The shape of my gender
NOTE: This is a transgender-related entry. If you are confused by any of the terms used here, check out Ronen’s Trans Glossary.
ALSO NOTE: This article contains discussion of physical dysphoria.
In high school I studied the way boys moved and sat, particularly the way they crossed their legs with one ankle on top of the opposite knee. I enjoyed the shape of it, the geometric strength and openness of it, particularly when contrasted with the prim silhouette made by sitting the “girly” way. I trained myself to walk with a smooth step rather than a bounce. I wore loose pants and open button-ups over t-shirts. I wore bras and shaved my armpits and legs because That’s What Girls Did, but the only reason I ever practiced applying eyeliner was for the school plays.
I did not think of myself as transgender then. “Transgender” was the glossed-over tag at the end of GLBT; sexuality was a far hotter topic than gender identity even at my relatively liberal school. My vague definition of the word, at the time, mostly consisted of “drag queens.”
Family members, in the form of holiday and birthday cards, told me I was growing into a young woman. I would read those words and sense a wrongness, but when I asked myself whether I wanted to be a man instead, the answer was “Not really,” and I considered that the end of it.
Alone in my room at college, I dressed up like Yue Katou from the manga Angel Sanctuary, with a chin-length platinum wig and goggles and a sports bra under my shirt to flatten my breasts. I felt exhilarated, and a hundred times sexier than any of the times I had worn a flouncy dress. I took photos of myself and admired the way I looked. I did not wear it outside. I still only thought of it as a costume. I wore dresses and skirts for the sake of my boyfriend until the day I realized that was the only reason I was doing it with that amount of frequency. In my junior year I was cast in a male role and offered to cut my hair. The director told me not to, as though it would have been a sacrifice on my part. I didn’t know how to tell her I was really looking for an excuse.
I was fresh out of college when, by chance, I bought a book and discovered the word “genderqueer.” I began learning a language that was entirely new but explained everything. I began meeting other queers. I met a trans woman who said that she had thought about performing drag, but had realized before she ever got onstage that she would rather live full-time as a woman. I was, at the time, thinking about becoming a drag king. I wondered if the same thing could happen to me.
It didn’t. My process was and always has been slower than that, and less aligned with the gender binary. I performed drag a few times. I reveled in practicing masculine gestures, but also in turning them on their head. I experimented with genderfuck drag, with performing in a lacy shirt and short-shorts with a binder underneath the shirt and a pair of socks stuffed in the shorts.
I started wearing shirts and ties to formal events. I started going by a different name (there were a few before I settled on Ronen). I experimented with pronouns on a daily basis. I began letting back in the feminine details I had been rejecting. I painted my nails and wore skirts when I felt like it. I dyed my hair outrageous colors. I discovered that I loved fashion, that I only thought I hadn’t because I didn’t like the fashion being targeted at me.
I don’t try as much these days. What once was a conscious effort has become second nature. A friend who hasn’t seen me in person for a couple of years exclaims, “You’ve changed the way you walk!” I hadn’t considered that the difference would be so marked.
I look at my body and think the difference between my waist and hips is surprisingly drastic, that my thighs could be a little less curvy, but I have rarely been too painfully bothered by physical dysphoria. It helps that with the right pair of pants and sometimes no more than a sports bra under my shirt, people will call me “sir,” that the curves can be coaxed into the appearance of lines. Still, I think about taking hormones, and mixed in with the potential fear of the unknown is a whisper of that thrill I felt when I was playing dress-up in my room.
Every choice I make is another refinement, another discovery of the person I am becoming and have wanted to become since childhood. Like Michelangelo I see the angel in the marble, and I am setting him – or hir – free.