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Gender as performance

I’m starting to question my gender identity. After six years of identifying as nonbinary, I think I might actually be male.

See, here’s how it is. If you’re trans (or fat, or disabled…), you’re expected to perform gender to a higher standard than someone who isn’t. Trans women get chastised by gender specialists for not wearing lipstick. And yet if they criticised a cis woman for the same thing, they’d likely be asked what fucking century they thought this was.

So, because I’m trans, I’m expected to strut around all day, every day with flat shoes and trousers and a great big bushy beard, as well as great big bushy everything else? I don’t bloody well think so.

I absolutely love shaving my legs in a hot shower, letting myself air dry and rubbing my shiny smooth legs together. It’s one of the greatest small pleasures on this earth. If I hadn’t been socially conditioned to adhere to feminine gender roles, I might never have discovered it. And yet discover it I have, and I wouldn’t trade that sensation for the soft-side-of-the-velcro thing most guys have going on. Nope.

What the hell does having scratchy fuzz on your legs have to do with being a man? I bloody love shaving on a Saturday morning so I can do my karate training with freshly smooth legs. It’s so satisfying.

I also love matching my nail polish to my suit or tie. Chest bound, tie tied, nails coordinated. Dapper is the word you’re looking for.

If I had been assigned male at birth, this would have been an eccentricity, or just attributed to my sexuality. As it is, it has been used to question my gender identity by people who were supposed to have cared about me.

I think perhaps I assumed, if my masculinity wasn’t traditional, I couldn’t be male.

I think I need to stop looking at myself as “a trans person” and just think of myself as “a person” for a bit. Perhaps I’m male, perhaps I’m NB, but I have to consider myself, and not my body. Its shape is irrelevant. I have to stop thinking of gender as something I perform- but rather something I am.

12 Reasons I Don’t Want Testosterone

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I hate listicles, but I thought that actually, this was the best format for putting this across. I know I don’t have to defend my position, but I think it can be frightening to say “even though I don’t take T, I’m just as trans as anyone else.”

So, here are my reasons.

1.  I don’t want to be hairy

I just don’t. I shave my legs, my pubis, my crack, my armpits and my face on a weekly basis because I cannot abide having body hair. It’s my body and that’s just the way I like it. I do not want to make life even more difficult for myself, start having to shave my bumcheeks or even worse, endure the dreaded stubbly crack. No thanks.

2. I like the way I smell

I’m autistic. Sometimes, when I’m feeling sad, I don’t shower, and wallow in my own smell. It’s safe and familiar. If I take T, I’ll lose that. The smell will change, become overpowering. It’d be upsetting for me.

3. I don’t want to sweat more

Even if I take T, I wouldn’t be able to have top surgery for at least 6 months afterwards (and I don’t want to do that either just yet). So I’d be stuck- binding and sweaty. Yum. I’m also crap at doing my laundry, so I kind of rely on the fact I can wear clothes really quite a lot without them needing a spin in the washing machine. I struggled to adjust to puberty first time around, and I’d struggle again.

4. I like to cry

Crying is my way of dealing with my emotions. I cry a lot. Then I feel better. People who take testosterone report being unable to cry, and I think I’d really struggle without that ability.

5. I don’t want “T dick”

Now, I don’t know if reports of “T dick” are typical macho posturing and exaggeration, but I do know this- I don’t want it. I’m sure there are plenty of guys who are dead chuffed with their little fella, but I’ve never had that desire. When I’ve fantasised about having a dick, it’s always been at 2am on the way home from some nightclub, my bladder threatening to burst. If I can’t piss through it, I don’t want it.

I’ve never looked up pictures because stuff like that squicks me out. My genitals are completely unobtrusive and that’s how I like them. I enjoy packing, and I’m really looking forward to using a strapon for sex. Some guys report pain during sex due to growth, and I really don’t want that.

6. Puberty is bloody traumatic

I hated it the first time, and not just because it gave me features I didn’t want. It was just generally stressful, getting used to new things all the time, and feeling generally ashamed of every last thing (like being a spotty oik) while it was going on. I’m sure it wouldn’t be that bad second time around but it’s a stressor I could do without.

