Drew Cordes

Am I a Transgender Queer or a Trans Genderqueer?

Filed By Drew Cordes | November 28, 2012 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gender expression, genderfluid, genderqueer, identity, queer, trans*

More and more, of late, I feel trapped by gender and gender identity. For background: I was born male, and transitioned to female. I lived, passed and identified as a femme trans woman starting in 2008 at 26. I had bottom surgery about a year and a half ago. Thumbnail image for question mark keyboard keyIn the past year, I felt an increasing pull toward reclaiming my masculinity, and as such, I've presented and identified as a more butch/androgynous trans woman. (There, you're caught up.) But now ... none of it feels right. Or at least, aside from seeing myself as trans, none of it seems worthy of any remotely lasting identification -- woman, man, something in between, neither and none of it ...

I feel my inner state shifting almost moment by moment. Two minutes after being in the mood for stockings and heels, I'll instead decide on my pork pie and a half-windsor. I often joke that I'm a trans guy trapped in a trans girl's body. Sometimes it doesn't feel like a joke. Whatever my gender presentation, I seem to feel the absence of the unexpressed foremost. This dysphoria can be a gift. Celebrating and playing with gap between gender performativity and self can be an extremely empowering thing. Other times, though (and this seems to be where I am currently), it can feel rudderless and unstable, its constant shift tantamount to a whitewashing of self.

I've learned enough to let my feelings and tendencies with gender go where they will, without pestering myself too much with the causes and possible effects (that's kind of the only way a gender transgressor survives), but there are some unpleasant internal hurdles I'm encountering.

One is the discouraging feeling of being back where I started. After surgeries, pills, legal notices, pain, a shitload of money and plenty of other challenges too numerous to list, I still experience gender dysphoria. Intellectually, I know I'm not "back where I started." I'm in a much, much better place now. Emotionally, though, that familiar dysphoric nag is dispiriting. It feels like there is no home for me on the spectrum. Like I'm a gender vagabond, subject to temperamental winds.

It's almost akin to the Sisyphus myth -- the toiling journey of gender transition and pushing the boulder higher up the hill, and as soon as the perceived summit of inhabiting the other gender is reached, the stone rolls down the other side as I realize this gender doesn't provide any lasting reflection of my inner self either. So, it must ascend again, over and over, each day, as the most fitting expression continually changes. As I said before, one can choose to celebrate this (Camus argues for exactly that in The Myth of Sisyphus), but lately, for me, I can't ignore that it feels more like a burden than a joy.

The other aspect I'm having trouble coming to terms with is being seen as a man again. Having identified as a trans woman for the majority of the past decade, being addressed as male can really sting. If it's a genuine error and the person is willing to correct it, it was and is no problem. But it is easy for someone to use words like he, him, dude, man and sir in a disrespectful manner for the purpose of hurting me. And it does hurt. In an improper context it really hurts. It's dehumanizing.

This can cause internal conflict if I present androgynous or genderqueer. Part of presenting as such is that some people read me as female and others read me as male. I can't know if the man they're seeing is the man I'm OK being seen as. Are they calling me a man because I'm "some genderbender freak who looks like he started out as a guy then chopped his dick off so it's really just a guy"? Or are they trying their best to empathize, and possibly they see me as a trans man (which happens often), or a gender-nonconforming person presenting masculine and therefore maybe probably most likely prefers "he" and "him?"

I feel increasingly pulled toward identifying as genderqueer. The flux state of my gender expression, as well as the dysphoria I still feel with whatever my current choice is -- that's sort of the all-and-none approach that "genderqueer" signifies. If I identify as genderqueer, though, I still have to make peace with a few things. If I'm read as a guy, or if I feel like identifying as a guy at some point, I have to reassure myself that I am not back where I started and that the accompanying perceptions do not invalidate me as a trans or queer person. It won't be easy. But gender transgression rarely is.


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