Disclaimer: This post reflects my experiences and interpretation of gender. Yours, or people you know, may differ. It’s a social construct, so they’re allowed to differ.
Gender’s a pretty difficult concept for to grasp but there are some bits that aren’t too hard: misgendering someone is bad, there aren’t just two genders (because even if you claim gender and sex are inexorable then intersex people exist), gender is both how you are and how you interact with society and unfortunately society pushes girls into pink and transparent shirts and thin cardigans and boys get cheap chunky jumpers.
The idea that gender and sex are different things is a bit harder to grasp (sorry, Wikipedia, but you’re not correct this time) but I’m going to talk you through how I got there. It’s a bit choppy.
Basically, your gender identity is how you feel about your gender – a lot of people (that’s you, cis people) don’t ever click that their gender identity is right in line with what they were assigned at birth because it never makes them unhappy.
When I was a kid, I had short hair and hung out with the boys and had no pierced ears. I used to get told by my classmates that I wasn’t a girl, that I couldn’t be a girl because I didn’t fit in with what girls were. I got called “it” and “shim”. When I told a teacher in Year 7, I was told to rise above it and be happy with who I was. Because that’s how we solve bullying.
I spent a long time being angry about the fact that I was a girl. I spent a long time being bad at being a girl. I spent a long time having lots of internalized misogyny. But that’s why we grow up, right?
A lot of my problem was linked to the fact that I felt that because I was assigned female at birth, I have to be a certain way. Acting feminine isn’t the problem, the problem was that I felt that I needed some kind of inherent female-ness that I just… don’t have, a lot of the time. I used to joke about being 40% boy because the possibility of not being female was such a huge deal to me.
Occasionally such a huge deal to me. Some days it was pretty okay feeling completely constrained by the gender I was assigned at birth due to my anatomy. Some days it upset me so much all I could really do was lie in bed and imagine another life.
Separating gender from sex was one of the most important things I ever did. As soon as the concept that some kind of inherent femaleness was tied to my anatomy was destroyed then I didn’t feel like I had to exist a certain way, then gender was my own to play with.
This isn’t even about being treated by people or fitting in society differently. It was about how I relate to myself. I stopped feeling guilty whenever I referred to myself with male or neutral words. I stopped feeling that I had to push my thoughts into a box and that was like a weight had lifted.
For me, gender is incredibly personal. I present as female, I don’t give a shit what pronouns people use to refer to me and I totally understand that everyone is going to treat me and interact with me like I’m a girl. I’ve thought about this. I make a really cute girl. This is okay.
My identification as genderqueer is completely just that – the way I feel most comfortable interacting with myself. These days, I feel much more comfortable in my own skin, and a lot of that is feeling allowed to step out of the gender narrative that existed throughout a lot of my life.
It’s important to note here that what is true for me is not true for anyone else, and other people that identify as genderqueer might be fussier about pronouns.