Gender. The final frontier. These are the voyages of Dr. Ridley. Their mission: fuck if anyone knows. Does it really matter? What the hell am I doing here?
Yeah. That’s sort of the gist of how my brain is dealing with the question. I’m AMAB and I sure look it. I’m hairy, I have been heavily socialized as male. So naturally, it seemed simple. I think part the doubt that it was so simple began creeping into the back of my head as a result of two minor things, about 7 years ago. I had already been wearing women’s clothes and getting the Prophet to help me with makeup annually around Halloween during college, but she asked a question around the start of grad school when I bought my first pair of thigh high boots: “Are you sure you’re not trans?” I answered quickly and, for the time, honestly with a simple no.
Around this same time the other minor thing happened. I was chatting with a friend on facebook, and she was trying to understand the attachment some people have toward certain pronouns. She explained that she didn’t have a very strong identification with feminine pronouns, and that she didn’t really have a very strong attachment to or clear idea of what it even meant to “be a woman.” In chatting with her, I realized that I never really gave it a lot of thought myself and I wasn’t very different. I always just kind of defaulted into working with masculine pronouns. .I never really felt comfortable with what seemed to be the generally agreed upon idea of what it meant to “be a man.” I was just like, “Yeah, I’m a guy, I guess.”
All disclaimers about egg discourse being problematic in effect, but I can definitely think back to some definite cracks in the shell from about as long ago as I can remember. A small one, but perhaps a bit more telling than I ever imagined it, is how I come up wth D&D characters. I have never once felt any significant attachment to any male-identifying character I have created. And while my favorite characters I’ve created and been able to play have been women, the ones I pour the most effort into creating are those with no or unstable gender. Give me the opportunity to play a Warforged (magic robot)or a Changeling and I won’t play anything else, because then I don’t have to deal with being stuck on the binary. I’ll make a Warforged pro wrestler character whose catchphrase is “To be the nongendered entity, you gotta beat the nongendered entity! And I am the nongendered entity.” Give me a changeling and I’ll have about half a dozen different personas of various genders for them to work with because I won’t be stable along a binary. That’s what always appealed to me about these character options. Being able to escape the limits of human biology for a moment and to have characters whose physical capabilities supported a nontraditional gender expression. Okay, yeah, that’s a pretty big crack in the egg.
It hit me around the fifth time I encountered the “trans button question” that maybe there was something going on deeper in my brain. The trans button question asks “If you were offered a button that could turn you into a [wo]man (based on where you are currently identifying on the binary), irreversibly, and completely (both physically and socially), would you press it?” I first encountered this question in this form in the chat of one of my friends, a twitch streamer named shovda (she plays Mario and is really fucking good at it and you should watch her streams). And the first time I encountered it, I answered it. I said that I wouldn’t, because I’d prefer a toggle that would let me go back and forth at will. By the fifth time I encountered that question and realized that that was absolutely positively my answer, I began to suspect something was up. I may have a PhD, but it’s not in self-awareness.
Then I found this image, and awareness dawned on me. I had already figured out to an extent there was a fluidity to myself, that I didn’t feel comfortably sitting neatly in one corner of the binary or even on the binary. I don’t really experience dysphoria, at least I’m fairly sure I don’t. But part of what would really lift me up is finding a good, somewhat androgynous aesthetic for myself that removes me from easy categorization by appearance.
I went out and wore a little lipstick to a bar late in the spring, and I wound up having a delightful conversation with a couple undergrad girls. They were super nice and kind of fangirled at the fact that I was wearing lipstick. They loved that I was going out of my way to fuck with gender expectations, and they wanted to make sure I knew it.
So where am I? Give me lipstick. Give me eyeliner and eyeshadow (someone teach me how to get over being afraid of putting it near my eyes). Give me all of it, please. I’m gonna keep my beard, but give me cute skirts and all the size 14 women’s boots I can get. I’m so happy my hair is getting long again (I had it short for a bit and I was so not feeling that). Give me anything and everything that can make me a cipher to cis people. Because fuck gender. I’m gonna be all of it and none of it. You want a term for my gender? Genderfuck.