reader question: gender-quest!

so somebody messaged me with some questions about gender and such– and i tried my very best to answer their questions to the best of my abilities.  i decided to share our conversation with you neon cats cuz a) you might have some rad advice for the op and b) other people might relate to the op’s gender-quest.  (i certainly do!)

so here’s the message:

Hi Mx. Punk!

I have a question for you.  I’ve identified as pansexual for about a year, and before quite recently I never thought one lick about my gender identification.  It was mainstream socialization, I suppose, to assume that I was a cis female. But having thought a lot about how everyone assumes they’re straight until… they’re not (at least, in my experience), I wonder if the same thing is happening to me with my gender identification.

I mean, I enjoy a lot of things stereo-typically referred to as “girly” (makeup, fashion, gossip, I dunno what the fuck else), but  at the same time I know that those things aren’t just reserved to girls, and that not even all girls like them.

I was just wondering, I suppose, how you knew that you were non-binary.

I mean, I like the things that I like.  I know that I’m not male, and I have no desire to change my body as such (I like my body a lot!), but I don’t quite know how to tell if I’m female or not.  I mean, is there something I do that makes me female?  Something I like?  That sounds so terribly sexist, which I hate, but I don’t know another way to phrase it!

If I want to keep my physically female body, but act however the fuck I want regardless of gender, does that make me genderfuck?  Does it make me non-binary?  Or am I still female?

I am so confused as to all of this, and I’m asking you because you seem like a kind, non-judgmental person.  Please give me some advice, and please please please correct any mistakes I made in this post! I’m trying so hard not to offend anyone, but learning  all these new terms is hard!

Thanks a ton!


so, there’s no single path to realizing that you’re trans*; i think it’s pretty unique for everybody.  i think it’s pretty common for trans* people to assume they’re cis for awhile due to social conditioning.  some people don’t realize they’re trans* til they’re getting rather elderly, actually.

personally, i knew i wasn’t a girl or a boy when i was in kindergarten (preschool, too, i think), but i was bombarded with binarist and cissexist messages until i began to seriously doubt my own feelings.  society basically convinced me that i was a cis girl; i believed i was a cis girl for YEARS, despite having known the truth as a small child.  so, yep, i think it’s absolutely possible (and even common) for trans* people to be convinced to not even question their assigned gender.

i think that’s a good comparison between “assumed heterosexual” and “assumed cisgender”.  as to whether you’ve been assuming you’re cis when you’re really trans*– you’re the only one who can answer that question.  i know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but it’s the truth.  i guess the upside of that is that if you DO decide you’re non-binary trans*, nobody will get to contradict you.

so you mention liking things coded as feminine.  i think you’re absolutely right about guys and non-binary folks getting to like things coded as feminine; gender expression stereotypes are ridiculous.  they are mutable; they change from culture to culture and from year to year.

to me, that means that we drew the line between “girl stuff” and “boy stuff” in some random place; we could’ve drawn it anywhere.  so, yeah, i don’t think your appreciation for things coded as feminine necessarily has anything to do with your actual gender.

i think it’s important to think about the difference between gender and gender expression, ya know?  here’s a rad article, actually.  natalie reed (the author) is pretty much brilliant and she’s a much better thinker/writer than i am.  <3

so, basically, there’s only one way to KNOW your gender; it feels right to you.  i wish there were some magic test (like, everyone who loves wearing fishnets and plaid flannel at the same time is non-binary!  yay!), but there totally isn’t.  either you just know your gender or you go off searching for whatever fits you the most awesomely.  i’m just going to send some more reading your way: because i choose it by zinnia jones.  if you don’t just know your gender, there’s nothing invalid about saying, “i LIKE the way this feels.  i choose THIS one!”

you also mention not wanting to alter your body.  contrary to what the gender police may tell you, you DON’T have to experience body dysphoria and want surgery/hormones in order to be trans*.  personally, i love my non-binary clit and i just laugh at people who tell me that makes me female.  i just want to stress that lotsa non-binary trans* folks and lotsa binary trans* folks feel no need to alter their bodies.  you probably already know that, but i just wanted to stress it just in case.

how did i know i was non-binary?  when i was a little kid, i knew i wasn’t a girl or a boy in the same way i knew i wasn’t a dandelion or a fork.  it isn’t always so readily apparent to other people, but it was to me.  that doesn’t make me “more trans*” than someone who thought they were cis til they hit 30 (or 40 or 85 or 90), btw, though the gender police will tell you otherwise.

but then, after a couple of years of parents and teachers and society telling me i was a girl and that gender is binary and that gender-assigned-at-birth is everything, i started doubting myself.  i convinced myself that i was a girl and i think i sorta… forgot that i’d ever thought differently.  even when i learned trans* people were real, i still doubted the existence of non-binary gender.

eventually, i discovered maddox and other online non-binary cats– and that’s what convinced me to look into the whole non-binary trans* thing.  i started reading blogs written by neutrois folks and genderqueer folks and i started thinking, “hey!  that sounds like ME!”  something resonated and began to feel more and more RIGHT as i kept reading.

i eventually remembered what i’d known as a kid; that i’m not male or female.  i made a choice to id as non-binary trans*– and it just keeps settling onto me like a shirt that fits better and more comfortably each time i wear it.

what i didn’t do was take stock of my traits and hobbies, assign each one an “f” or and “m,” and tally them up.  as i think you know, that would never work.

you wrote: “If I want to keep my physically female body, but act however the fuck I want regardless of gender, does that make me genderfuck? Does it make me non-binary? Or am I still female?”

so, i think we’ve established that your body doesn’t have anything to do with it.  that you could be any gender at all and be totally satisfied with any configuration of body parts.

as for acting however the fuck you want regardless of gender, i think you might be entangling gender and gender expression.  because really, no matter your gender (trans* or cis), you can still express that gender however you please.

and genderfuck means that you love playing with gender expression (combining a fishnets and a dress with a beard, for example), so you could be a genderfuck cis woman/girl, you could be a genderfuck (non-)binary trans* person, or you could just id as “genderfuck.” you get to name your gender however you please (and you get to change your gender id at any time).

i’m totally flattered that you thought to ask me, honestly, and i reallyreally hope i’ve helped you out a little.  i wish i could just tell you what your gender is, but i can’t.  i think reading, thinking, and writing are the best ways to figure this stuff out– and talking, of course.  my blogroll has some pretty good links, maddox at neutrois nonsense is fucking AWESOME, and the felt fedora is a must-read.  natalie reed always a lot to say about gender issues, too.  you’re always welcome to ask me more questions or to just let me know how you’re doing.  anytime you wanna chat, i’ll be up for it!

i wish you some serious awesome!

mx. punk <3

ps: sorry for all the tl;dr.  i’m long-winded.  lol.

*   *   *

any thoughts, readers?  you cats are full of rad advice and wisdom-nuggets; you’re on!

One response to “reader question: gender-quest!

  1. Pingback: Gender Expression: Why does it have to be so complicated « Reneta Xian

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