For some time now, I’ve been “laying low” in regards to the flux and change of my gender identity and desire for greater expression. Although I alerted friends and chosen family of my movement away from a masculine identity after deciding to stop taking hormones, I chose not to make any rash or major changes which might have alluded to the tumultuous waves below the surface.
Whether we wish to view gender as performative, a social construct, or something else entirely, the fact is: our gender is visible. By its very nature, a person’s gender is almost always on display. Thus, like it or not, our gender rarely private. Unlike our sexual attractions and orientation, erotic predilections, or values which cannot be seen on the surface, people make assumptions every day about who we are based on our gender. And yet, our core gender identity may be different from the external expression — or perhaps only a small part of what is brewing under the surface. At least, that is how gender is for me.
Growing up, I never really felt like a boy or a girl. I climbed trees (and usually got stuck in them), played “house”, “doctor”, and “dress up”, played with cars and Barbie, watched He-Man and She-Ra, and spent many hours playing “pretend” in forts that friends and I made. I enjoyed dressing up, but I was never a “girlie girl”. I agonized over not being a “tom boy” and yet not wanting to be like all the other girls who seemed obsessed with the latest fashion and beauty.
To be honest, I didn’t really understand the difference between “boys” and “girls”. I didn’t understand why dad stood to pee but mom and I didn’t — and trust me, I tried! Later, I wondered what it would be like to have a penis. I had “penis envy” — but it was because secretly I wanted to be “both.” After learning about hermaphrodites (now called “intersex”) in high school biology, I fantasized about what it would be like to have both a vagina AND a penis. Wow, I thought… wouldn’t that be AMAZING?
In my 20’s, I decided to try being a “girlie girl”; I spent hundreds of dollars on hair and beauty products, expensive makeup, and designer fashion… and yet, it didn’t feel “right.” When I discovered sex-positive communities through Dark Odyssey and OneTasteNY, I found more expressions of gender than I ever imagined. Despite years of exploring and studying gender and sexuality, I hadn’t realized that female-bodied persons could be transgender too. Suddenly, amazing people like Lee Harrington, Ignacio Rivera, and Sel Hwang joined my favorite gender outlaw, Kate Bornstein as inspirations and thought-provokers.
Fueled by these amazing individuals (and many others), I courageously began to experiment with gender and permit myself to explore different expressions and identities. After identifying as bigender and genderqueer for almost two years, I chose to medically transition [to male] in March 2011. Tired of being “in the middle” and/or undefined, I believed a masculine presentation was a better fit than straddling both, neither, and most certainly being “female”.
Once I started hormones, my body and mind changed. At first, it felt good — I felt strong, confident, and alive. But, it was short-lived. More so than before, I began to struggle with even greater levels of gender and body dysphoria. Suddenly, there became a perceived need for surgeries where there hadn’t been before. The longer I was on testosterone, the less satisfied I was with my body. I became more and more confused; I was becoming rigid and losing the fluidity I had always enjoyed. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I could be “myself” any more. I felt trapped, confused, and lonely. Even so, I stayed on hormones because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
After struggling with the decision of whether or not to have a family, I decided last summer that I truly want to have children. Upon making that decision, my partner and I began to discuss what that would look like and how we would make that happen — including the need for me to discontinue hormones so that I could return to fertility. Once I stopped the testosterone, I started to notice a change in the way I felt about my body and gender; however, the real changes happened once my primary care provider and I chose to start me on medication to correct my menstrual irregularity. Although I had been diagnosed with PCOS prior to starting hormones, I had chosen not to take it because it would lower the excessive androgens (testosterone) in my body — the very opposite of what I wanted to do at that time. With the rising level of estrogen and decreasing level of testosterone in my body, my mind began to shift and the dysphoria has subsided. Now, I wonder if my dysphoria was induced by hormonal imbalance, or if I was “born this way”. I can’t help but question whether I would have transitioned if my hormones were in check.
Testosterone makes permanent changes, so I can’t say I don’t have dysphoria at all — but it certainly has lessened. I can look at my body, even wear women’s clothes, and appreciate my shape. Now, I worry about whether lovers will be disgusted by the hair on my chin, chest, and torso, the abnormal appearance of my genitals, and the deepness of my voice — especially the ridiculous squeak I made when my voice breaks if I get too excited when I talk.
But why keep all of this private, you ask? I didn’t want to raise false alarms and cry “wolf” with my gender, as it were. I didn’t want to — yet again — change my expression/name/preferred pronouns and cause a commotion among my circle of friends and family. Although I repeatedly tell myself that I do not have to justify or apologize for my fluctuating gender identity or pronouns, it is hard not to feel responsible or ashamed. Watching people I care about get flustered at their inability to keep up — or worse yet, their inability to understand the fluidity with which I experience gender — brings me sorrow. Occasionally, however, it inspires anger, disappointment, resentment, and/or frustration.
Nicole Daedone of OneTaste hit it on the head when she declared that all people want five things: to see and be seen, to love and be loved, and to know our purpose. Some of my dearest friends have come to see me as the amorphous being that I am — ever changing and evolving. Somehow, they are able to recognize me for all that I am — a third-gender, agender, bigender, genderqueer, genderfluid, genderf**ked person who is now called “Aiden”… but, who didn’t always go by that name. I am grateful for the friends and family who accept that I’m “Aiden” — in all of my many facets — and merely ask for the latest update so that they can roll with the punches. To some, like my dearest of friends Jimmy, Karoline, and Theo, it doesn’t matter what the packaging looks like because inside, the Aiden they know and love doesn’t change. To me, THAT is true love. <3
But, I know who I am… and I am giving myself the freedom to express myself however I choose. Today, I choose to flux between feminine and androgynous expression. Tomorrow, I may shift again. But, for now, I’m happy to be embracing this new me. My clothes don’t define me — they simply suit my frame best. My gender identity isn’t what you see on the outside. My gender is on the inside. I’m still trans* — my gender is “Aiden”.
To honor my fluidity, I ask that you use gender neutral pronouns, i.e. they/them/theirs. Although I’m hardly the gender police, keeping this in mind is a sign of respect and kindness. Thank you.In Ecstatic Solidarity,