With it being Pride Month (or alternatively The Month of Gay (TM) ) in North America right now, I thought I’d do a fresh new look at my current identities and how I got to them.
Maybe it will help some of you figure out more about yourself?
I’m going to start from the beginning and work my way forward.
When I was young (like as early as I can remember), I identified as what I will for the purposes of this article call “Non-Masculine”. I suppose technically this could be filed under “non-binary”, but at the time my understanding of it was just that I didn't identify with masculinity, especially hyper-masculinity.
I didn't like the idea that just because I had been born with a penis that I should have to be this hulking aggressive meat head (hooray for rigid and basic binary gender roles!). Half-measures weren't really accepted, if you didn't aspire to be Hulk Hogan as a boy, then you were a wussy loser.
I also had a preference for longer hair from a very young age (not that hair length is explicitly the domain of any gender), but not until I was 15 was I given the self-determination by my parents to grow my own. And of course since my parents dressed me basically up until my tweens… I mean it’s not like my dad was making me wear army camo and bandanas, but I was definitely dressed very boyish.
The next identity that I willingly adopted was Atheist. I know that’s not under the LGBTQ spectrum, but it was something that mattered a lot to me at the time and since it went against my catholic upbringing and still informs my life to this day, I’ve decided to include it.
I’m not proud to admit that through a mixture of toxic masculinity social conditioning, teenage angst, and just general frustration and feelings of inadequacy in the world, I became a militant atheist.
I can honestly say looking back that many of my feelings and thoughts at that time would have had me fit in very comfortably with modern day MRAs.
I count my lucky stars to this day that I met even just a handful of feminist women who were entirely too patient and forgiving of me for years to slowly plant the initial seeds that would lead me to come around.
There are a LOT of reasons why I identify as an Atheist. In short: I have a lot of questions that religion does not have satisfactory answers to. Science is certainly not without its own faults (namely the prejudicial biases of many scientists or lobbyists who pay for certain studies) but it’s the best system we currently have to get down to the “why” and “how” of things.
Sober / “Dry”
I don’t drink, by choice.
My father was a non-obvious (to me) alcoholic, and between him, his work buddies, and some of the other people I knew who liked to drink, there were effectively zero positive examples of alcohol consumption in my life.
Alcohol was easily accessible in my dad’s house, but since I didn’t want to behave like him when he drank, I stayed away from it. I didn’t even like it when my mom had a glass of wine on rare occasions.
This was a challenge during my teen and college years because it was such a central, pivotal thing. The few times I did drink even just a little bit (a couple of new years’ eves and one or two parties), I did not like how it made me feel.
I will admit that on exceptionally rare occasions, when I am with certain friends, if I’m feeling really good I might have a single fruity drink with a little bit of alcohol in it, but only if I feel like it, which at the current rate is probably about once every 5 years? Most of the time I’m watering down fruit juice instead.
I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome in my late 20s. I really stumbled upon it by accident and it was one of those things that just instantly and decisively “clicked”.
Eventually Aspergers was collapsed into the broader umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but I still self identify as an “aspie” for fun sometimes. I do it less these days since learning of Hans Asperger’s Nazi ties.
It gave me answers for a lot of things and brought relief for things I had struggled with.
My biggest struggles with autism have been sensory issues (sound, food tastes and textures, clothing), some motor function issues, and obviously some social complications. Though I put in a lot of effort on the social side and it really paid off. I worked my way up to self-produced projects where I actually interview people!
Some people view Autism purely as a disability, as a hindrance, and it certainly does make some things more challenging. That said, I also feel like it is my special super power and without it I would not be as good as some of the things I am good at (such as my job).
Despite having the seeds for this planted in the late 2000s, it took several years for them to grow and become the dominant framework of my worldview. I would later learn about intersectionality and come to understand how critical that was as well.
(Grey) Asexual / Demisexual
This one was probably one of the hardest to figure out because of the grey part.
For those who aren’t familiar, an asexual person is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. A grey asexual is a person who experiences limited or minimal sexual attraction, and may not be compelled to act on what desire they have. It’s not the same as being celibate or abstinent.
