My Gender Is Orange: Coming Out As–And Explaining–Genderqueer
[CN: Bullying, Gender Dysphoria]
Whenever I tell someone I’m genderqueer, the first thing people usually ask is, “What’s that?” Most people understand the L and G of LGBTQIAA, but when it comes to the other letters, they are usually clueless. Two years before coming out as genderqueer, I already confused most of my friends when I came at as bisexual (with which I still identify). Now that the cat is out of the proverbial bag that I don’t fit either the sexual or gender binary, people really don’t know what to do with me.
Being the writer I am, I try to explain complicated things with simple analogies. The best way I can describe my gender is this:
When you’re in elementary school, they teach you that when you mix red paint with yellow paint, you don’t get something that’s half red and half yellow, right? You get a brand new color: orange. That’s how I see my gender; I’m not half boy/half girl. I’m a mixture of both boy and girl in a way that creates a brand new gender, which I call genderqueer.
As with most LGBT narratives, I always knew something was different about me growing up. I knew from a young age that all the gender roles imposed on me because I was assigned male at birth were total bullshit, but I couldn’t explain why. I just assumed that, because I liked my cousin’s Barbie dolls and I hated sports, I was just a sissy. Of course, being a sissy made me the laughing stock of all my classmates.
By the time I entered high school, though, a radical notion entered my brain: sexuality and gender can both be fluid. I grew up listening to David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, and Marilyn Manson—people who pushed the boundaries of sexual and gender norms. They told me it was okay to be androgynous, so that’s how I described myself at the time: androgynous. I never felt like I was a “woman trapped in a man’s body,” but I also never felt 100% like a man, either. However, my newly found gender fluidity had to be put on hold when I became a born-again Christian at age 17.
One of my biggest gripes with Christianity (I don’t have time to list them all right now) is its emphasis on “traditional” gender roles. According to every church I attended from ages 17 to 30, God created men and women for specific roles. Men were the breadwinners and women were the homemakers. Men were the leaders and women were the followers. I never gave it much thought until I was engaged to woman. She came from a very strict Calvinist family where “biblical manhood and womanhood” were the foundations for the family. Being constantly reminded of these gender roles made my dysphoria go into overdrive, but I didn’t realize it at the time. All I knew was something was right, and it took a toll on my relationship with my fiancée. Finally, after six years of being together, I called off our engagement. I was finally free to truly be myself. But first, I had to find myself.
When I first heard the word genderqueer, my immediate reaction was, “Huh, that’s interesting.” I didn’t fully understand it at the time. It wasn’t until I saw Verity Ritchie on YouTube describe their gender as “both a boy and a girl at the same time” that I realized I might be genderqueer after all. Even then, though, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t mind “he/him” pronouns at the time, and I had a thick beard that I loved, so I didn’t know if those two things disqualified me. The more I explored my gender, though, the more I realized I am non-binary.
Slowly changing my appearance helped, too. What started with wearing infinity scarves turned into painting my nails, growing my hair long, shaving my beard, and wearing women’s jeans and tops. The more I altered my appearance, the more comfortable I felt. As clichéd as it sounds, I was finally becoming who I was meant to be.
And I’m much happier now because of it, even if I do have to explain it constantly.