Gender is such a strange, complex, beautiful thing when you open yourself to the possibilities.

It’s funny. I’m pretty sure I’m not a woman. Being called a woman usually makes me stop and think, “No?” But I prefer being perceived as female and like she/her pronouns.

I feel gender euphoria at some expressions of femininity. It’s like I want to be Team Woman, even though I know that internally, it’s Not Quite Right. It’s something I like to wear externally, but internally, I’m something else.

There are times I feel qualities, sensations, parts of myself that I identify as distinctively masculine. And I love them too. I feel like being feminine is skillful camouflage for all the masculine or non-gendered parts of me inside.

I like that I can have this ambiguous internal concept of gender, but feel like I make the conscious decision to present as Woman. When I am identified as Team Woman, I feel satisfaction, like a role well-performed.

Gender is something wholly inside of me. It’s mine.

Strangely, I feel most masculine around men. I usually forget I’m Performing Femme and will slip easily into a more masculine mindset. I talk to men like I am a straight man. On the inside, it is what I feel. And I’m jarred then to be perceived as Woman.

I’ve always easily slotted myself into jobs, hobbies, and habits that are regarded by my culture as masculine. I’m attracted to them. I expect men to treat me like other men. I feel dysphoria most distinctly when I’m made aware that I Am Not Seen Like That.

I spent a while as a teenager wondering, “Am I a trans man?” I was immersed in a mostly male friend group. We did TTRPGs and belched out the stink of Bawls. I cut my hair so short I was often mistaken for a boy by strangers. But that felt dysphoric too.

I feel most firmly myself, as though I have found my kindred, among men who are femme (cis or trans, but presenting femme). I also relate strongly to trans women. Something about them feels Right to me, comfortable, although I am neither.

I used to joke to myself, privately, “I’m pretty sure I’m a femme gay guy.” And in some way, that resonates with me still. But it’s also not right. Nothing is really Quite Right.

It turns out it doesn’t have to be. I don’t really need a label.

My gender is mine, lovely and unique to me, like my fingerprint.

The pronouns folks use are the ones that should make them feel right, comfortable. But I am not excessively concerned about those, personally. I am seen as She and I’m fine with She.

It took me a long time to refine an external presentation of a feminine style that felt comfortable. I’m happier with how I am now than ever. I am often androgynous and I like that too.

Gender fluid, maybe? Nonbinary? I dunno. I am Just Sara. I like it that way.

If I didn’t know that it was an option – if I weren’t closely related to trans people, embraced in my queer community – I would be much more uncomfortable, slotted as Woman by expectations. But I do know I have options. I get to explore the depths of myself, with myself.

I wish that everyone had the freedom to do this internal journey – which hasn’t ended, honestly. Some days I’m like “fuck it, yeah, I’m a woman, whatever.” But many days I find my internal gender an indescribable wonderland, with new corners discovered all the time.

Even now, writing it out, it feels like a largely meaningless distinction. It is effectively meaningless to the external world. I like that too. I don’t gotta be able to explain it to know what’s going on inside.

This is just for me. It’s lovely.

SM Reine is a New York Times Bestselling author of mythpunk urban fantasy romance novels. She is addicted to video games, especially Crusader Kings II, and has too many loud-mouth opinions about movies. She lives in Nevada with a small army of furry monsters.