7. It won’t fix me

I’m short. It’s one of the things I hate about myself. As in, crying-as-I-write-this levels of hate. And I regret beyond belief not taking testosterone at 16, back when it might have done me some good. But I will never be tall, or even average. Even among trans guys, I feel like crap because of my height- and it upsets me all the time that I missed the boat on that one. T will never make me feel any better about that.

8. I don’t know who I’m going to be on T

My dad is not someone I like. I am someone I like. It frightens me that T might push me away from being like me, and towards being like my dad.

Hormones do change a person. But I don’t want to change. I think I’m loyal and considerate and creative and all kinds of wonderful things. If I take T, I start fucking with that winning formula.

9. I have a history of disordered eating

Putting fat on my belly could be fucking lethal for me. Loads of people put on weight when they start T, and I 100% do not want to. Being overweight terrifies me. There are so many reasons on this point why going on T could be absolutely disastrous for me.

What if I go the other way? Make use of a higher metabolism to lose weight quickly? Neither outcome ends well for me.

10. I don’t want to lose my hair

A lot of trans guys go bald. My mum’s side of the family are all pretty sparse up top, and I think that would be the ultimate indignity- no dick, 5’4” and a head like the bleeding moon.

11. There is no way of taking T that suits me

I’d rather have gel than shots, because I hate interacting with other people, and that puts it at a minimum. It keeps my levels nice and even. Lovely.

Except, there are all sorts of recommendations like doing at night after a shower, which would completely blow my daily routine (not to mention my sex life) to hell in a handbasket. I don’t want to be fucking someone, and frightened that I’m going to transfer testosterone off my skin. It’s just not sexy.

12. I don’t want to medicalise my life

If I take T, I take it for the rest of my life. It becomes my routine. Blood tests, shots, rinse and repeat. It will never end. I will never get a normal life. Not ever. And I can’t help but feel that every time I try and engage with someone over this, I’m going to be reminded that there are so many amab guys who will never have to suffer this shit.

Faced with that, I’m pretty content that T is not the right decision for me for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t make me any less trans. Hell, I suffered physical dysphoria (the Gold Standard of truscum gatekeeping) just writing this post. I know who I am, and I know how difficult my life is going to be as a result of not taking T. And I’m going to hear the words “when you start transitioning” long after I’m 10 years into the process. But I’m happy that I’m doing the right thing.

Why Disclosure Matters

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I was having tea with my ex recently, and happened to express my biggest fear about my current relationship- that my partner will baulk at telling his parents that I’m trans.

“Does it matter?” my ex asked. “How often are you going to see them, really?”

I asked for clarification.

“Well, if you’re only going to see them once or twice a year, what does it matter how they see you?”

I was staggered. Was he really suggesting non-disclosure, that I undo everything I have fought for these past eight years for the sake of not rocking the boat?

Then I remembered why I have this terror in the first place, but that’s another story.

I could go on about this all day. In fact, I’m going to struggle to keep this post brief.

The most important reason why disclosure is important however, is because it’s the mature and honest thing to do. I am monogamous, and I’m looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with- and I’m not just talking about time.

I’m talking about growing my family. I’m not talking about ditching the previous generation and moving on with the next. My partner’s parents are going to be people we both confide in. They’re going to be free childcare, recipe-bequeathers, the unshakeable foundation of a loving (if not particularly conventional) family.

I am going to love these people- because I know that my partner loves them. And I want them to understand why my partner loves me- I need to be honest with them about who I am.

Being transgender is not shameful, and I don’t want my children growing up thinking I, or my partner, are ashamed of who I am. I want them to be proud of all that they are, just like I am.

I don’t come out to people as a political statement, to challenge their religious and moral beliefs. I come out because I feel comfortable. If a person comes out to you, it’s a sign that they respect and trust you, and you should feel very proud.

In the ideal future that I dream about, I love my family. Not my “in-laws”, my family. Every last one of them. We may differ politically or religiously, but we stick together on the things that really count. And the freedom to be and love whoever you choose is one of the things that counts.

Disclosure matters because without it, I deny my authentic self. It isn’t about my comfort versus the comfort of those around me. It’s about moving forward together towards the future we want the next generation to live in.

