This gender thing isn’t easy. It’s mostly completely non-verbal and a very visceral feeling rather than something that makes complete sense in language. So if you have questions about gender identity, what non-binary or genderqueer is, how I identify or any questions about any of the trans images I make, please ask. I really don’t mind. It’s something I’m navigating and trying to piece together day by day. Questions are helluva more respectful than assumptions and judgements, and they’re helpful to me too.
(The below is based on questions asked on Facebook).
Pronouns: I’m absolutely fine with she or he or whatever people see me as – the confusion is part of my identity. I am confusing for people to pigeonhole as either male or female. And I like that. Using the pronoun ‘they’ undermines that confusion.
Why insist on an identity and why have so much terminology?! I get that. I identify as genderqueer (neither/both male and female; a mixture of feminine and masculine) and it is really important to me to identify that way. Why? Because I’ve spent so much of my life completely passive and invisible, which led to my 15-year depression, my numerous hospitalisations and the overwhelming feeling that I’d rather be dead than alive. I will, understandably, never tolerate that feeling again. So being an active agent in re-defining and recreating myself is life&death important to me. It’s also important to try to use a label that is the least suffocating label out there, and that’s what genderqueer allows me – it allows possibility and movement and freedom instead of a ‘this is who you are and all you can be’. The other reason the terminology is so important is because there are no rights without words: while genderqueer/non-binary people like me fall in the transgender spectrum, we are different to male-to-female, female-to-male trans people and as such we require different rights – the ‘corrective’ rapes in the townships are born from people’s inability to pigeonhole the masculine women who are in relationships with women. We have the right to be who we are without fear of violence, rape and murder. Language is thus very important.
But, apart from language, what does it feel like to be in a genderqueer body? It feels uncomfortable most of the time. The body in my head is androgynous – without any male or female characteristics. Once I developed breasts I cut myself off from my body and lived in my head, and the only time I engaged with my body was to punish or mutilate it: overeating, bulimia, self-mutilation. Every time someone interprets my body as female by using words such as ‘ma’am’, ‘girl’, ‘girlfriend’, ‘woman’, ‘sisi’, I die. But this does not mean I want to be male. I don’t. I never have. I just want to be what I see myself as – a person who is a blend of masculinity and femininity, embodying the best parts of both of those energies (because they both have hideous and terrible sides). And so my daily battle is to transform my body into what I see in my head. And the only way I can control my dysphoria (the discomfort in my gendered body) is by going to the gym and trying to lose weight, trying to make smaller and silence the breasts and hips that speak so loudly of who I am not.