“Why does there have to be a name for that! You’re Kevin, you’re awesome.” Exclaimed a good friend and co-worker as I shook in fear while discussing my gender identity and expression. For nearly a decade and a halve I had kept it my dirty little secret. Feeling terrified and abnormal. It was something I hid ever since I was a curious little boy exploring my body and my identity.
But, due to the support of my extremely loving, caring, understanding and encouraging fiance, wonderful parents, and a handful of incredible friends, and let’s not forget some therapy, I have finally begun to truly embrace myself over the past year and my colleagues had begun to take notice. I recall the day that one of the women I share office space with asked me how I was feeling.
“I’m exhausted, didn’t sleep too well last night.”
She chuckled and explained that my tiredness explained why it had looked like I was wearing makeup. Apparently, when I had first walked into the office she thought I was wearing mascara and that I had perhaps “gone Goth”. Oh how we both laughed (for very different reasons as you’ll soon read)!
Well, it WAS mascara, but I wasn’t wearing it because I’m Goth now! Others had also joked about how the skinny jeans I have been wearing to work for casual Friday look like women’s pants. They are. Size 10 to be exact! And yes, a number of my dress shirts are women’s shirts… or are they? I mean, I guess they are women’s shirts according to the labels that were on them when I purchased them from the store. But does that mean they’re not for me because I am biologically male?
I wear those women’s skinny jeans because, frankly, I think my ass looks AMAZING in them and so does my fiance. It might also surprise you that under those jeans I am wearing boy shorts, or sometimes panties, because they are incredibly comfortable and, once again, I think they make my ass look AMAZING and so does my fiance. I feel great in them, I feel calm, I feel like myself. But how would people react if I was in a dressing room and I took off my skinny jeans to reveal the glorious, ass-complimenting panties or boy shorts underneath? They are clearly marketed for women, found in the lingerie stores and the ladies wear departments of most every major retail outlet I have ever stepped foot in. Yet they’re called BOY shorts. Labels, I tells ya! They’re confusing as hell…
So, who am I? How do I label myself in a world where labels are so heavily relied upon to understand ourselves, understand others and to be understood BY others? Am I genderqueer? Genderfluid? Androgynous? Gender non-conforming? Non-binary? Trans*? A crossdresser? There are so many options!
What I do know about myself is this:
- Traditional gender roles and stereotypes frustrate me to no end and I feel extremely uncomfortable trying to be “masculine” to fit in and avoid conflict.
- I am tired of forcing myself to adhere to society/culture’s expectations of what it means to be a “man” in order to avoid making others feel uncomfortable.
- I like to be pretty and handsome.
- I am often as comfortable in a dress, if not more, than I am in a suit.
- But I still love wearing suits.
- I am outside of the gender binary but I have no desire to transition. I am comfortable in and happy with my body.
- I like to wear clothing that is typically marketed to “women” and often incorporate those clothing items WITH clothes marketed toward “men”.
- Some days I like to dress fully as a woman, other days fully as a man, most days a combination of both.
- But I don’t really think of myself as a man OR a woman.
- I am still constantly exploring, and striving to understand, my personal gender identity and how I feel most comfortable in expressing myself.
Genderqueer, genderfluid, androgynous, non-binary, all are labels with definitions that describe how I feel to one extent or another. Whether or not I choose to use one in particular to identify as is not important. What is important is how I feel about myself.
As previously mentioned, over the past year I have slowly begun to express myself more genuinely. Dressing how I feel most comfortable, expressing myself truthfully, standing up for myself and being persistent in my ambitions. I used to feel like an imposter whenever I went out, dressed in a costume that everyone THOUGHT was me, and that I used to hide in from myself. Since coming out to my fiance, my parents, my sister and those closest to me, I have felt freer and, dare I say it, happy! But there still remained this terror of being found out by EVERYBODY. Would I lose my job? Would people ridicule me and think I’m a freak? Would I lose the love of my extended family and friends? The apprehension, anxiety and stress that all of these questions brought to the surface was boiling over and I no longer wanted to hide from or fear being myself.
I am having this hard conversation today because I have decided that I want to “be out” on my OWN terms.
I don’t want to be outted because a neighbor starts gossiping about me after they see me through my living room window wearing a dress. I don’t want to be outted because an acquaintance or colleague jumps onto Facebook and starts talking about me after they see me at Arden buying boy shorts and sports bras. And I don’t want to be outted because somebody is angry at me and chooses to use my gender identity as a weapon against me. I want to be out because I chose to be proud of, and to love, who I am. To live life as my non-binary, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, unrestricted self.
What the hell is the point of expressing my true self in hiding while fearfully watering down my public appearance, expression and behavior? It makes me feel trapped, rigid and anxious. I want to be able to leave my house house free, happy, proud and confident in my wibbly wobbly gendey bendey self.
And today is as good a day as any.