Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Guest Post: On Gender Identity

A while ago I was approached by Siobhán with a piece she'd written: would I take a read of it and advise whether it was something she should publish? I thought - and I hope you do too - that her piece was ace but her instinct was that it felt too personal to post on her own blog. I was thrilled when she agreed to posting it here instead (and you can find the link to her blog up top in my Blogs I Love tab). So, without further ado, here she is talking about gender identity...

I am 16 and sat in a bland office with an equally bland looking counsellor. We shall call her Dr Beige.

Dr Beige has just questioned my gender identity. She has suggested I really want to be or am male. I cannot get my head around this or how what I have said so far has got us to this point.

So I sit and try to go over what I have said to see if I can explain it better.

Sure I have body issues. These mean I see my breasts and hips and bum and other “womanly curves” as just excess fat that needs to be removed.

Sure I was raped by my boyfriend just 9 months ago, I tried to kill myself about 5 months later. My relationship with my sexuality is more than a little fraught.

Sure I had an eating disorder and my periods stopped and I was happy with that. To be honest many women who identify as women do not like their periods.

Sure my sexuality pre-rape was a pretty fluid thing. Sexuality is not the same as gender identity.

Sure sometimes I wish I was a boy because life seems easier that way.

I try to articulate why I feel like a woman. I have the advantage of having been born into a body that matches my gender identity and I struggle to articulate why I am female.

Dr Beige probes me further.

I don’t feel like I am a woman in the way other women in my town seem to be. I don’t feel like I am a person in that way either. I am weird. I am an outsider but I am a woman. Or at least I have never questioned that.

I do not tell anyone about this conversation. I do not know how to tell anyone about this conversation.

Every now and then I come back to it. I still feel my gender is pretty fluid. I sometimes feel like I am actually a boy with body issues who REALLY likes dresses and hench guys and skinny guys and some really fit girls and a lot of people in between. But then I also feel a connection with my body as a female body which I really appreciate and enjoy. I’m good with those two things being true at the same time. I think it is fine. I even think it is probably fairly normal.

As time goes on I meet many people who are transgender or gender queer and discover the trouble they have trying to articulate their gender identity. I think back to that bland office and Dr Beige and how difficult it was to justify my own.

I never ask anyone else to do this. I hope I never will. For those who have never been questioned on it, or have never questioned it, it can seem very obvious, something that just is. Try to put that into words though and you see how hard it is to tell someone something that feels self-evident. This is a challenge so many people face before they are able to live as themselves.I am in no way saying my experience is the same as those of my trans friends and fellow humans. I had the body to match my identity (well apart from being bigger than my brain was happy with) but not everyone has that luxury.

If I was to sit down with Dr Beige now and she told me I wanted to be a man I'd still not have concrete answers. Sometimes I would love to be  a man for all kinds of reasons, but I feel my identity is fairly rooted in my female body. I don't feel a disconnect between my body and my identity on that level. I do not always feel like a "typical" woman but I do not feel I have to, and I do not think those born into male bodies have to either. The joy of life is in the variations between people and so I am happy to be where I am on the spectrum of femininity, wherever that may be.