I’m not writing about Atlantic Codfish or non-GMO corn. I’m trying to balance my butch identity with my transgender identity; to walk the trans-masculine tightrope. It is about being honest in my relationship, talking in therapy, being open at work, and showering at the gym. It is about the long haul.
It isn’t about labels. It is about asking for, and accepting, support for who I am. I am not good at the getting help thing. Sometimes I feel like I am lost, without GPS, and afraid to ask for directions. I don’t know if I am just around the corner from my destination, or if it is still miles away.
What does it take to live as a non-binary (genderqueer, agender, or neutrois) person? I’ve been visibly queer since childhood, but it wasn’t always intentional. I couldn’t stomach the alternatives. What does it take to do it deliberately and consciously?
Please don’t answer patience and perseverance.
Being in the middle feels more right than the alternatives. I don’t think it is a rest stop on the journey to trans man, but stopping short is socially awkward. A body in motion stays in motion.
No one outside the community has asked me what my preferred pronouns are or used them in my presence. I fill out forms that require me to check off M or F. When I self-correct the form, I am given the lame excuse that the computer will only accept one or the other. There is no box for butch, trans-masculine, or queer. Just F or M, when I need FML (see my notes if you are not familiar with the acronym).
I had to choose whether to go through life defaulting to F or transitioning to M. I’m in default F mode, confusing people without apology. I don’t think I need to change my gender marker or take testosterone, but I can not make compromises that throw me into the vortex of body dysphoria.
There are some things I can compromise on. I can tolerate being seen as female as long as I can express that I am trans-masculine. I can tolerate dealing with a women’s locker room freak out when I forget that I am wearing boxer briefs and a binder. I can tolerate female pronouns even though I prefer the third person singular. I can live with the institutional default to F, even if I would check a different box if it existed.
I found out that I can’t compromise on my name or top surgery (although I did agree to delay surgery until December). I can’t compromise on what I wear (jeans, button downs, flannel shirts, and T-shirts). I can’t pretend that I am just butch; I can’t pretend that I am not transgender.
My plan for the fall is to line up support for top surgery, for staying in the middle, and for being open about it. I want to be in it for the long haul.
Notes: Philippe Petit walked that wire without safety nets and without permission. A summary of his story is here. While I was at NYCT, my co-workers had a chuckle as senior management tried to place the blame on low-level staff for the unintentional sign f-up. Here is CNET’s report, and for a history of FML there is this post at Cracked.