My egg has cracked. Or at least I think it has, it’s been a rather long and ambiguous process. Unlike my experiences with sexuality, where I quickly recognized and accepted what I was about once I realized it was an option, gender has been much more difficult to navigate.
I work in a field with a 90-10 M/F ratio, and even with my most traditional of gender presentations face pretty disgusting sexism. Being surrounded by so many examples of masculinity that I don’t like has really muddled my own relationship to masculinity. After the pretty constant onslaught of absolute bullshit that was my undergrad, “female-only” spaces became my safe haven, a break from the free testosterone injections that was group projects and class. The woman’s bathroom was my place of reprieve (Armstrong Third Floor Bathroom, you a real one), and in the event any other woman caught me crying, they helped me make it look like I wasn’t.
Realizing that I don’t fully feel like a woman has been a hard process. If I wasn’t fully a woman, would I have to leave all those spaces that once sheltered me behind? If I’m not a woman, would that mean I was somehow a man instead, the very thing that’s caused me so much trouble these past few years? But if I stay as a woman, being in those women’s groups will never feel fully right. It will never feel right to hear people throw “and under-represented gender minorities” haphazardly at the end of the women in STEM events. It will never feel right to hear how people feel about Trans People when they think you’re cis, when they complain that people are too sensitive and that it’s all made up anyways. It will never feel right to see people mis-gender trans people when the person isn’t Right There, knowing that it may be impossible to ever get that recognition from others of who you are.
So I’ve been torn with accepting that I am not fully a woman, and have settled for now that I am a woman shape (I think the technical term is nonbinary woman). I don’t think I am a man (not right now anyways, who knows what this journey holds). Being a woman shape means that I can acknowledge that people may register me as a woman, and it may offer me overall safety in not being visibly trans, and will probably save me a lot of energy not having to be the Trans Friend that explains stuff you could have googled long ago. It also gives me the space to be like well, a woman is not ~quite right ~ but it’s mostly there. Just like how brunch is like breakfast, but it’s also its own thing.
The first sign (looking back at least) that I could be nonbinary, before I had really admitted it to myself, was when I got an undercut in college. I thought it would be like having short hair but without the full commitment. I loved it. I felt so androgynous and powerful. The only reason I grew it out was because it was hard to find someone to shave my hair frequently, and I was anxious about what hairdressers would think when I asked for an undercut.
The next big sign was when my ex and I broke up and I secretly felt relieved. I knew that he would never be comfortable dating someone nonbinary, and I was terrified of someone rejecting or challenging this fragile suspicion that I had about myself. I shuddered at the thought of asking him to use any alternate set of pronouns, or seeing him trying to do the calculus of what the implication is for a straight man’s sexuality if you date someone nonbinary.
The sign that broke the camels back was when I was reading my old journal entries about thinking I was nonbinary, and I realized it had been 4 years of feeling this way. These were thoughts that I had a whole Olympics ago, and I still felt the same. I kept on waiting for my feelings about my gender to change, that how I felt was just something swayed by style trends, or romantic partners, or environment. But they didn’t. And that scared me.
One of the most difficult parts of being nonbinary (other than the deep-seeded fear of admitting you’re trans in a world that despises trans people and that whole systemic societal issue of transphobia thing) has been figuring out what nonbinary even means for me. Since I don’t want to just transition to being a trans man, it’s left me in this liminal space of androgyny, masculinity, and femininity. For many trans people, figuring out how to appear in a way that aligns with their gender can bring a great source of relief (Allies, here’s a freebie, that feeling is called gender euphoria). But I’ve never really had that concept of what I want to look like; if I had it my way I’d probably have a body like Mrs. Potato Head where I’d have boobs I could snap on and hair that I could alternate between a David Beckham cut and a Victoria Beckham cut.
I don’t really have a big concluding message on my experiences with figuring out my gender, I just think it’s important to discuss gender confusion more openly. The only reason I began to question I was nonbinary in the first place was because I was friends with a lot of trans women that overshared, and hearing their stories made transness less scary. It’s okay to not really know what your gender is, and it’s okay to not do anything about it if that’s all you can handle right now. Michael Phelps earned 7 medals in one Olympics in the time it took me to get to the point where I could share with strangers that I am not cis ( but I’m still ahead of James Webb development time though ayooo). I think the messaging around transness often fixates on figuring it out when you’re young, transitioning as soon as you can, and having absolute knowledge you’re trans. But life isn’t that simple, it’s messy, and things take time. The cracked egg metaphor is supposed to indicate that Matrix red-pill-esque choice that you can’t go back from, but I’d like to think that the cracked egg means that you’ve accepted a messy truth about yourself, and now you get to make something out of it.
Maybe an omelet.