I often see such wildly different opinions of gender online and while there are many supporters, I see the less clear gender identities and their subcategories get a lot more frustration thrown their way. The easiest genders to define are the Binary Man and Woman, which includes Cisgender and Transgender individuals. These are easy to point to and say: “Yea, that makes sense to me”, thus making them the most widely accepted and understood. Their roles are more defined and concrete in our society (specifically United States society in this case). However, there’s a whole slew of different Non-Binary identities, making the term a lot more broad as a whole. A Non-Binary individual can feel like they are both, neither, or somewhere in between Man and Woman.
I firmly fit more near the center of the scale with a lean toward Woman more than Man. That’s a simple way of describing it, but I personally identify as Gender Fluid, which means my identity changes from time-to-time and while that may sound like a living hell to some, it’s honestly quite lovely, even if sometimes frustrating.
On the scale, I generally sit somewhere in the “neither” category, not really feeling like anything at all. I can describe this as feeling like a grey blob floating in some weird gender space. I don’t have any real strong preference for femininity or masculinity in this state and will generally just wear something neutral. When I do lean one way or another, it’s more often feminine, in which I’m comfortable being called She/Her and it feels natural to wear clothes that show off more curvature and cleavage. (women’s fashion is a lot of fun and having breasts has honestly made finding outfits a lot more fun to me) I also get some unfortunate sides to this as well, where I feel the more crippling body-image expectations society puts on women. Being overweight, finding cute clothes that fit is an often frustrating task, even if I find the styles themselves to be much more fulfilling than men’s fashion. On the other hand, I do occasionally drift into masculine territory, which as a person who has identified as a Trans Woman for a long time, up until the past couple years, is quite strange. That being said, I wouldn’t say I fit into “man” as a gender, but I rather use “boy” instead, as it feels more correct to me. Not because I feel childlike or anything like that, but rather that “man” is far more rugged and the image isn’t something I identify with. As ironic as it is, when I’m most comfortable being referred to with He/Him, I noticed I can be more feminine than my most “woman” moments. I’m sure that sounds funny or outright confusing, but that’s what my gender is like for me.
Now, to start I’m sure there are plenty of Cis folk out there who don’t really understand feeling like a specific gender, as they’ve always been comfortable in theirs. This is a bit hard to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it first hand, but allow me to do my best. As someone who has been on HRT (Male to Female) for 4 years now, I have very obvious breasts. On days I feel like a woman, they’re euphoric and comforting to see and feel. They remind me of my progress and I can only describe them as feeling “right”, like this is always how I should have been. When I feel more nothing, I’m much more neutral to them. They’re there and I accept them as a part of me, but they don’t give me the same warmth and euphoria I’ve had as a woman. During the times I feel like a boy, they can actively make me uncomfortable, like they’re in the way. Even then, I wouldn’t wish them gone entirely, but I will wear a sports bra that confines them more and have even thought to bind to reach maximum comfort. At no time have I ever regretted going on Estrogen and wouldn’t change that for the world, but it does complicate things being Gender Fluid. This is only one part of me I’ve attempted to use as an example, but it’s one of the best I have to give, so I hope it helps to understand how my gender shifts.
Another question you may have is how I can feel more feminine when I identify as a boy, and I think that’s a valid question. My best answer would be to point toward non-conforming Cis folk as an example here: Butch lesbian fashion and men wearing pastels and skirts. However, this can go for anyone who doesn’t present themselves in the stereotypical way society expects their Assigned Gender At Birth (AGAB) to. My gender identity and how I choose to present them at any given time can be treated much the same. While I feel like a woman, I wear a mix of flannel button up shirts, blouses, and the occasional dress. I don’t wear makeup much, but I do wear eyeliner and lip gloss from time-to-time. As a boy, I can feel that desire for makeup even stronger, which is an experience I wish I would have had when I still had a more masculine body, but it’s still fun now. Gender identity and gender expression are two different things and should not be lumped in together. A trans woman doesn’t need to wear frilly dresses and makeup to be a woman, just as a cis woman wouldn’t have to.
The last thing I’d like to cover here is the argument that being transgender is a mental illness. While gender identity is felt in the mind, it isn’t the same as something like Autism. While it’s distressing to feel Gender Dysphoria, it doesn’t effect the mind in the same way. For a long time, the US did categorize it as a mental illness, calling it Gender Identity Disorder. However, that terminology hasn’t been used since 2013, in which it was changed to a health issue, instead of a mental disorder. In some ways, I’d say categorizing it as a mental illness helped trans folk get the help they needed without too much pushback. Even so, the idea that being trans is a mental illness isn’t helpful in the discussions we have about it now, because it opens up the idea that it should be taken care of in a way that erases it, rather than embracing it.
To conclude this article, I want to say I’m not here to persuade those who don’t see me as a person deserving of rights. They simply don’t want me to exist as I do and as such, they’re not someone I’m going to sway with some anecdotal experiences. This is for those of you who find non-binary identities to be confusing, but are willing to learn. We’re here, we’re queer, and you should get used to seeing more of us, because we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.