When doing a perfunctory search of my blog, I was surprised to find that, aside from my “hard reset” post, I haven’t once mentioned my gender identity. I’m surprised by this for two reasons:
- Gender politics are kind of the hill I will die on.
- I have embraced being out more in the last six months than I ever have before in my life.
So, here it is: I’m agender.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, Cupcake…
What the f&%# does that mean?
At its basest definition, the Gender Wikia (there is a wikia for everything now; I love it) defines agender as, “A term which can literally be translated as ‘without gender.’” It generally falls under the non-binary category of genders with genderqueer, gender-fluid, gender neutral, gender nonconformant… the list goes on. Some people choose to use it interchangeably with those terms; that works for them.
A quick note: If you are just really, really lost on the idea of non-binary genders in general, I suggest doing some research. This post isn’t a “Non-Binary Gender Identity 101,” post. The topic is far to vast and subjective for me to do it justice. I’m just focusing on my own gender journey, for now.
I’ve known there was something “off” about my gender identity since I was a little kid. When I was in middle school, I wore my older brother’s hand-me-downs (voluntarily and to my parents’ confusion; I had a closet overflowing with my own clothes, so it’s not like I did this out of financial necessity) almost daily for a month. They were much too big for me, but I didn’t care. I wanted to wear the boy clothes and those were the boy clothes I had available to me. Eventually, the teasing from my peers got to me and I went back to wearing my own clothes. Some of which included collared shirts and a tie. I had this all black outfit with slacks, a black button-down, and a gold tie that looked sharp as hell, but all the other kids called me queer, so I only wore it once.
I’d like to add a caveat here: I didn’t wear my brother’s old clothes out of any kind of necessity, financial or emotional. If I had told my mother, “Hey, I want to shop in the boys’ section!” she probably would have been a little confused as to why, but she happily would have let me wear “boy’s clothes,” because as long as I wasn’t running around naked or breaking any laws, what the fuck did she care? Literally, she could not have given less of a shit how my brother or I dressed. She’s been quoted as saying, “She doesn’t smoke, she doesn’t drink, she doesn’t do drugs, she’s not in jail. If the worst thing I have to worry about is her dying her hair blue and piercing her lip or nose, I think I’ve done alright.” Basically, my mom has always been supportive of self-expression, so please don’t think this was some, “That poor agender child, not being allowed to express their self!” I literally just never thought to ask.
I knew I didn’t identify as a boy, but I didn’t really identify as a girl, either. I was a tomboy, but not really, because I still liked makeup and dresses and I hated being sweaty (still do) and dirty. But, sometimes I wanted people to think I was a boy. As a teenager with almost no exposure to trans and gender-variant people, this was all very confusing to me. It caused me a lot of stress and anxiety (“Maybe I am a boy, just a gay boy?” Because my exposure to gay people was also very limited and I figured that if a boy wore makeup he must be gay because boys who liked makeup were drag queens and drag queens were gay [I know I was so lost; I was fourteen, cut me a little slack]—I was twenty-two before I learned drag kings were a thing [I KNOW]).
This is where I credit LiveJournal with saving my life. When I was fifteen, I came out as bisexual. When I was sixteen, I started trying to connect with other people in the LGB community (I leave off the T because at sixteen, I knew fuck-nothing about trans people other than gender reassignment surgery; again, stupid, sheltered teenager). I joined a few LJ communities geared at bisexual girls and there I met some people who I’m still friends with to this day. Through people I met in these communities, I was also introduced to other communities with a focus on gender.
Enter: Birls. Birls is/was (it’s technically still active, but hasn’t been updated since 2014) a LiveJournal community “dedicated to androgynous/boyish/masculine females and those who don’t let the stereotypes surrounding their sex define who they are.” It was there that I was exposed to other girls and AFAB (assigned female at birth; conversely, there is also assigned male at birth, or AMAB) people who didn’t quite fit into what society believes women should be. It was also here that I was exposed to the terms “genderqueer,” “gender-fluid,” “boi,” and learned a lot about trans people from actual trans people.
I bounced around a few labels, but stuck pretty solidly with genderqueer and gender-fluid. On paper, gender-fluid has always felt like it described me more accurately; sometimes I’m feminine, sometimes I’m masculine.
But, as I got older, I started to… grow out of those labels, I guess? I started really asking myself the question, “What is gender and how is it defined?” We should all know by now that, no matter what social norms try to tell us, there are no such things as “boy interests” or “girl interests.” There are no “boy clothes” or “girl clothes.” Wearing a dress doesn’t automatically make someone (whether they’re AFAB or AMAB, cis or trans) a girl and similarly, not liking those things doesn’t automatically make a person (AFAB or AMAB, cis or trans) a man.
Gender, from what I’ve been able to parse together, is not a quantifiable, tangible thing (though it does have quantifiable, tangible consequences; especially for trans people). Gender is a feeling. And it’s a feeling I’ve never felt. I have never looked in the mirror and said, “That is a woman,” nor have I said, “That is a man.” At times, I’ve said, “I think that’s someone in between,” but now I say, “What is a woman or a man? Are those not just arbitrary social constructs based on outmoded ideas of femininity and masculinity?”
To me, for me, gender doesn’t exist and therefore I cannot identify as a gender. Of course, that is only my personal experiences and I wouldn’t try to push those experiences onto anyone else. Just because I don’t have that “gendered feeling” doesn’t mean that other people don’t. Hell, it’s entirely possible that I am completely, 100% wrong on the whole thing; I don’t know, because I only have my own experiences to go off. And remember, even though gender is socially constructed, it still has real-world, tangible consequences (reproductive health issues are primarily geared towards cis women, for example; trans people are more likely to be victims of violent crime than cis people). So, please don’t try to apply my experiences to other non-binary or trans individuals; it’s not one-size-fits-all.
Like so many other things, gender is not objective; it is subjective, fluid, and ever-changing. Who I am today may not be who I am tomorrow. I’m learning to be okay with that.
I love you all.
P.S. For those who are curious:
- My preferred pronouns are they/them, but I will also accept she/her because I’m AFAB and it’s usually just easier for me to go with she/her than to try and explain and correct people constantly. I’m lazy like that.
- I will sometimes refer to myself as a woman, or rather, part of the term “women.” This is because I’m AFAB and generally perceived as a woman (I can go into a whole new post about “cis-passing privilege” vs “erasure,” but this post is long enough already). Women’s political issues affect me. I try to include trans and non-binary issues whenever I can, but sometimes I’m too anxious to out myself to a bunch of aggressive strangers.
- No, I did not start identifying as agender for the incredible pun in the title. It’s just an added bonus.