So how did I figure it out?
Before going on HRT more recently, I had a decently high libido, and certainly no shortage of sexual attraction. I wasn’t in a committed relationship for a long stretch, and so a few times I decided to pursue casual sex.
Going through HRT and the libido changes that come with that has given me much better perspective and understanding around the social pressures and expectations thrust upon us (pardon the pun).
Like many other people assigned male at birth and raised under toxic masculinity, the idea and expectation was that you should always be pursuing sex. You got social status points the more sex you had. I definitely did not align with this idea. Yes I wanted to be sexual but I didn’t just want to be a conqueror between the sheets. I have a heart too.
Feeling the pressure and expectation to be getting laid “like a normal person” (there’s no such thing as “normal” for the record), I pursued casual sex. Even after the first two times leaving me feeling unfulfilled and missing something crucial, I hadn't fully learned my lesson.
It took a third time in which I had a sexual experience pretty much straight out of a porno, which in theory should have been amazing, and still felt like “that just wasn't what I want”. I figured out that what I really wanted was an emotional connection, first and foremost. Without that, the sex really didn't mean much.
I have seen two different definitions of demisexual, and I identify more with one than the other. One definition says a person cannot experience sexual attraction until there is an emotional bond already in place. The other I’ve seen is more to the effect of that sex is just not desired or enjoyed as much without the emotional bond.
And that second definition is me.
So after I learned my lesson, it was a big relief and I was able to largely stop thinking about sex. I didn’t have to spend time or energy pursuing it anymore, or feeling guilty for not having it, because I knew what I wanted. Unless I was dating someone, there wasn’t really any point.
Then eventually when I started on HRT, as I had been warned, my libido took a big hit but I totally didn’t mind. Not having random erections anymore was a welcome change. And now when I meet new people or even go on dates, I focus mostly on getting to know the person, and not just obsessing over their looks and how attractive they are.
This one was also more tricky to figure out, and that was also in part thanks to toxic masculinity and lingering internalized homophobia.
Around the time I switched to identifying as an atheist, I began to challenge and confront some of the bigoted bullshit that was taught to me by religion (and by society). The primary thing being that homosexuality was bad, gross, wrong, unnatural, etc. And since I grew up begrudgingly thinking I was a boy, this became “eww, penis”.
I still remember the day where I said to myself “well you know, it makes me uncomfortable, but it’s their life and as long as they don’t try to force me to be part of it, then I can’t really complain now can I?”
Which eventually evolved to more of a shrug-it-off stance of “ehh, not my thing but I’m happy that they’re happy”.
Then eventually (years later) it became “well you know, some guys actually are pretty good looking in a purely aesthetic way, but I’m still not interested in having sex with any of them”.
Then later still it was “you know, I could maybe see myself cuddling with a cute guy at a party…”
And so on and so on.
Of course bisexual does not mean “attraction to both men and women”, it means “attraction to 2 or more genders”. I’m mostly still just attracted to women and non-binary people who lean feminine.
I still think some guys are cute sometimes (usually more effeminate/soft boys) but I still have no plans to date any men.
I’ve also come a very long way in getting over my starting baseline of “eww, penis”, because obviously a lot of trans women and non-binary people have penises, and that’s fine.
ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
This got masked by my autism for many years, because the two conditions have a lot of overlap in terms of traits.
The “breakthrough” moment for me was when I watched a video called “ADHD and Relationships” by the YouTube channel HowToADHD and was like “holy crap this is totally describing me!”.
So of course I went and read more about it and while not formally diagnosed I am quite confident about it.
I think this is probably more of a struggle for me most days now than the autism is, but I have learned some coping/mitigation strategies and have some medication for when I really need it.
On the flipside, the fact that my brain is constantly jumping from idea to idea means I have no shortage of cool ideas to explore for art, writing, conversation, etc.
I know I already tipped my hand on this earlier but technically I didn’t start identifying as non-binary until about 3 years ago.
