You know, I always had a really weird relationship with gender. I am assigned female at birth; this matches my self-image (mostly) and how I present to the world (nowadays), but the lattermost thing was…not always the case.
My mom is a progressive hippie who likes repairing things and grew up adjacent to ranching, so even though she was like, Princess Diana-beautiful in the 80s/early 90s, and *hella* fashionable, she did not enforce any gender roles on her kids. She let us do whatever. We got Barbies and Hot Wheels in equal measure. In a family without social life, I was basically raised agender. (I consider this to be a gift.)
Self-awareness did not spontaneously develop. For a couple years as a teenager, I was persistently identified as a boy by others because I cut my hair short and wore t-shirts/jeans. Everyone actually thought I looked like Harry Potter. I vividly recall one old man stopping me in a supermarket to call me Harry Potter. I “felt” I was a girl, more like Kaylee on Firefly, and I HATED THIS PERCEPTION.
But then I also spent a long time wondering like, could I be a guy? There are people like me who are guys. Everyone keeps telling me I’m a guy. (I was not sporty enough to ever be called a tomboy.) It would also explain why all these straight boys at school did *not* want anything to do with me. Maybe I was a gay guy barking up the wrong trees? I sat with this idea for a long long time but it just didn’t fit.
My interests are/were more masculine, too. I was consistently the only girl in classes about computers and construction technology and GIS when GIS was new. Boys were *never* attracted to me, even though I was *desperately* attracted to boys (lol). (Funnily, my most serious relationship at the time was with a girl, so…) My longest real job was working in a data center, partially in a facilities capacity.
When I became old enough to buy clothes, I didn’t really know how girls dressed, so I still didn’t know how to gender myself the way I wanted. I had no idea how to make people receive me as a woman. I pieced together an idea of what women are supposed to be like from 00s media and that went as well as you’d expect.
Oh, and somehow I didn’t catch on from this that I was autistic until (checks watch) like last year, at 30-something years old. You’d think that someone who has no ability to form a self-image, no capacity for regulating one’s looks in regards to the social interface of gender, and a strong preference for extremely specific technical classes might realize what’s actually going on here.
Anyway, I had to learn to become a woman, even though I’m afab and indeed (mostly) female. Nowadays I have absorbed transient beauty standards, trained myself in a lot of feminine affectations, and perform femininity regularly enough that I haven’t been identified as male in ages. (Getting GIANT BOOBS from 7 consecutive years of pregnancy/breastfeeding is surely a factor.) I have enjoyed being uniformly subjected to misogyny for a while and that’s uh…validating?
But I actually *do* have a lot of traits that are very masculine, and I still refer to myself as a guy/man/king/etc probably more often than I refer to myself in the feminine. Even I don’t really know where the boundaries are on that. Just, in some contexts, I am a guy. I don’t know! Is it because I grew up with super agender socialization? Or I spent enough time being socially received and regarded as a boy that I just adopted some boy programming, since gender’s a social construct?
Can you even keep up with this? I can’t. lol
What I’m circling toward is that I think the nonbinary identity that mostly Gen Z uses is actually a relief.
It’s a relief because my eldest is nonbinary, pretty much agender, and I truly did not internalize what that meant until my fetus externalized it. And it’s so natural to my child that I can simply relax and exist as myself around them. If I call myself a guy, a king, they don’t even bat an eye. I am Mommy, King of the Family, Just Some Guy, who birthed whole humans out her womb. I don’t have to perform any gender around my family. Turns out I am a very nurturing sweet husband who loves cute things. I want the public to receive me as a woman. It’s okay that all the pieces don’t make sense.
Man/woman as a binary just doesn’t have to be a THING, if you don’t let it. fwiw, if you marry someone who’s bisexual, you can have any gender presentation and he’ll think you’re hot. that’s cool.
(in case anyone is wondering – Please continue calling me she/her, but I also accept they/them or any neopronouns you like. No he/him unless we’re doing something sexy. As far as most anyone is concerned, I am fine being grouped broadly with women, but like…Stevia-sweetened woman. Diet Girl, with some artificial boy flavors.)
(this isn’t news, i’m not coming out, i’m just musing because it’s related to something else I’m writing)
The post above is cross-posted from Facebook. One remark I have to add, now having watched Barbie. I always think I’m a woman until I see what society thinks a woman is. Just like, whatever gender Margot Robbie and Scarlett Johansson and Julia Roberts are, I’m not that. I thought I was a woman. Society has consistently begged to differ.