Sometimes I am afraid that my genderqueer identity is just rooted in misogyny. Or at least in running away from it.
Sometimes I think I identify as genderqueer because I hate what it means to be a woman in this society. Sometimes I think I identify as genderqueer because women are at high risk of being raped, and I do not want to belong to a group that is vulnerable in that way. Because being a woman means being sexualized everywhere you go. Being a woman means always, always being the subject of other people’s judgments on your appearance, and having those judgment reflect directly on your worth as a person. Being a woman means you cannot escape objectification, means that you are considered unworthy, less-than, and only-good-for, in so many ways.
Becoming a woman, for me, meant even that my father began sexualizing me, in small ways that made me uncomfortable but that I could not speak against because of subtlety.
Of course, being a woman means many other things, too. Good things, wonderful and meaningful things. Women are smart and strong and creative and often pure badass. I know this. And when I am not wallowing in self-doubt, I realize that the reason I feel less connected to those aspects of womanhood is quite simply because I am not a woman.
And yet, sometimes I am afraid that I do not identify as a woman anymore because I am not strong enough to proudly wear a label that carries so much weight. Womanhood was too much of a burden for me to bear, and so I left it behind.
Sometimes I am afraid that I hide behind genderqueerness.
Sometimes I am afraid that I am nothing but a coward.
And then again, I know that this is not the whole story. It’s not as if declaring myself genderqueer has stopped much of the rest of the world spending much of the time perceiving and treating me as a woman. It’s certainly not a magic protection against the threat of rape. It simply allows me to maintain a psychological distance from some of the microaggressions that regularly target those perceived as female; I am immune to suggestions that I am not doing womanhood correctly, or that I am not a real woman, simply because I am not one. I am not trying to be a woman, and so it doesn’t matter whether I am doing it correctly, you see. Though of course, the suggestion that womanhood can be done “wrong” is bullshit in the first place. But still, most women feel the sting of the suggestion, and fear the repercussions of transgressing one time to many, even if they simultaneously see through the misogyny of it all. And I don’t, not anymore.
There are ways in which I miss it, sometimes. Expressing solidarity with women is more complicated as a genderqueer person, in part because I have claimed for myself some small islands of immunity from misogyny. I cannot simply add my voice to the oh-so-important collection of women’s voices and stories anymore, I add only (“only”) the perspective of one who was raised as a girl, and is usually perceived as a woman. But I am not one of you, of them, not any more. And I experience this shift as a loss.
And anyway, I know that being a genderqueer person in this world carries its own burdens, its own weight. It’s not as if I am somehow carefree now. I am simply facing new challenges than the ones I used to, ones that to me do not seem so daunting or unsurmountable.
But then, this is, perhaps, part of what makes me genderqueer in the first place. The shape of the identity, this role that I have cast myself in, it fits me, it feels doable and correct.
Because the thing is, for me gender is very much a contextually constructed thing (by which I mean *my* gender specifically, as I know not everyone experiences gender identity in quite this way), and my identity is, in fact, constructed by the all the fears I have mentioned here, in addition to many, many other things. It is the sum total of many of the ways I navigate the world, and how I understand myself and my place in the society in which I find myself. More than anything else, it is who I am, here and now, and that is inevitably informed by all of the things that have affected me in my life.
And I am ok with that, most of the time.
But sometimes I am afraid.
I am also afraid of putting these fears into words, because I know that some people will take my doubts as an excuse to not take my identity seriously, that it will make my genderqueerness less real or valid or worthy of respect. But that’s part of why I am doing it. There is a great need for us to problematize the narrative of gender as we know it. The born-this-way narrative works for a very many people, both trans and cis, but not for everyone. And it shouldn’t matter whether I was born this way or not.
I don’t know what I was as a kid; I really didn’t give gender much thought at the time. What I do no for sure is that this is the way I am now. This is *who* I am now, and who I may have been yesterday or last week or a year ago isn’t a relevant consideration in whether my identity is worthy of respect today.