When I look at my body, I do not see a female body or a male body. I see my body. In my own little world I am myself. I am Jamieish, boyish, butch, transgender, and quite comfortable.
I have made myself in my own image. I wish more people could see me this way. Strangers, even those who initially “Sir” me, eventually read me as a masculine woman or a butch lesbian. How they see me is their truth, not mine.
Nobody knows what a non-binary person looks like. My face, voice, and body shape contradict my clothes, haircut, and demeanor. I don’t easily pass as either female or male. In a binary game of rock-paper-scissors, the social construct of sex crushes the social construct of gender. I am pigeonholed into female.
When I’m out in public, and I have to choose between the door labeled Men and the door labeled Women, I choose the default, Women. It doesn’t always go well.
How people gender me is an external problem not an internal problem. I don’t need male secondary sex characteristics to feel like myself or to be comfortable in my body, although I wouldn’t mind a lower voice and a little redistribution of body fat. I don’t fully understand my reluctance to take testosterone, but I keep butting up against it and it is real.
Despite feeling increasingly comfortable in my own body, there are still three situations that make me want to throw a tantrum: being called Ma’am, being challenged or stared at in the women’s bathroom, and filling out forms that make me choose between male and female. To me, these are not good reasons to go on testosterone or to change my gender marker. They are reasons to challenge the social construct. I’ve got plans.
I’m an informal person. I’m trans. There are no spoken honorifics that fit me. I am getting the same cup of coffee whether the person taking my order calls me Sir, Ma’am, or gapes at me unable to speak. Better to ask “What will it be?” and leave gender out of it. I am trying to figure out how to object to being gendered by strangers. I hope I do better than I’ve done explaining pronouns.
I read signs and I know where I am going. It is up to me to decide which facility is appropriate for me to use. As we used to say “I’m here, I’m queer, get used to it.” If a woman is uncomfortable with transgender and gender non-conforming people using the bathroom, let the burden be on her to find a gender-neutral single stall family bathroom. She won’t have to worry about anyone else being in her space. I’m not sure how to express this nicely.
I’m going to revise forms that only have M and F boxes and add a third box for N/A. For years I marked up forms that only had Married and SIngle boxes (I added a box for Living in Sin). For on-line forms, I will either leave Sex/Gender blank or select M, depending upon what the computer accepts. Not because I prefer M to F, but because it is a rare opportunity to choose a default other than female. No one is going to give the form back to me and tell me condescendingly that I made a mistake.
Notes: The picture of the boy and his dog was not hard to read in 1890, when young boys were frequently put in dresses. Social constructs change. In reading about non-binary bodies in binary spaces I came across Eli Clare’s 2007 speech Body Shame, Body Pride: Lessons from the Disability Rights Movement. It helped me think about the difference between changing my body and changing how strangers view my body. I’ll see how I do with challenging the status quo.