I want to talk to the gender questioning folks out there. Questioning your identity can feel like you’re slowly unravelling. But it can also feel like you’re finally putting the pieces of a puzzle together.
You don’t need to know that truth all at once. And you don’t owe that truth to anyone but yourself. You don’t need to make a decision and feel trapped by it. You don’t need to appear consistent to the people around you. Consistency is how other people control you. The world wants us to be stable. Fixed. To live within the box that we were put in at birth.
M or F.
By considering that you might be trans, you’ve already opened the lid of that box. But it’s okay to not know if you want to climb out of it. You can look over the edge. It’s okay to not know if you might be more comfortable in a different box, or perhaps nesting multiple boxes together, or living outside of boxes entirely, or building yourself a goddamn box palace! It’s okay to not yet know where you will be happiest. There isn’t a “right way” or a “wrong way” to explore being trans. The rules say you should know with 100% certainty that you are a girl, or a boy. But if you’re questioning, then you’ve already broken those rules. They don’t apply to you.
When I started my transition, I wasn’t 100% sure I was trans. I wasn’t 100% sure I was a woman. But I was 100% certain that I’d been UNCERTAIN about being a boy and a man for my entire life.
More than uncertain.
I was unhappy, disconnected, and struggling with the crushing sadness of being treated like a man, knowing that there couldn’t possibly be a way out of it. The transphobia I’d inhaled from the media had taught me that transitioning wasn’t “good enough” for me, and I believed it
So my transition looked like baby steps. Testing the waters.
(I write this now, knowing that I can look back at a lifetime of evidence of my transness, but even that impulse is a trap, because you DON’T NEED a lifetime of evidence to be valid in your gender.)
First it was the hair. Classic nonbinary undercut, with a flop of dyed hair on top.
Then it was removing all the other hair.
Then it was skirts.
Next it was exploring new pronouns.
Somewhere in there my name stopped fitting and a new name felt right.
I swore the beard would stay.
My label for myself changed too.
First I was a crossdresser (this was like, back in 1997 y’all)
Then I was genderqueer
Then a nonbinary trans feminine person
Then a nonbinary trans woman
Then a trans woman.
The point is: at the end of the day, it wasn’t my dysphoria that convinced me that transitioning was the right choice for me.
It was my euphoria.
It was that sense of being more myself when I tried on a dress.
The sense of being more myself when I shaved my legs.
The sense of being more myself when I heard someone call me “she” for the first time.
The lightning through me the first time my mother called me “Tess”.
The inner peace that estrogen brought me.
When something didn’t make me euphoric I would stop doing it. There were plenty of possible gender expressions to explore: no need to keep the bad ones around. I kept exploring until I found the next thing that made me feel like me. Like I could stop pretending.I spent 40 years trying to talk myself out of being a girl, but in the end it wasn’t something I could rationalize my way out of. I’m a girl. I didn’t decide that, I just decided to stop pretending I wasn’t.
I think that your gender isn’t something you can reason with. You can’t argue with your gender. Sometimes it’s hidden deeply under a lot of external expectations and ideas about who and what you should be.
You peel that away by exploring. Questioning.
And so, questioning people. People who don’t know if they’re trans, or just like things that they’re told are for the “other” gender. You are perfect. You are wonderful. Your journey is an act of resistance against bonds that most people never even see. Even if, when all is said and done, you find yourself most comfortable and happy inside the box you were assigned at birth. By opening up your box and looking outside, you’ve gotten closer to a deep truth about people. You should know that, even by questioning your gender…seriously questioning it as more than a passing fancy…that you are doing something RADICAL. You are choosing to set aside a lifetime of expectations, and instead consider a truth that is yours and yours alone to know.