I think the first time I encountered the word “genderfluid” was on tumblr sometime in early 2015, probably around the same time, give or take, as many other queer people encountered it, as well as terms like “non-binary,” “genderqueer,” etc.
I remember thinking, Huh. That sounds a lot like me.
My story isn’t one of those stories you often hear–where someone feels “different” their whole life, gravitates to things outside of the norm, feels alienated because of their struggle with their gender identity and can’t form it into words because they don’t possess the proper terms.
That’s the beauty of the internet. There are thousands of resources for queer people, young and old alike, to bring us some solace. When I first saw the word “genderfluid,” something in me clicked, and I accepted myself as a non-binary person for the first time.
Like I said, my story isn’t that typical. I liked Barbie as a kid. Well, I actually loved Barbie as a kid. I loved dressing up in heels and makeup and tutus. I was a pretty typical girl (god, that word rubs me the wrong way, but I’ll use it in this context). As I got older I definitely gravitated away from the typically feminine, but still remained in the realm of femininity. By high school, though, I had inadvertently achieved a level of androgyny. This androgyny waned and waxed through the years. When I first started college in 2012 I felt more feminine and presented fairly feminine, although I still had a preference for men’s t-shirts (something that I’ll never get tired of).
Still, wearing skirts and dresses, something I did fairly often for my various jobs, felt…foreign. Sometimes I felt good about it, don’t get me wrong. But there was still an insecurity, and it was an insecurity that was more than just, I don’t like my body. It was an insecurity I wasn’t even aware was possible, because, like most people, I learned about gender only in binaries (however, I have to give some credit to my parents, since they let me play with dinosaurs and guns and swords and that is, sadly, not something a lot of parents would let their female-born children do, even now).
So this takes us to some time in 2015. Suddenly I was immersed in a colorful world of queerness. These gender identities and constructs that were being broken down were new to me, and I was excited about it. I met my first non-binary person, other than myself, in the summer of 2015, and although we didn’t talk much about it, it was validating to know that there was someone in my vicinity who felt similar.
Perhaps I should mention my friends. How did they handle this? Well, they didn’t really have to. I had always referred to myself in masculine ways (as well as feminine ways), and me being off the binary wasn’t an issue for them. I think, in its own superficial way, my aesthetic of androgyny helped them to understand it too. But please, let me make note and say that not all non-binary people are the same, and not all of them have to be androgynous.
I’ve gone through a bit of an evolution over the past year, in particular, with my gender. I increasingly moved away from stereotypically “feminine” clothing, pronouns, roles, and personality traits. Especially in the past year, every time I tried to wear a skirt or dress, I just felt off. I love the look of dresses but actually wearing one? I’ve learned that it’s not my thing. I even started wearing men’s underwear, and to be honest, when I first put on a pair of boxer briefs, I felt sexy for the first time in…maybe ever? Makeup is one “feminine” thing I still partake in and still enjoy, so I have this juxtaposition of a feminine face with a more masculine appearance from the neck down.
Which brings me to the struggle of trying to find people to date. It’s certainly been a struggle for me–straight men aren’t attracted to me (and honestly, I could go the rest of my life without encountering a straight cis man and be fine, but they still make up 99 percent of the population on Tinder), since I’m always seen as “one of the guys.” Which, don’t get me wrong, is super fun, and I have some privilege in that I don’t have to deal with sexual harassment, my male friends making passes at me, or having to wonder if they’re only using me for sex. But still, when you’re interested in one of your male friends and you know they only view you as one of the bros to get down with, you have less opportunity.
So, straight men aren’t attracted to me. That’s about half the population already. As for women, I’m honestly not sure what they think of me other than perhaps I can be a fun thing to play around with. But that’s only for women I personally know. The other women, on tinder and Ok Cupid, seem to already be in relationships, or looking for only cis lesbians, not, well, queer people. I have noticed that the women I do attract tend to be the princess types, which makes sense since I’m a dominant, independent, and masculine person, but they’re just not my type.
I’ve had this internal battle for a long time with comparing myself to other people. I take pride in the fact that I’m non-binary (and actually lean closer to the male side than female), but I know that I stick out in a negative way sometimes because while I look “female,” I don’t present as feminine–and society does not like that. But I digress.
Recently I’ve even struggled with dysphoria, and that’s something I didn’t realize non-binary people could experience until I scoured the internet. It’s especially bad with my chest–my breasts (hate that word in reference to myself, too) feel foreign to me. But there’s also not a clear solution. I don’t necessarily want top surgery, but I don’t like having them around either, so I wear sports bras to minimize them.
These terms and gender identities are not new. For example, for a very long time, many Native American tribes have acknowledged more than one gender, and they view these “Two Spirit” people as gifted, not flawed. So before someone says that this is just a trend of the Millennials–I can assure you that it is not. It’s just that more and more people are having experiences and talking about them so that more resources are available.
It’s hard to explain being non-binary to a cis person. It’s just a feeling. It’s a gut feeling. It’s something you feel in the core of your being. It’s frustrating because I want people to understand, but I also need to accept that most of them will not.
Because I like men’s clothing doesn’t mean I’m necessarily non-binary, but for my own personal identity, it allows me to express my gender in the way that I want. Gender is a performance, and gender is a feeling. To think that there are only two things you can be in this world is thinking way too small and way too limited.
So, yes, I’m non-binary. And it took me some time to get here. And my gender identity always has the potential to change, as does everyone else’s–no one experiences gender in the exact same way. We’re all on the spectrum–it’s just that maybe you haven’t seen it that way