From a young age, I knew I was not like other girls. I did not feel like them, nor did I want to be like them. I dealt with internal misogyny, which may continue to affect my gender expression. This is my story of how I perceived women and girls while perceiving my own gender.
Before I continue, let me clarify that clothes do not determine gender, but in this gendered world, fashion is an outlet for gender expression.
Because I did not understand the difference between sexuality and gender, I used to think I was a lucky gay boy who ended up in a female body. My mom had taught me the concept that some people are “born in the wrong body”, and I later believed this knowledge applied to me. However, I have never thought I was transgender.
When I was seven years old, I had a friend who was a tomboy. They were my only real life example of a girl who defied gender roles, so this interested me. I wanted to identify as a tomboy, but the problem was that I liked nail polish and skirts. Even my classmates ridiculed this identification because I did not dress like my friend. This tomboy friend, Taylor, helped me decide that tomgirl was a better label for me, but I never used it after that. Incidentally, I heard Taylor uses he/him pronouns today.
The school library used to give pencils to students, and when I picked them, I asked my friend, Richard, if the one I held looked like a boy’s pencil. He openly helped me. I ended up getting one with red and yellow bubbles.
I never experienced the stereotypical, feminine friendship that is depicted in movies. It may be due to my parents’ overprotection, but I doubt it. I never felt like I belonged in elementary school. Everyone had a best friend. The few girl friends I had eventually moved away (and we only visited at school, except for Evelyn and Chrissy), and the closest friendship I had was toxic with a boy friend named Sammy (who may or may not have said some sexist things because I was a girl; nonetheless, he never refrained from calling me noob on RuneScape). I remember I used to sit on the boys side of the gender segregated lunch table in 5th grade. I cannot remember exactly why, but possible reasons include: the ability to sit with aforementioned best boy friend, the opportunity to sit near my crush who made me go gaga, or the reason I gave everyone- “I like being friends with boys because girls have too much drama”. The fallacy in that statement is that I had much more drama with Sammy and my crush than I ever did with girls. Truthfully, I think my reason for sitting there was a silly mixture of all of the above. The third reason was actually that I just did not fit in with girls, not that the boys were any better. I only told people the drama excuse because I noticed other people said that. Also, one of the girls made fun of me for eating a cob of corn (thanks, Sabrina. Hope you also liked the impression of an elephant that I did for you and your best friend in 2nd grade just so I could fit in). During my stay at the (sarcasm alert) MANLY side of the table, I participated in food dares where the boys would tell me which parts of my food I should mix and eat; for example, ketchup, milk, peas, and cookie. By doing this, I felt I proved my masculinity, my own fragile masculinity.
When I turned 12, my parents finally let me choose the clothes I wore. It was hard for me to wear the color pink for a certain period of time. It could be due to my fragile masculinity, or I could blame it on the fact that I somehow wanted to differentiate myself from other girls. It took me a while, after finding feminism, that pink is a good color and I should not be afraid to wear it. I still do not have many pink clothes to this day.
I questioned my sexuality at 13 years old. My friends online were exploring their own sexuality, and two of them came out as bisexual. I decided to explore bisexuality as well, but after a few failed attempts, I gave it a rest and concluded that I am very much heterosexual and heteroromantic (at that time, I did not know about romantic orientations, but it was definitely proven at that time). This made me upset because I knew something was different about me, but I did not know it was my gender.
I continued to have those “I’m not like other girls” and “I must act better than other girls” thoughts. The latter is absolutely misogynistic, but I believe the former was a truthful statement mixed with sexism. From elementary to junior high, I struggled to find another girl with whom I identified within my section of the social hierarchy. Mainly, it was due to interests. However, I spent time with boys, none of which I dated nor liked, and I felt I connected with them, despite the numerous perverted things we shared. To be fair, I never felt absolutely in place with anyone from either of the genders I have mentioned, but I felt better with boys’ attention.
Odd enough, I spent my last years of high school staying away from boys, who sexualized me, but I grew loosely knit friendships with various girls and women and had a boyfriend who doubles as a best friend. I still do not attend sleepovers and rarely do I go to the mall with girl friends, but I feel like I am in a somewhat better place. Today, I consider this a struggle to make best friends than a struggle with gender.
During my sophomore year of high school, I consulted my counselor about this. She used hand movements to show there is a (single axis) scale of boy to girl and that I fit between the midpoint and girl. That diagnosis made me feel complete. Never has a description fit me so perfectly.
On July 25, 2015, I wrote a Tumblr post presenting my discoveries (the below is paraphrased):
I’ve been questioning my gender and considering my thoughts as a child up until now. Because I realize that gender is flexible, think I have enough evidence, and feel like this gender, I will roll with it. Not that I’d do anything different, I’d just come to terms.
Basically, I am not transgender. I am mostly a girl, and I suppose you could put this in a percentage of 75% cisgender. I have always felt like there was part boy in me. This I can discuss another time.
I tend to feel confident with a “masculine” gait, not that a “feminine” gait disempowers me. My mom has noticed that I “walk like a man” but what can I say mom? I’m… Is it genderqueer? No. I think out of respect for those who truly face oppression for their gender, I won’t identify as genderqueer because I am, for the most part, passing.
The original post also contained a tidbit about pronouns and how I would be open to xe/xem/xeir, but after finding out they are specifically designated for those who lack gender in some way (i.e. agender, some demigender), I revoke this statement because I feel my gender does not fall into this category.
My friend, Joce, read my post and told me to look into demigirl, which is described by the Gender Wikia as “someone who partially, but not wholly, identifies as a woman, girl, or otherwise feminine, whatever their assigned gender at birth”. Ever since then, I have not identified as a cisgender girl/woman although I will call myself a girl/woman (I usually call those over 18, women and those younger than 18, girls).
I only use she/her pronouns. I do not feel agender or detached from gender at all, but I feel masculine while feminine. If I am not demigender, my next guess is that I am genderfluid. I do not identify as genderfluid because I have strong ties to femininity.