What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I don’t do anything small. I can’t. It’s just who I am. I am fat, boisterous and there is thunder in my thighs and heart. I have a lot to say and a lot of being my unapologetic, bodacious, beautiful self to do. To that end, I would classify my over-arching style inspiration, or gender expression as LOUD, GAUDY DRAG. I have also found that whether I like it or not, the way I look disrupts the monotony of life and brings glitter and new forms of beauty to the world around me.
Sometimes people respond really well to me and we eat cookies together. Sometimes I also get verbally or physically assaulted.
It’s a crap shoot, really -- but I’m not doing it for other people, despite their intrusions. I can’t sugar coat it: I experience a lot of violence because my gender threatens traditional notions of what it means to be a man or a woman.
I express my gender in a variety of ways that diverge from the norm of having a gender that is solely masculine or solely feminine. I see my gender as wild mixture of masculine and feminine energies. Some people call this gender fluidity. My loving sibling aptly refers to my gender as “an everything bagel.” The term that I use to describe this part of myself is genderqueer.
Most importantly, these are very personal identity terms that mean vastly different things from one person to the next. Just because you’ve read about one genderqueer or gender fluid person does not mean you understand the plight of all gender variant folks. My story is the only one I can tell.
The overarching mainstream story would tell you that sex means something very simple: we are born and our biological sex is determined. As we grow up and are socialized, we develop a gender identity that fits seamlessly into the biological containers of either man/male or woman/female that we were inaugurated into upon our exit from the womb.
This is not everyone’s story. This is not my story. We don’t turn a critical eye to the very construction of binary gender too often, but those categories come stocked with pre-existing expectations about what the appropriate dress, behaviors, and expression are for each gender.
Gender fluidity is a concept that many folks struggle to wrap their brains around. That is because it defies the basic foundations of how we understand gender. It’s on a complete different wave length.
Essentially, the idea of gender fluidity starts with the radical notion that gender is not neatly contained within the binary of man and woman. It is about seeing gender as not two categories meant to contain, but as a galaxy, with infinite points, connections, and possibilities. It is about transcending gendered expectations, wearing a dress with a mustache, mixing glitter and lipstick with menswear, creating new possibilities out of an age-old labeling process [BINARY GENDER] that was meant to contain and create order.
This world has so much damaging baggage and expectation around gender. This reveals itself in the many unspoken ideas about what the role of a woman is and what the role of a man is. When watching television, we often see women in a more domestic or nurturing role, while men are seen as providers and protectors of the family. We see this repeated over and over again on the radio, on T.V., we hear these limited, but totally normalized ways of understanding gender and human experience echoed in the voices of our peers.
One way that people reinforce gender baggage -- and those gendered expectations about what it means to be a man or a woman -- happens through gender policing. Gender policing is extremely common and happens in every day conversation, from calling men “sissies” or telling them to “be a man” for being emotional, to calling women “sluts” and telling them to “act like a lady.” Often when someone has a gender that cannot be easily extrapolated from their presentation, we are supposed to make fun of them, destroy them, make them feel small.
When I was growing up, around the age of 11, I began to feel terrified of my body and the way that it changed and defied the gender roles that had been set out for me. I was a hairy-legged sensitive girl with a mustache and rapidly growing boobs. Nobody knew what to do about me and the only option for relief from the relentless harassment of my peers was to wax the hair that was sprouting out of me, put on a bra, and keep moving.
I made myself more palatable for others out of survival and necessity. It wasn’t until 14 years later that I would have the courage to revisit the parts of myself that I had been made to erase for the comfort of others. It was there that I found the beauty in accepting and loving what I have been told to hate and turn away from in myself because I was supposed to “act like a girl.”
Growing up in a world where women are supposed to be soft and nurturing and boys are supposed to be tough and stoic while being my strange strong genderqueer self was the ultimate trip sometimes. Gender fluidity in action has meant breaking free from the idea that certain ways of looking, behaviors, and traits must be confined to one specific gender, or even defined by gender at all. It is the notion that new ways of looking, presenting and interacting can emerge when we celebrate a variety of embodiments and expressions.
To say that the world greets gender fluidity with open arms and excitement would be a lie. People have a great deal to say on the subject -- much of it hateful and ill-informed. Sometimes when I am shining bright, people feel threatened and try to make me smaller, because I shatter their ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman.
What gender fluidity has helped me to realize is that being unapologetically myself means moving farther and farther away from wasting thought on people who spend their time and energy thinking mean things about others. Have fun with that, hater! My gender is an everything bagel and I don’t have time for people who try to make my light less bright.
I’ll just be over here looking hella cute, living my gender fabulous dream life. I’ve got one hand in the pocket of my faux leather jacket and the other hand is holding up and celebrating all of the beautiful beings who have genders, bodies and aesthetics that sparkle into new ways of living and loving one another in a world that hurts a lot.