Sometimes I am afraid…

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.

This post kind of needed a cuteness break.

This post kind of needed a cuteness break.

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.

8 comments

  1. I don’t know if it helps or not, but you’re certainly not alone. I struggle with this as well, and also struggle with the fact that as I’ve started hormone therapy and started talking surgery, I’ve been a LOT more comfortable when I’m referred to as a man (because, the majority of the world only sees binary)… so… yeah. You’re not alone.

    I am so glad you had the courage to share these things. I desperately needed to hear that I was not alone, today.

    1. <3 Thank you. And I'm glad that it helped you to read. I've been scared about writing this for a long time, and then I was scared about posting it, but I decided it was important enough that I should just fucking do it finally.

      1. That sounds like… well, pretty much everything that could come under this heading of “identity alignment” stuff, eh?

        “Hormones terrified me, but I decided it was important enough that I should just fucking do it finally… and now I’m glad I did”
        “Top surgery terrified me…. etc”

        Anyway. My point is yeah, I get you.

  2. I can actually relate to some of what you said here. As a butch lesbian I prefer to dress this way and hide my beasts to avoid unwanted attention. I embrace the wonder of females in general, of course however I do fear being treated as a sexual object or being looked upon as a piece of meat by anyone but especially by men. I hate the expectations placed upon us by society and I truly detest the clothes designed for us and the idea that wearing make-up is the base of femininity. I have been treated badly by men too often and I feel like my gender made me a target.
    I’m sorry that I’ve gone slightly off the topic of your post here but I really do feel like having a good rant once society’s view of women is brought up. Sorry again. Fantastic post, by the way.

      1. Heehee good! I do spend so much time thinking about how I’m treated differently because of the fact that I do not conform to what is expected of me however thus is life in all of it’s infuriating true colours.
        Take care and have a good night :)

  3. Thank you for this.
    See, I have a bit of a confession: I have a number of friends who identify as genderqueer, and I’ve never really gotten what that does for them. I of course respect their identity, use the pronouns I am asked to use, and so forth, but when they have explained the “why” to me, it has always kind of sounded like they were just strongly rejecting the gender roles that would be expected of the gender they typically get read as.
    The reason why that didn’t really make sense to me is that I am a woman who has always felt deeply uncomfortable with gender roles/femininity, and it has never really occurred to me to conceptualize myself as anything but a woman. Given the way I look, I will always and forever be categorized as such, and I have no plans to change that, so why complicate issues by having a different name for myself when everyone is just going to read me as a woman anyhow?
    But you totally answered that question for me:
    “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.”
    For myself, I don’t feel like conceptualizing myself as something other than “woman” would make the gender-related struggles I have feel any more surmountable. It’s easier for ME to say: I am a woman, I just don’t like what that means to other people sometimes. Clearly some people, including you, come down on the other side of that–it is easier for you to say “I am not a woman, even if people read me that way sometimes”.
    And while I don’t fully GET that, in the sense that I can’t ever fully understand what it is like to feel that way myself, I understand how having an identity that feels RIGHT is valuable to ones own mental health.
    So yea. This won’t change anything about how I treat my genderqueer friends, as I always have tried my best to respect their identities regardless of how well I understand them… but it does help me to hear it articulated that yes, “genderqueer” may [for some people, at least] be partially about rejecting gender roles, but there are other aspects to it as well.

    1. Yeah, I think the difference between genderqueer people and cis people (I know an awful lot of cis folks whose experience of their gender is more that they’re not *not* the gender they were assigned at birth, rather than particularly strongly identifying with it) is often actually very hard to articulate, since there can be a lot of shared feelings around the fucked up standards and gender roles in society regardless of identity. And I don’t understand the difference any more than you do, because I only have the experience of a genderqueer person, and I don’t really know what it’s like to be cis, any more than you understand what it’s like to be genderqueer. The difference often seems to come down to what just feels right, for inarticulable reasons <3

      Thanks so much for sharing!

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