On Paths

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Sometimes, walking across the countryside, people don’t stick to the paths. Instead, they forge their own route, and over time, as more and more people tread the same path, it gets worn down. It starts to become a path in its own right.

That’s how I feel about gender.

I live in the UK, which like most Western societies, has these two paths, male and female. And anyone who doesn’t feel like those paths are right for them has to stomp down brambles and stinging nettles to get where they need to go.

I am nonbinary. I don’t feel female or male. “Male” might be a better fit- but it’s still not right.

But I’m too tired to have to be surmounting obstacles all the time. I have a temporary job in a crap economy and while I would love to fuck the system and dance to my own tune, I have rent to pay. I don’t have the spoons or the financial fallback to be a full-time gender outlaw.

I really want to make a video. But I’m afraid of success. I’m afraid of the video circulating, my employer finding out and then terminating me.

Because that’s legal. In the UK. In 2016.

While binary trans people have protection from all types of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, the law explicitly states that nonbinary people receive no such protection.

That makes me very afraid, and rightly so.

So, forgive people if they don’t “look” nonbinary. We’re just tired of scraping ourselves on thorns and we’ve decided to walk on a path for a little bit. It’s incredibly stressful to find your identity invalidated at every turn, and then to have the added indignity of being entirely vulnerable to the cruel whims of others.

But bit by bit, enough of us are going to walk that path for long enough that we clear the way. We will stamp down the obstacles one by one. And in our near future, someone will walk down that path, never once realising that there was a time when it wasn’t there at all.

The Long Littleness of Life

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Today, one of the year 7s at the school I work at asked me if I would rather be a gay man or a lesbian. Which, faced with having to explain my decision to a group of earnest eleven-year-olds, is a pretty hefty question.

See, having walked the twin lines of genderfluidity and bisexuality for a number of years, I am in a perfect position to answer. However, I found myself caught a little unawares.

These children are, of course, “magnificently unprepared for the long littleness of life”. How the hell do I explain the hideous Venn diagram of homophobia and misogyny faced by both groups?

In the end, after a moment’s consideration, I said I’d rather be a gay man. Which is true.

Neither is a walk in the park. Neither is a choice many would make willingly. But, having seen both sides of the coin, I know what I’d pick.

I’ve been harassed in the street for being in a gay male couple and for being in a gay female couple. I know what made me feel more intimidated.

The year 7 in question kind of hit the nail on the head when he asked, “but how do lesbians even have sex?”

I replied, “I think there’s something you all need to know. I know we teach you about sex in school, so you think it’s the most important thing, but it’s not. There’s so much more to meeting a person, falling in love with them and enjoying your time with them.”

“But none of us would be here without sex!”

True, small child, true. But if the continuation of the species is the meaning of life, then all of human endeavour is ultimately pointless and we may as well build a rocket that will fire us all into the sun to save global warming the bother of killing us all off.

That’s why I felt frightened being perceived as a lesbian. Because queer people don’t love, they fuck. Type “lesbian” into a search engine, and the chances are you’ll be offered “porn” as your next word. Doubly true for the word “bisexual”.

If perceived as a lesbian, you’re inherently a sex object, there for the male gaze. It’s frightening.

When harassed as part of a gay male couple, the story is a little different.

The lone hetero Neanderthal male spots you. He frowns. He approaches your friend: are those two gay? Your friend replies in the affirmative. The Neanderthal frowns again before retreating.

It’s less darkly confrontational, less exposing. That’s not to say that horrors don’t befall gay male couples, because they do. Just- less often.

Again, you’re treated as a sexual being. But because the Neanderthal male sees himself as the object of your desires (the arrogant fuck), he’s actually afraid of you.

Not to mention the fact that he definitely couldn’t take both of you in a fight.

I couldn’t explain all of this to the kids. I explained that gay women, or women perceived as queer, are more likely to be denied jobs.

This definitely surprised them, and I wonder if any of them will think on it a little longer- why is it exactly that women get less than men when in an apparently similar position?

