ones and zeroes

i always resist the term genderqueer. on the outside it is such an effective catchall – not one, not the other, a little bit of both. my discomfort is that it erases all sense of where you came from – which i’m sure is fine for some people, but to me it feels like whitewashing my history. like i’m forcing people who meet me to make assumptions. being gender nonconforming is about doing you for sure, but giving others free reign to make uncomfortable assumptions about me and walk on eggshells for fear of offending me is definitely not doing me.

and a little bit of that is overcoming my own prejudice against myself. i don’t have to tell you there’s a lot in society that says that men are strong heroes and women are weak damsels. the broadest generalization one can make about trans people is that their birth gender does not tell the whole story. i don’t assert to know what it’s like for the female assigned assuming a genderqueer identity, but for me it’s really easy to conflate those two things – “male isn’t the whole story” and “i want to be weak and defenseless.” i can take an honest look at myself and say i hit the demographic powerball – white, suburban, upper middle class, straightish, male, tall. adding ‘genderqueer’ to that list always feels like saying “i also have unspecified qualities that detract from that” rather than focusing on the merits of said qualities. it’s the difference between effeminate and feminine. it’s the reason the first time i watched a women’s roller derby bout i was so affected. it was tangible proof that feminine was not effeminate.

am i male? yeah. i’ve had nearly three decades of male socialization, xy chromosomes, parts, roles. am I female? yeah. because i fucking said so. i have a female brain (if there is such a thing) in a male body in a patriarchal society that has conditioned me so. i have lady friends and lady interests and lady thoughts which i think are perfectly fine for me to have even inside a male body. transgender? that describes me. ‘trans’ means across, and i definitely exist across genders. am i transfeminine? that’s my velocity. it says i’m moving (trans) and where i’m going (feminine) and implicitly says where i’m coming from.

all the things that make me male – my biology, my experiences, my lifetime of conditioning – cannot be discounted. i could seek to erase them, and i one day might. but right now, they exist, and trying to purge my history from my mortal vessel would not make me any more female. i am female. i don’t “identify” as such. i just am.

this seems really basic to me. my brain is just a part of my body, so i fit into both boxes. but the world is conditioned to the gender binary, and i get the impression that some people think that now that i’m a girl, i can’t be a boy. wrong! i’m the same gender as i was yesterday, and the day before that. i’m just me, and i fit into each box equally well.

i’m a chicago bruise brother right now, and nothing about me has changed to disqualify me. however, following my tryout on tuesday, i am also a windy city roller. props to their progressive gender policy, of course, but i’m not doing this because i can or because of how i identify. i’m doing this because i am a lady, and because i want to.


picture coming out. the traditional setting. walking up to your parents and saying “mom, dad, i’m gay.” and whatever ensues, whether it’s “no son of mine” or “no matter what.”

now imagine you have to do it for months continuously in front of everyone in your entire life all at the same time and spend tens of thousands of dollars to do it. and the longer it goes on, the harder it is to hide.

transition is a scary word, innit?

the end result is seductive, of course. finally getting to feel good about my own body, hot damn. scratching a long lingering itch. take some drugs, get cut open in thailand, voila. it’s all legitimate and real and tangible and hearts and unicorns. it’s not real until the almighty gatekeeper tells you it is.

at the risk of sounding corny, i much prefer the term journey to transition. transition has so much baggage, such a strong narrative that it’s become toxic. maybe you sound like a space cadet when you call it a journey, but it’s more inclusive, more personal, and you don’t have to do anything that you’re “supposed” to.

my journey involved years of denial, on and off cross dressing, crying at a roller derby bout, dating a lady who saw me as a girl first, contemplating names, performing fiona apple and tlc at karaoke en femme, wearing skirts and getting an undercut, counseling others, writing policy, getting interviewed, talking about pronouns, consulting and blogging. lots of steps towards womanhood and i’m on the cusp of something even greater that excites me to no end. is that a transition? transition implies i know where i’m headed, but journey says i’m free to discover and experiment and find my own path to gender enlightenment.

when i do something to legitimize my gender identity that makes me so excited i can barely hold it in, it’s as important and meaningful a change as any, but it’s not a transition. it’s a journey. transition says you were one thing and now you’re another thing. but i’m just me, and i’m doing so many things to make my journey worthwhile. maybe i will be the other thing someday. but my whole life has been one gradual transition towards that thing, and i’m gonna keep transitioning until i die.

i am already 27 years into my transition. that’s a lot less scary.