Nope, not about the singer, P!nk. Gotcha!
When I was a child, I grew up in the Marshall Square neighborhood Northeast of Little Village (La Villita). Chicago has a transit system called the “L” (short for elevated). Back in the day, I lived near the Blue Line off California and 21st Street. In 2006, the line went from Blue to Pink. The change evoked the same feelings someone would if they got the “cooties.” That reaction, in hindsight, was rooted in misogyny. That likely wasn’t the first time and it sure wasn’t the last.
We are all part of the systems we oppose. We all are capable of holding implicit biases.
I grew up favoring the masculine though I used tea sets as much as I played with Hot Wheels. As I got older, I was encouraged to be a tomboy. What I embodied was not necessarily inherent to my being. There has never really been a point where I thought I wasn’t a girl. I always felt that I was doing girl wrong. I remember my mom use to pluck her chin hairs.
Pretty soon after, I began to experiment with using razors to remove hair I began growing…and growing…and growing. The shame I walked with got to the point where I would frown and cry in the shower. I felt like a monstrosity. Without knowing it, I was being influenced by the media I consumed. I was comparing my appearance with that of young white girls depicted in live, cartoon, and plastic form.
In high school, I joined the Farragut Career Academy Debate Team. I just thought it sounded cool and I went on to do it for 4 years. During my freshman year there, all of us were paid to be on the team and that was made possible by After School Matters. I got a taste of what it was like to make my own money. We eventually stopped being paid for it, but I loved debate no matter what.
At age 16, I got my first job working at McDonald’s. My motivation: I needed to relieve the burden of paying for class fees from my family. I needed to have an income to ensure that our basic needs were met. Then, I started dyeing my hair and buying things like skirts, Chuck Taylor’s, a hounds-tooth tie, colorful knee length socks and red and black striped tights (to hide my leg hair), and ribbons. I still wore baggy pants to maintain tomboy status and be cool with the group of boys I befriended (even though they made fun of me for not understanding their “inside jokes”); because, then, I believed that I just didn’t fit in with the girls. Really, I didn’t fit in anywhere. Not at home, not in extracurricular activities, and not at school.
I stood out in ways that made me feel free, rebellious, different, and stylish. The societal restraints, norms, and push factors fell away. I pranced around with ribbons in my hair one day and wore my baggy black Dickies pants with a sort of low cut v-neck blouse I snagged under my sister’s/mom’s nose; as a child, I was scared of being exposed at all. I finally got to defy authority to gain a sense of autonomy and agency (whether that was being taken home at 2 am in handcuffs for trespassing to be with a crush or sneaking in a cellphone because I needed it to be able to tell time). This is a central quality that makes me who I am.
When I attended Roosevelt University, my alma mater, I inched closer to femininity within safe confines that made me appear normal (read: hiding my hairiness as if to keep the lid shut on Pandora’s Box; my tightly held ugly secret). I was still, of course, quirky with my fashion… enough to make my sister beg me to change if we were going to a party. I really, really did not care. I loved being me within the confines I set for myself so that I wouldn’t be ridiculed like I had in the past.
During my last semester at Roosevelt, I submitted a proposal to the Women’s and Gender Studies Department to present art and a story about the taboo of body and facial hair as it relates to cisgender women at the Women’s and Gender Studies Symposium. The outfit I decided to wear was a short black dress with daisies, a pink clip-on flower in my short hair, black tights, and Chucks because heels have never been my jam. As I descended the stairs to waltz out the apartment, my sister’s partner emerged from their room and excitedly stated, “You look like a girl!” That made me so furious because I felt like I was never seen as a girl unless I wore a dress which I had always hated. Here is another of many instances where my warped sense of femininity led me to reject it for myself.
As some of you have read in the past, I became Max when I moved to Michigan and was exposed to this new world where changing my name was possible, where identifying as agender was possible. I didn’t have to be a girl. I didn’t have to be feminine. I didn’t have to be who I ardently proclaimed I wasn’t.
What I was doing was conflating sex, gender identity, and gender expression (the Gender Unicorn model of distinguishes between each of these concepts; do yourself a favor and check it out) resulting in my rejecting femininity. Translation: I was being extremely problematic. I didn’t want the world to expect me to be pretty. I didn’t want people to tell me what my gender is based off of their perception.