It came in part because I had recently made friends with a lot of non-binary people and through talking to them I came back around to my feelings of being forced and stuck in the role of “man” and that that never felt like a fit.
This was the thing that finally gave me an alternative option that felt viable, and allowed me to feel more like I actually could explore differently.
I identified as purely non-binary for about 6 months before the next big epiphany.
This is where it all culminated. I had identified as non-binary for about 6 months until one specific private event was coming up, organized by a friend, and open to anyone. I knew the attendees would be mostly trans and non-binary or even gender fluid/agender in some cases, so it was a very safe to experiment.
In preparation for the event, I wanted to get some new clothes to wear. I went to a local thrift store and picked out some women’s clothes, notably a “little black dress”, and literally as soon as I put it on, it was like when I discovered autism several years prior. It just clicked.
That began about a year of intensely scooping up every piece of feminine clothing I found and liked mostly at thrift stores, I still did a lot of trial and error. Eventually I figured out my style, and I figured out what things I will actually wear.
I got started on hormones and I have no regrets about that, over a year in.
One thing I want to point out, and I have heard this from some other trans women as well. I’d never made the connection before, but all my life I had preferred the company of girls. I felt more comfortable with them and like they were talking more my speed emotionally. For a long time I chalked this up to being a straight boy and that “connection” was just being attracted to them. But as I got into my teens and twenties, I found myself wanting to be around women more than I was able to, and found myself at times trying to be somewhat controlling.
It only occurred to me after I began to transition that I had been trying really hard to live vicariously through the women in my life before, and when I would get frustrated with certain things they did (which I had no business being frustrated by), it was partly because I kind of felt like they were taking something away from me. Something I wanted but couldn’t have.
Once I was able to start living the way I truly wanted and not having to do so second-hand, it relieved a lot of tension and frustration and brought peace.
Something to consider for others.
You may also have noticed in the header for this section how I specified “transFEMININE” and put transgender in brackets. This is on purpose.
For a short time during early transition, I felt pressure to identify as a binary trans woman. The narrative is strong in the trans community that many trans people “have always felt like the gender they are transitioning to”, basically “since they were old enough to understand gender and gender roles”. If you don’t fit this narrative, some binary trans people will get mad at you, because there is a fear that if too many people say they’re trans but not 100% binary, that it will erode the supposed validity of it in the rest of society.
In other words, if you’re not 100% binary trans some people want you to rather identify as a crossdresser or just genderqueer or something. But with the continued rise and visibility of non-binary and genderqueer people, I think that is forcing trans people to be more accepted. At least they are (in outdated modes of thinking) “conforming to a normal expectation”. Many people get stupidly annoyed when they can’t tell what gender someone is.
And while the “always felt different” aspect is technically true of me, given some of the experiences and thoughts and feelings I have read from other trans women, I can’t say I feel the exact same way. Everyone’s story is a little bit different. I think it might have been easier had I just always known I would be happier as a girl. Instead of spending 3 decades “trying to make the best of the hand I was dealt”.
I never had extreme, crippling dysphoria. I don’t utterly hate my penis (I do wish it was detachable at the very least). It’s possible that had I been aware much earlier of the possibility of living as a different gender than you were assigned at birth, maybe I would have transitioned much earlier and maybe I would have made some different choices. But from the moment I realized that yes, I would rather live as a feminine person than a masculine one, I have also consistently felt that I am not a binary female.
I may be 95% female and 5% other (0% male).
And that’s why I still identify as technically non-binary, even though I’m strongly femme the majority of the time. I’m happy on hormones, I’m happy without facial and body hair, I’m very happy to have long hair, I’m very happy in dresses, and jewelry, and frills.
I had my IDs changed to say that my sex is F. For most intents and purposes I am a woman.
I am transgender because I don’t identify with my gender assigned at birth. I am transfeminine because I transitioned to be a feminine person, and that’s who and what I am.
Thank you for reading, and hopefully this gave you some insight or was just enjoyable to read. I can be reached with questions, comments, or corrections (where applicable) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to check out my other various work and projects you can find them at www.artemiscreates.com.