Are You a Boy or a Girl?
I can’t keep track of how many times a child has asked me that question, in public no less, like while waiting in line to buy popcorn at the movies or in the restroom at a shopping center. My usual answer is “both”, which immediately confuses the poor child and causes their parent to grab them by the arm and drag them off. I don’t remember exactly when I realized that my gender expression was not what people thought it ought to be, but I do remember when people starting hassling me about being a “Dyke.” I was 16 years old. At the time I had long hair, so I’m not sure why they called me sir, but they did, and it pissed me off. I was insulted. I wanted to be called by my name or nothing at all. Somewhere along the way in my life I had learned the lesson that being a “tomboy” was supposed to end at adolescence.
It didn’t. And I was afraid when people called me names, so I fought against the stereotype of lesbian equals want-to-be-a-man and refused to acknowledge the transgender nature within me. I was afraid to be different, even if it was within the LGBT community or rather yet the gay and lesbian community as it was called.
Being lesbian-identified as a young person, I was convinced that I had to be either a femme or a butch, but I was both. I had to be aggressive or passive, but I was both. I had to be weak or strong, but I was both. I was and still am a blend of feminine and masculine energies, expressing emotions and charting my course through life with great strides. Is that anti-feminine?
Is that anti-masculine? In a society that puts people into categories of male/female, masculine/feminine, aggressive/passive, based on sex assignment at birth, it sure looks that way.
What was it about me that gave the impression of maleness? Was it my clothes, which were loose and comfortable? Was it that I was in relationships with women and only men were allowed to do that? Was it that I was confidant and made eye contact with people when I walked in public? Was it that I had a loud voice and I was constantly using it to champion for LGBT rights? Who knows why and who cares. I was comfortable with who I was, but at the time I was unaware of a transgender movement or community.
As a young person I knew that there were men who wore clothes considered to be women’s and that some even went through surgery and took hormones to be women, but I never knew that there were women out there who dressed like men, passed as men and became men. Now, I don’t want to be a “man” or a “woman” for that matter, not if they come with rigid roles, but I am grateful to the FtM, Female-to-Male, community for their courage and presence, because now I feel able to express myself, along the gender continuum, without reservation and proudly proclaim, “I am a transgender queer!”.
Source: Zander Keig, Collegiate Empowerment, Inc, 2006.