Unfortunately, I cannot take credit for the title of this post – it’s a favorite expression of my girlfriend’s and one I absolutely love as it has come to sum up my approach to gender rather well.
My gender is complicated. It’s difficult to tell from the outside, what with the big boobs and curves, but I’ve long said that I feel far more androgynous on the inside than I appear.
When I was a child, I loved frilly dresses. I played with Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake. I had dolls and played mommy to my stuffed animals. But I also remember wanting to play with trains and cars. I wanted one of those racetracks that you could send Hot Wheels careening around on. I was all too aware, however, that this would be seen as weird. I let it go and stuck to girlier pursuits.
Fast forward to college where I quickly became one of the guys. Even among the Christian groups I was part of, I had mostly male friends. We had similar senses of humor, liked the same movies and music. I was already impatient with the passive-aggressive way women were expected to communicate with men. I preferred male company and not in a sexual way – we just seemed to get along better.
Fast forward again. I’m 30, freshly divorced, moving back in with my parents for about a year, and generally feeling like a failure all around. I still liked hard rock and loud music. I still cursed and spoke fluent sarcasm. I still liked violent movies and abhorred “chick flicks.” And my idea of the perfect diamond was the local baseball park. But I wasn’t good enough at sports, rugged enough, or outdoorsy enough to call myself butch or a tomboy.
I didn’t know where I fit in. In fact, there didn’t seem to be a place for me. I did not yet understand the concept of gender as a continuum. Intersexed people, trans* people, and others who have reason to identify as something other than either male or female were still a mystery to me.
Enter the kink community. All sorts of new worlds opened up to me. Among them was differences in gender that I’d never considered. The possibilities seemed endless and, most importantly to me at the time, I wasn’t that weird. I had long talks with new friends about gender expression, gender identity, and how they can change over time. It was fascinating, educational, and oh so liberating.
In the time since, I’ve come to embrace my butch-ish self more and more even while loving corsets and other clothes that show off my curves. Because finding my confidence also meant finding acceptance for my plus-sized self. I had formerly hid under bulky clothes because I couldn’t imagine who would want to see more of this body. Now? Form fitting is the way to go. When I choose to hide under bulky clothes, it’s a conscious choice, a temporary mood.
But that image still doesn’t completely mesh with how my brain sees myself. I wish I could shapeshift, present boyish some days and girly on others, while not completely confusing everyone. I could still be me, complete with female pronouns, but my outsides could better represent how I was feeling that day.
Labels have long been meaningless, more of a jumping off point or conversation starter than anything. But at some point, I latched on to queer for much the same reasons as a friend of mine did. When she decided to embrace the term, she said she did so precisely because it is so broad and covers everything from gender identity, gender expression, who she is attracted to, etc. Yes, yes, yes. For me, it’s also a way of saying I don’t fit the mainstream expectations of how women are supposed to be. Don’t expect me to be “normal” in any way because I am far from society’s ideal. But I am me. And I have come to terms with that. I’m happy with it.