It’s Sunday morning, and I’m picking out my outfit for the day. I pull out a deep v-neck women’s t-shirt and a pair of women’s capris. I check to see if my exposed legs are still smooth, even though it’s been a few days since I last Naired them. There’s a little stubble, but nobody’s going to touch my legs today (unfortunately), so they’ll do for now. Next I check my arms to see they need shaving, which they do, so I shave both my face and my arms. I style my hair, retouch my fingernail paint, and I top it all off with a pair of women’s sandals.
Now comes the question: “Do I pass as feminine?” I go into my parents’ walk-in closet for the only full-length mirror in the house. I look at my reflection from top to bottom. I don’t want to pass as a woman because I’m not a woman. But I’m not a cisgender man like I’m supposed to be, either. I know gender expression does not equal gender identity, but I want to look like how I feel inside. After a good minute, I decide, “Yep, I’m femme!” Now I’m ready for the day.
. . .
Most of my friends are married and have children, so I’m often invited to their houses to celebrate their kids’ birthdays. My friends all know I’m genderqueer, and they’re okay with it, so they don’t mind that I show up wearing women’s t-shirts, women’s jeans, and women’s shoes. They’re all happy that I’m finally happy. However, even with their support, I don’t know where I exactly fit.
One of the men asks me to help the other men carry the big long tables out of the shed to set up outside. Since someone of my anatomy has more muscle mass that people of a different anatomy, I’m happy to help out. We set up all the tables, and the men thank me for my help. After hanging out with the men for a while, though, the conversation once again turns to unfamiliar territory: sports, grilling, and home repair.
“I bought these cute shoes from Target yesterday!” I chime in attempting to be one of the guys. The men smile and nod. I awkwardly walk away and attempt to fit in with the women.
“You look great today, Trav,” they say.
“Oh, thank you!” I respond. I can finally talk about clothes, hair, and manicures with someone. All my life I’ve always felt more connected to women than men socially, so I feel like I’m just one of the girls. That is until the subject of the ridiculous things men do pops up.
“Ugh, men just don’t listen,” one of the women says, and then quickly adds, “Uh, no offense, Trav.”
Social awkwardness strikes again. At this point I decide to say, “Fuck it” and play with the dogs. They don’t care what gender I am.
. . .
I’m eating lunch at Panera Bread. As I eat my Caesar salad and baguette, I look at everyone there. The men all wear polo shirts, cargo pants, and brown flip-flops. They let their leg and arm hair grow wild and free. The women all wear summer dresses and cute sandals. Their legs and arms are smooth, and their nails are painted in a variety of colors.
I look at the men and think, “I know I’m supposed to be comfortable looking like that . . .”
Then I look at the women and think, “. . . but I always wanted to look like that.”
I wonder how people do it; how do people go about their lives feeling comfortable in their own skins? Have any of them ever thought about why they dress the way they do?
After eating, I realize I have to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately there are just two options: the men’s room and the ladies’ room. Under Maryland law, transgender people can legally go to whatever bathroom they choose, but I still don’t know which one I’m supposed to use. If I go to the ladies’ room, they’ll think I’m a pervert. But if I use the men’s room dressed the way I am—complete with painted nails—I’ll give my “secret” away once they see my stand at the urinal. I decide to bear it a little bit longer until I go to the local coffee shop, which only has one gender-neutral bathroom. Peeing shouldn’t be such a big dilemma.
. . .
My dysphoria is usually manageable. Sure, I cringe when people still refer to me as “he,” and I wish I looked more like a woman, but for the most part I’m comfortable in my own skin. However, today my dysphoria has reached a new level. I don’t know where I fit in since I’m neither a cis man nor a trans woman. I don’t fit in with guys, but I don’t want to invade women’s spaces, either. Unable to talk to someone in person, I go to Facebook to air my grievances:
That awkward moment when you, as a gender fluid person, think yourself, “Goddammit, just pick a gender already!”
A few minutes my friend T, who lives about twenty minutes from me and is also genderqueer, responds to my status update: “But you’ve already made a choice. You chose to be you.”
I smile. They’re right; I chose to be me. And that’s all that matters.