I originally posted this on my private Twitter, but I’ve decided to write it here also.
I’ve been talking about this for a while with several of my friends, and thinking about it just to myself for even longer. I’m active in the Rust community so it should come as no surprise that I have an above-baseline number of trans or otherwise gender-non-conforming friends, and we talk about gender a lot.
First of all, I’m not trans. I get asked if I think I might be a fair bit (I stand by the above sidebar! Don’t get weird about this) and I’ve given it a lot of thought and no, I’m not.
I didn’t begin my puberty until I was about sixteen. I was 5’3” in tenth grade; I had a strong falsetto voice and the highest pitch in the whole choir. A year later, I was 5’11”; six months after that I was 6’1”. My brother, by contrast, hit his growth spurt at thirteen; I didn’t match his height until I was in university.
I bring this up because the long delay on beginning that process meant that I took a long time to mentally adjust to its reality. I never felt that my body was wrong for me; I just took a long time to fully “get moved in”; to feel at home in it rather than merely like I was staying in it. If you’ve moved a lot, or spent a lot of time in hotels, you’ll know what I’m getting at.
I’m male. That’s not in dispute. But while I’ve settled into my own physiological reality, the discomfort and alienation I’ve felt about being masculine for the last two decades has remained steady; if anything, it’s intensified as I’ve grown more socially aware and adept.
I’ve never wanted to be “like other boys”. A lot of my friends are women who have experienced battery or sexual assault at the hands of other boys. I flatly refuse to behave like that, or to allow my character to approach it. I’ve taken steps to ensure internally that this is the case, and over the last three years, I’ve experimented with ways to display that externally to casual observers who haven’t spent much time knowing me as a person.
I stopped cutting my hair. Admittedly, this began out of frequent travel leaving me unable to have the time to do it; then I was depressed and didn’t care to find a hairdresser; then it was a pandemic. And now I find myself with hair past my shoulders, when I’ve only had a short crop or a small cloud before, and I like it. And strangers have been nicer to me because of it.
I started painting my nails. This is about 50-50 on actually trying to signal harmlessness and trying to break my chewing habit. I don’t know if it’s accomplishing either, but it’s something to do. And besides, I like being able to see the rate of growth at the back and environmental damage at the front, as the paint slowly whittles away at both ends.
I don’t do either of these things because I “feel like I’m a woman”. Doing them doesn’t make me feel girly or transgressive.
But I have, consistently, for a long time, put a lot of active effort into establishing my character as refusing to play the masculinity I feel is culturally expected of me, and choosing a concept of “being a man” with which I can feel happy and those around me can feel safe. And I generally like what I’ve found, which strays just far enough to be interesting but not far enough to be threatening in its unfamiliarity.
I’m unquestionably a man, but I’m not “a guy”, if that makes sense. So I’m keeping masculine pronouns, because they match my physiology and my general allegiance and self-conception.
But I’m willing to accept neutral pronouns as well; I don’t think I’m non-binary or ungendered, but I’m happy to push the edges of the bimodal system and stand among people who choose to be outside the usual gender archetypes.