Other People’s Perceptions

It is always really interesting for me to navigate interactions with new people, especially now that I am at a point where my gender presentation is effectively ambiguous a lot of the time.

Of course, unless I am in a particularly queer/trans-friendly space (and even then, really), unless I feel like having a conversation about my gender (I don’t always; shocking, I know), I know that at some point, probably very early on, any person I am interacting with is going to decide I fit in one binary category or the other. And I’m cool with that; I’m much cooler with it since I stopped being put exclusively in the “F” box, I must say. And this isn’t because I think there’s something wrong with being female, or being feminine, or being perceived as either of those things, it’s just that I enjoy the novelty of the “M” box, and also simply that getting a mixture of conclusions from people on my gender tells me that I am sending complex signals that don’t really fit either, and that in all cases people are rounding me into (not really up or down) whatever category they put me in mentally.

ink3A lot of the time I don’t even know what I’m seen as; most day-to-day interactions with strangers don’t extend that far, unless the person in question wants to use a formal form of address (ma’am/miss/lady/sir – why are there so man more words for women, seriously?) Sometimes someone will peg me as male base don appearance and then decide that I am “actually” female when I speak to them. Sometimes they apologize. At this point I just brush aside or generally ignore all gendered forms of address, and also the subsequent apologies therefor and push forward with the actual interaction and the business at hand. It seems to work.

Then there are the weirder experiences, where I am having more of an honest-to-goodness conversation with someone, and their perception of my gender becomes relevant to the conversation because they want to commiserate with me on some sort of gender essentialism (i.e. some sort of “I mean, as a girl, you totally understand…” or whatever). And sometimes I do understand whatever thing, and I’m happy to commiserate, but a lot of the time I’m just left with a very weird feeling. Like, I simply don’t know what some people see when they look at me. I know, because of the contradictions in the ways I am read, that they can’t possible just be seeing simply another girl, (let a alone a straight one, although most people insist on assuming straightness against all possible signals to the contrary; le sigh). It seems to me that some people (and it definitely isn’t everyone), upon deciding which box I fit in, selectively ignore all signals to the contrary, and don’t even really see me anymore. They just see a generic dude or woman, as the case may be.

And it’s very, very strange. And I mean, I rarely talk to people about what they see when they look at me, so I don’t really know. I am not super concerned about it with my friends, or people close to me, because I know that what they see is, at the end of the day, a multi-faceted and complex person. I know their perspectives on me will be different than my own; we are all working with different subsets of information. But I know that they see me as way more than just my gender, and that’s why coming out to them about it didn’t really matter or make a difference in my relationships with them.


There is still something so very powerful to me when someone reflects my internal sense of myself, including my gender, back to me. My husband is really, really, wonderfully good at this, at hearing the things I say about how I feel about myself, and the words I use to talk about and describe my experience of myself, and really taking them on. He accepts these things without question in a way that I think many other people aren’t really able to (and I don’t even remotely blame other people for this – binary thinking is deeply entrenched) and reflects them back to me in ways that make me feel truly seen.

The funny thing is, I don’t even know what he sees when he looks at me, either. I doubt that he is any better at escaping binary thinking and perceptions than I am, really. But it doesn’t even matter. Having someone else in my life who consciously and conscientiously takes on my inner sense of my self in the way he does does wonders to reduce my sense of burden of carrying it around by myself.

Basically, all I really want to say is that this is one of many things he does (and it’s really a simple matter of well-chosen words) that make me feel utterly awed and… just so fucking lucky, at how loved I am.

(Thank you, my love, for giving me a safe space to figure out who I was, even when you didn’t know that was what you were doing, and for sticking with me through it all. I don’t think you really know how much all of the little things you do impact me, but I don’t know if I would have had the strength for all of this without you <3)

One comment

  1. First, it makes me super happy to hear that your husband has been super cool with your identity journey. I’m only recently discovering what a difference a supportive partner makes and WOW.
    Second, I actually know why there are so many more forms of address for women than there are for men. *puts on feminist face* Each different mode of address indicates a different position relative to a significant male. Miss, or the more french (and chic) mademoiselle, is for an unmarried/too young to be married woman. Madam, often shorted ma’am, is for an older, married/matriarchal type woman. Mrs refers to being the mistress of a man, but can in some cases be construed as standing in for Ma’am. *takes off feminist explanation face*

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