I wish that for one moment, I could be the woman you say I am. Your messages of acceptance and encouragement that I really can do anything run across my mind all the time, but it’s hard to make them stick when I am genuinely frightened. Sometimes, “afraid” is only in my own mind. The reality is that I have friends and family cheering me on every bit as much as you do. I can just hug them easier.
The hard part, truly, is knowing that there are times when “afraid” is objective. I am genderfluid, which means that people don’t notice my femininity unless they look for it because I save my girliest of moments for those that deserve them. It comes out when I feel safe. Most of the time, I wear boys’ clothes to feel invisible, because it’s better than feeling like I am for sale. Men don’t notice me, and for that I am grateful.
It’s not that I don’t like them. It’s that I never get catcalled, never get harassed, never get called a slut because I’m somehow showing off my rack. If anything, I just fit in as “one of the guys” until I say something that is decidedly female and when that light bulb goes off, the conversation ends… because as I’ve learned, that’s the moment the wall goes up and they’re not having fun anymore, because God forbid I remind them of their wives or mothers.
In terms of my clothes, boys’ so the shoulders fit, I think the moment it really sunk in was when I began thinking hard about all the times I “nellied out” (gay shorthand for heels, short skirt, makeup, the whole bit… comes from Little House on the Prairie) and went to places with my girlfriends in which straight men could stand there and watch. I lost count at the stares… or worse, offers to change me or “join us.” I can count on one hand the number of male friends I have who didn’t think it was okay to ask and then laugh it off as if they were kidding to avoid their own embarrassment. In one particularly memorable situation, I had a coworker who was commuting four hours each way to make it to our office and I offered to let him sleep on our (I was married then) couch for a night. He ran away from me like a house on fire because he thought it was a euphemism. The entire time we worked together, he thought I was trying to get into his pants. Awkward does not even begin to cover it, because there’s no way to bridge that big a gap. No matter what I said, he’d already made up his mind, and to him I looked like an even more pathetic female trying to fix it.
Because I’m not with anyone, I’m not in danger of my marriage becoming illegal. I do still fall prey to prejudice, though, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how long that will last. I’m almost 40, and have begun to think I will never truly see equality. It has to be enough to see it in my own small community, and trying to create bridges outward.
I am emotionally famous for using humor as deflection from enormous pain, so could you make sure that Kate McKinnon and Rachel Maddow are in my conversion therapy cohort or concentration camp? Neither one are my type, which will make it a lot easier on all of us to learn to like penis repeatedly.
My femininity and sexuality are both precious gifts, mine to give. Every time I feel I have to Suit Up™ not to be noticed or people say out loud God should require me to change or be celibate goes against the Source from whom those gifts arrived. It cuts me down and I feel small. Lately, your words have been a bulwark against the storm and gratitude flows from me to you whether you can feel it or not.
We may never be friends, but I do know a kindred spirit when I see one. Your sexual orientation is different than mine, but what did people do when you Suited Up™ not to stick out from the men around you? Pretty much the same thing they did to me… denied you your femininity and thought they were being derogatory by calling you a lesbian.
Keep telling me how powerful I am. I look at you and see that one day, I will believe it.