This is why I love working with children. They’re exposed to so much about the world, and just don’t have the experience to comprehend it. Consequently, they’re full of questions.

Questions like, “How do lesbians have sex?” are tricky, because there’s absolutely no way I’m explaining the clitoris to an eleven-year-old. I think it’s important to consider instead why these questions arise- overwhelmingly, I feel it is because relationship education in schools starts at sex and works backwards.

I know why. Because sex is easy, and love is complicated. That doesn’t mean it’s right.

I am frightened for every single child that walks through our education system, and that’s why I work in it.

Young, Trans and in Love

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CN: relationships

My being trans has, in some way or another, contributed to the demise of pretty much every relationship I have ever had. Put simply, when people make plans for the future, they don’t seem to include people like me.

I get it. Really. I never wanted to be this way. I wanted to be able to get married in a church, have kids that were legally my own, and never worry about having a job opportunity taken away from me because of who I am. But shit, bitch, turns out I can’t. I don’t get to choose “normal”.

And so, when it comes down to it, a lot of people would rather take “normal” over me.

In some ways, I realise it dramatically worsens the chances of me finding someone right for me. I am inherently unappealing to the majority of people. But these days, I’m trying to look on it as an opportunity.

When you love someone, it’s not just about saying three little words. It’s about putting another person first, always. Most people have to wait for a catastrophe to find out if someone really loves them. I get to find out pretty quickly.

The person I will end up loving will tell their friends and family about me being trans so I don’t have to. They will defend me from misgendering and snide comments because it is easier for them than it is for me. And, whether or not I decide to take hormones or have surgery, they love me and not my body, so they will respect my decision.

So far I haven’t found anyone like that. But I’m confident that I will. Because I know many trans people in beautiful relationships of all stripes. Gay, bi, poly, with kids, without, remarried, whatever. I think we’ll end up happier overall, having a test like that so early in our relationships.

I’m with someone at the moment. He’s not new to trans people. And he’s known I was trans ever since he met me. He makes me very happy. But I’m not falling for him until I know how he deals with telling his parents about me.

And when he does, I’ll fall in love with him. Because then I’ll know for sure the kind of man he is.

On Identity

Although I am happy about my referral to Daventry GIC, I’m also mourning the loss of part of my identity. Until that moment, I had thought myself proud to be non-medical. And suddenly, I wasn’t any more.

I still don’t want testosterone. I still don’t want top surgery (yet). I want a diagnosis of gender dysphoria so I can get a shitty piece of paper off the government. I want vocal coaching so that I don’t sound freaking preposterous every time I open my mouth. But I’m still going.

I know it doesn’t mean anything. It’s like a virginity or a gold star. But to me it was who I was, and who I never will be again. It makes me fearful of who I will be.

I’ve always maintained that transition is not a medical journey. Because I have been on this path now for a third of my life, and there are still so many things I have had to learn and overcome. Part of that, I suppose, is dealing with the fact that transition is not always a straightforward journey from A to B.

Trans people tend to wince at the words “op” or “sex change” because it tends to imply that it’s easy, that it’s like flicking a switch- one day A, the next B. But transition isn’t a shopping list either. It’s not counselling, hormones, top surgery, bottom surgery, done. It’s confusing.

I had a nightmare that I went to Daventry and they wrote a scrip for Nebido without asking me whether I wanted it or not. So then I had this incredibly powerful piece of paper sitting in my pocket that I neither wanted nor knew what to do with.

On the one hand, I want to validate my identity by being a Good Trans Person and taking my medicine. After all, other people are desperate for that opportunity, and I should be grateful for it. On the other, of course, the irreversible side effects of T are not something that I, personally, want, and I don’t want to feel pressured into doing it.

Not to mention the small question of the fact I desperately want to remove any trace of my being legally female, and that if I refuse to take T (like trans men are supposed to), it’ll make for a difficult question at the gender recognition panel.

All this fuss over what is, to me, a minor biological anomaly. Can’t it just be overlooked?

I’m sure as my referral progresses, I’ll have a more cogent idea about how I feel about all this. But right now? I’m tired. And I’m sure I’m not the only person on this ridiculous waiting list who’s at least half-grateful for the time to clear their head.