I’m comfortable with, of which, dare I say, I’m even fond. On the infrequent instances I get asked my preferred pronouns, I usually stick with male (once in awhile, I’ll tack on an “or gender neutral” postscript to be a little more accurate). Mostly, no one asks anymore, even in LGB-specific spaces. I’m read as male, plain and simple.
I really, truly wish it were that simple. The fluidity of my identity can be frustrating. It’s caused me to question my transition decisions to the nth degree, and it’s given me a major case of imposter syndrome whenever I read other trans coming out narratives.
By and large, I’ve begun to accept this lingering uncertainty over the past half-decade. As I continue to explore issues of gender identity in my writing, however, it sometimes still makes me waver. That’s especially true when it comes to my current middle grade work-in-progress, ANA ON THE EDGE. Not only does main-character Ana start questioning her gender identity, she’s simultaneously navigating the very gendered world of competitive figure skating. This brings my own childhood memories to the surface, some more painful than others. It’s hard to feel different, to not know your place in the world.
In the end, I understand that gender is a spectrum for some people. Maybe it’s more black and white for others.
Infinite. Immense. Interminable.
And that’s just one letter in a vast alphabet.
Photo credit: GregPlom [CC0 license], via Pixabay