Being part of queer and trans communities showed me what I was missing. Radically different ways of understanding and embodying gender (distinguishing between identity and expression; VERY crucial). Still, my own personal challenge was with expressing femininity without people assuming my gender identity, or lack thereof (me wearing lipstick or wearing a dress doesn’t make me a woman, it means I am femme presenting). In the process, I was really showing how deeply entrenched and entangled I was in misogyny.
Though I am agender and have touted myself as someone who is privy to that which encompasses an nuanced understanding of gender, that certainly does not mean I am incapable of acting on that which I admonish and advocate against. Patriarchy and misogyny are still alive and well.
Click here to see the spectrum of gender expression for myself over time!
On October 11, 2018, I finally got diagnosed with hypothyroidism (a condition in which thyroid glands are unable to produce enough T3 and T4 hormones; it runs in my family). Thyroid glands are responsible for regulating metabolic functioning (how the body uses energy) and other vital bodily functions. Being on Levothyroxine (a medication that increases and levels the amount of hormones necessary for my thyroid gland to work properly) sent me on the ride of my life all month long. My moods were all over the place. Literally. I had so little control over myself that I felt completely helpless, unable to begin to understand what was happening to me.
All of my emotions were on overdrive and discombobulating reality for me, so much so that I was struggling to communicate and treat my then partner in healthy and caring ways. She is an extremely passionate, caring, patient, and loving person whom I didn’t fully, if ever, appreciate every single way that she cared for and loved me during one of the most difficult times of my life (aka, this whole year being jobless, depressed, and practically bed-bound). She got embroiled in the chaos of my life out of love for me. Words cannot capture the beautiful soul that she is to this universe. To be clear, the state I was in does not in anyway excuse how I mistreated people who only showed me love. It is something I have to live with and hold myself accountable for.
After two weeks of being in a crisis center, my medication was shifted around. I went from being on Effexor (150 mg) to:
~ Effexor (75 mg) — set to be switched out
~ Ativan (currently off it)
~ Lamictal (150 mg) — set to be increased
~ Seroquel (150 mg) — set to increase
~ Levothyroxine (25 mcg) —
All, likely for the rest of my life.
If I never got diagnosed with hypothyroidism, the doctor at the crisis center would not have been able to unearth the fact that I have Bipolar II Disorder (three of my biological relatives have it). I was put into a guardianship when I was young, thus I didn’t have any knowledge of my family’s medical history until I was there. Otherwise, this my have been detected wayyyy sooner.
One of the things I like to do these days is organize things. Not because I believe things NEED to be organized, but because I find it soothing and it is something I do automatically, pretty much. It’s kind of neat (punny, I know). A few days ago, I got the urge to organize this bin with nail polish and make-up and realized it…I came out of that mental fog and was able to do it…
I feel like I am snapping out of it. The misogyny that lurked within my being that I kept masking by believing that masculine ways of expressing gender made my agender identity valid. I was wronggg. I was not living with integrity and that was/is a BIG problem.
The process of shaking up the nail polish bottles and sifting through various types of make-up tools, made me travel back to
…that time when I wrecked my sister’s elaborate nail polish collection; I thought it was the funnest thing ever then;
…all the times I used nail polish to decorate my Chucks;
…my own collection of nail polish that I loved in the past;
…the collection of make-up I amassed while attending grad school that I stowed away as if I was done with it.
It was fun. It was freeing. It was nice…to stop being damn anti-femme. To stop rejecting femininity because I always thought of it in a very generalized way. So I look like a dang clown when I put on lipstick that doesn’t work with me, so I look odd in dresses and blouses these days…so what? It doesn’t mean that I cannot embody femininity in ways that make me feel happy and good. Femininity is not the enemy. Femmes are not enemies. Patriarchy is. It is NEVER too early to talk about it with children. I was a child when I had misogynistic thoughts.
Here are some photos I took while I explored the bin… or how I got my femme back!
Long story short: Pink is fab. You are valid. Femmes rock and are totally rad. Smash apart all manifestations and iterations of oppression.