The only time people make big changes is when the pain of doing nothing becomes greater than the fear of change. How does one live with so much fear for so long?
For the longest time I have struggled with feeling like I’m not enough. Not male enough, not female enough, not trans enough… certainly not trans enough to claim the transgender label.
Coming out as a non binary trans person is scary. There is so much confusion involved in trying to find a comfortable place to exist in a very binary society. The temptation to remain stealth is enormous because, let’s face it, society doesn’t like question marks and people that can’t be neatly boxed. It is easy to hide in the label of lesbian especially since that label allows a certain amount of gender non conformity are eccentric self expression. Why bother rocking the boat by being all non binary up in everyone’s face?
The answer for me is that not getting to be wholly myself go too uncomfortable that change was necessary. I am not a gender nonconforming woman. I am not a lesbian. I can’t carry on playing that role, and trying to fit that expectation is too limiting.
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman
The thing is, I contain multitudes of gender. I would say my resting default is agender/neutrois with wild swings to masculity and femininity. This is why I identify as genderfluid. My gender presentation is entirely performative. Often I will be having a particularly masculine or feminine day but it is easier to just wear my default pants and a vest/button up as I don’t want to have to think what to wear of fuss with make up. Furthermore, sometimes I don’t want to stand out anymore than I have to. Being as obviously queer means that going out into the world can be stressful and at times even abusive.
Before I came out as non binary I had spent a lot of time on social media and in the world as an openly out lesbian. I can count the number of times I experienced outright homophobia on one hand, however identifying as non binary opened me up to a level of transphobia that I was completely unprepared for. As my gender expression has become more masculine and androgynous the number of incidence out in the world and online has been intense. I have had shop assistants ignore me point blank as if I don’t exist at all. There have been sniggers and pointing at me. I have been told that my gender identity is delusional and antifeminist online. Mostly I can brush off the mutterings of “moffie*” or whatever other slur gets thrown my way but there are days when I just don’t have the spoons to deal with society’s violence.
This brings me to my fears that was holding me back from starting my non binary transition:
What if my gender presentation means that I won’t be able to make a living as a small business owner? I am entirely at the mercy of Jo Public. If I’m too much, too weird, too different, will I ever be able to make a living? My spouse talked my down from this panic by pointing out that there are people who need me to exist exactly as I am and that there are people who will come to me exactly because I am non-judgemental, non-normative and exactly because I am really fucking good at what I do. So I have given myself the deadline of a year to make this work before I start looking at other full time employment.
What if giving up my passing privilege will be too much on days when I have very low energy reserves? I have struggled with mental illness my whole life. Some days I just can’t leave the house. Some days coming up against overt bigotry is going to leave my scuttling for bed and unable to function for a couple days. This still scares me a bit. I am scared of people, I am scared of the violent reaction of society towards trans people. I have built up a good support network of people to help me through the hardest time.
Family backlash is a real worry for me. I’ve had close family make really transphobic comments. Thankfully I also have a spectacularly supportive spouse who has no problem coming to my defence in difficult situations. We’ll cross this bridge when we get to it I guess. I have hardly been secretive about my journey, and I know info about my transition will come out at some point. I have absolutely no desire to pre-empt the conversation though, maybe that makes me chickenshit.
Being an activist means I don’t get to chose who engages me and when. Being an out and openly trans person makes you an automatic spokes person for all trans people in the eyes of the world and cis entitlement demands that we make ourselves available for questioning at any time. The inappropriate questions from random strangers still gets me in a spin some days, like the new pharmacist at the pharmacy where I got my T from asking me at the checkout counter about the ins and outs of HRT. Uuuuuuuh wut!?! Then there are moments when I’m out wearing a binder, where someone looks at my face and can’t figure out where the breasts are that they’re expecting which results in my chest being stared at as if the map to the holy grail is printed there. I know that my existence will be a point of curiosity from here on out, I can only hope that I will deal with the questions with a bit of grace.
Of all the worry I have about transition the things I don’t worry about are things like; is this right for me and am I ready for the physical changes. I have never been more sure of wanting something. I am still in a state of euphoria at starting HRT. I am stunned at the feeling of rightness and the positive emotional changes I have experienced so far. Internally I know this is right for me, now just to get the rest of the world on board.
Wish me luck!
*moffie – the Afrikaans equivalent of faggot