I wish I could, but I can’t.
For those of you who say “just look in your pants!” it’s not that easy, I promise you. If it were, I’d have figured this thing out long ago. Part of my confusion comes from limited opportunities to express myself. Even as I write I’m praying to every known God that no one I know personally reads this. I don’t feel comfortable having them see into my mind. There must be at least some degree of separation; I’m much bolder online than I am in person. I feel like a different person offline because the people I know now have known me long enough (at least 10 months on the low end) to have formed the idea of “me.” Changing myself dramatically now means explaining myself and risking being called a poseur or a trend follower. They have already imposed their own labels upon me, so I can’t pack or bind (though I’m not very interested in binding) or wear facial hair. I can dress like a guy, but that would prompt uncomfortable questions. Perhaps I can try these alternative expressions later in life, after I’ve already completed this current chapter.
While I cannot definitively say “man” or “woman” or agender, I can lay down the facts as they relate to my past and my curiosity. When I was very young, around kindergarten age, I saw male genetalia in person for the first time. It was just harmless play and experimentation between the neighbor kid and I. Before that I was well aware of the difference between males and females. I was born in England and lived there for a few years before coming to the States. There, body shaming wasn’t as common as it is here, so I saw a lot. Anyway, the same year I went through an all dresses phase where I wore nothing but dresses, regardless of the weather. I even wore a velvet dress in the searing 100+degree New Mexico heat. I also pretended to be a mother a lot during this phase. At the time “boy” and “girl” were simple labels my classmates and I gave to each other based on our appearances.
Fast forward a bit to when I hit puberty. I was still very young. Throughout that first year I had to battle the pain of growth spurts and new breasts. By the end of fourth grade I was one of two girls who had to wear a bra. That year was perhaps the most interesting year in my gender development. While I was learning how to wear a bra, I discovered my clitoris and boy did I have fun. Still, I was aware something was missing. I shaped phalluses out of play-doh and silly putty; I used mini billiard balls to stimulate scrotum. When I was still young I could walk around the house like that and my parents would dismiss it as harmless child’s play. As I got older, it became unacceptable. Fortunately (and unfortunately) for me, I’d discovered androgyny in a girl at school. I didn’t understand it yet, but I was exposed to it. Around the same time I realized that female bodies can be powerful. I learned to use my body attention.
Throughout middle and high school I ignored gender, favouring sexuality. In my ares, it was no big deal- fashionable even- to claim to be bisexual or polyamourous. I could safely explore. And while I have had many a crush on girls, I always dated cisgender guys. Up until college I’d only kissed one girl and that was in a 7th grade game of truth or dare. I never explored gender because things were cut-and-dry. I had boobds and everyone referred to me as “she” so I was female. I used female restrooms, dressed in female clothes, and at one point claimed “I could never be butch lesbian because I like wearing dresses and lipstick too much.”
Now things have changed again, potentially because I was exposed to labels. The introduction of labels reintroduced feelings I had as a child. I like my chest somedays and others I want nothing to do with it. Same with my VJ. I’ve naturally gravitated towards less makeup and a more stereotypically “male” appearance (when I go to the gym, I reference men as my ideal body type, especially when it comes to arms). At the same time, I still love wearing the occasional dress. I don’t feel entirely uncomfortable with the “female” label I’ve been branded with, but I do wish to expand it so for now my gender is some mix of man and woman that simply has no name.