Hmm, that’s funny––MS Word doesn’t even think that “genderqueer” is a word…
For years I’ve felt those familiar feelings: this body isn’t quite right for me. That makeup sure looks really pretty. What if I don’t want to be a real man? And for years I’ve told myself that those feelings were silly––that they are just transient and that they just don’t make any sense. A few months ago, I was lying naked in bed with my straight, normal girlfriend at the time, and she asked me if there was anything deep I hadn’t told her yet. If I had the choice, I told her, I would’ve chosen to be a woman. Why? WHY??? She insisted: illogical. So I asked myself… Was it social conditioning? Maybe it was just the fact that I spent my free time with only women and shuddered mildly at the thought of hanging with the bros.
You might not think it’s profound, but it turns out that not everything is rational. Your insistence that I should lift, that I should wear a suit that adds to my build, or that I should get laid might seem rational at first, but my question for you is, why? It makes me more intimidating, threatening? Cool, dude. That’s not rational. I didn’t know I was trying to raid the neighboring farmlands. But I digress. The point is, there is no such thing as rational gender expression.
So please, my lover and my friends, ask me not why. And no, it’s not for a play. My gender expression isn’t entertainment. I don’t know why nail polish, makeup, scarves, skinny jeans, and swinging my hips makes me feel better, and quite frankly I just don’t care.
In the past two months, what had been passing thoughts and feelings have exploded into a near full-blown attempt to present femininely. I am slowly buying new clothes and doing my makeup every day before I step outside. What follow are a few reflections about this experience.
Observation #1: People want to know why, and you’ll have no answer. That’s because there is none. Gender expression is irrational––conforming or not.
Recently, I have been open enough to let any stranger daring enough to look at my face know that I did not conform. That wasn’t true for my family, nor for my girlfriend. Away from home, the former has been a non-issue, but I can’t say the same for my significant other. At first I thought she wasn’t okay with certain expressions: maybe wearing foundation was okay, but eyeliner threw her off. Turns out, it was the whole picture she didn’t like. A man (I use that world reluctantly) with any sign of deviation from the modern model of masculinity was something (if at all someone?) she just wasn’t into. And so we parted ways. I really can’t say I blame her––isn’t it just so weird that your boyfriend is slowly turning into a girl? Shouldn’t he (?) navigate that on his own without the support of the person he’s held so close for many months? Of course, you twisted society! Because how could a straight woman ever date a guy who wears nail polish? Isn’t that just so disgusting? I just wonder what she told her friends…
Observation #2: A lot of people will probably stop being attracted to you because of arbitrary social conditioning.
And that I wonder with legitimate concern. She too is a victim of the “normal” gender system. Along with every other woman who’s grown up in this country, she has been conditioned from birth to be attracted to a very specific presentation of masculinity. A guy who presents any sign of feminine identity is no real man, and they are therefore not suitable for you. Think about it. If Jeff, an ordinary, masculine-presenting male, one day decides to start wearing nail polish, he becomes “Jeff, the guy who wears nail polish” and “a sissy.” People will probably start questioning his sexuality, even though gender expression has absolutely nothing to do with one’s sexual desire. And not only is Jeff hurt in this situation, but so is everyone who would otherwise be attracted to him were it not for his nail polish stripping him of “true manhood.” Maybe some folks are just turned off, and that’s okay! But maybe some women still do want to be with him, but would have their own womanhood placed under scrutiny for being publically interested a man with even the slightest hint of cross-dressing. I can only hope that isn’t what has happened to my ex. As a friend of mine puts it eloquently, the gender binary works for nobody. It restricts males and females alike from expressing themselves in a way with which they are most comfortable, and it criticizes those who fail to choose a properly gender-conforming partner.
And now here I am all by myself, at least in the romantic plane of my life. With no one to impress with a normal gender performance, I’ve gone kind of all out with this whole makeup and nails thing, and it’s simply fantastic. Never have I felt more comfortable in my own body than strutting down the sidewalk in tight blue cotton pants, a thin-striped shirt, a pink scarf, bright red nail polish, and more makeup than about nine tenths of women in this city are currently wearing.
With an Adam’s apple, five o’clock shadow, and a disturbingly deep voice, I don’t even come close to “woman,” and that’s totally fine with me.
But it isn’t fine with any legal documents, sports teams, or public bathrooms. You end up having to exist in this transient space of gender uncertainty, forced to choose at a moment’s notice whether or not you want to be some freak in the men’s room, or some freak in the women’s room. But then you stop caring, and you smile a little when men are visually surprised to see nail polish on the hands of the person at the sink to the left.
Observation #3: You don’t fit into society’s boxes, but then you realize that the boxes are stupid, and you that don’t need them.
I don’t need the boxes. I wonder when no one will. Maybe I’m wasting my time hoping.
If there were a goal for modern feminism, I’d recommend this: make femininity okay for everyone, everywhere. It’s not just for females, and it’s not something to be ashamed of. When that’s fixed, maybe “genderqueer” won’t have an annoying red squiggly line underneath it as I type. But then again, the real goal is that the word will no longer exist, because we won’t need it anymore.
Manifesta has chosen to grant this author anonymity out of respect for concerns of privacy.