It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable with being assigned female at birth. Looking back, as a little kid, I seemed to be okay with it (and I’m going to go with the stereotypical notion of feminine, so please bear with me on that). I had a pink room with unicorns. I played with Barbies. I had dolls and wore dresses. I thought I liked these things.
Except…I really didn’t. I remember now I wanted my room to be purple with unicorns, not pink. But the paint and wallpaper store didn’t have purple with unicorns, only pink. I wanted unicorns because I liked The Last Unicorn and read it as a kid (and saw the movie). I did play with Barbies, but I didn’t make them go shopping, or have them go on dates. I created ADVENTURES, where Barbie had to travel through different worlds (like the Ice World and Desert World – inspired by Super Mario Bros 3, no less) in order to rescue her friends (other Barbies and a Ken or two). I never liked baby dolls. They creeped me out, even though I did have a faux-Cabbage Patch doll and a crib. The doll usually stayed there, ignored.
Instead, I liked to play video games, first with the Atari 2600, then the Nintendo, and then the Super Nintendo. I devised strategies to best beat my favorite games, and timed myself on them.
My room as a teen was pink, but only against my will (they unilaterally decided to paint it pink when our house was built; I had no say in decorating my own room). I bugged my parents for nearly a DECADE to get them to let me paint it anything other than pink. They only relented when I had pretty much moved out for college. But I had to paint it by myself, and they wouldn’t re-tile my pink floor or repaint the pink baseboards. Apparently that was going to involve actual WORK, which I wasn’t worth.
Femininity has been forced on me. I was given dresses and pink things and Barbie dolls and all other manner of things girls are supposed to want. But I never really did things with them that others did. I made them my own. I was given pink things and dresses and expected to like them, but I didn’t.
I wanted my breasts reduced since I was fifteen when I figured out such a thing was possible. But I couldn’t tell anyone that, because having breasts was supposed to be a Good Thing (despite me being relentlessly teased about since I had started growing them in fourth or fifth grade). They weren’t big enough to do it for medical reasons, though I almost kept hoping they would get that way. I stopped wearing dresses if I could help it and instead wore baggy shirts and pants to hide my embarrassing curves. I cut myself because I hated my body so much.
As an adult, I didn’t think I had much choice about being female. I didn’t hear things about FTM trans people, or trans masculine people, or genderqueer people. All I saw were sensationalized MTF trans people on daytime talk shows, many of whom admitted to being into drugs and sex work.* That wasn’t me.
Belly dance helped. Being female could be fun, sometimes. But it still felt like drag (in fact, I called getting into makeup “belly dance drag”). I was playing a role, a part, something that wasn’t really me. The bras made me uncomfortable (more precisely, the way I looked in the bras made me uncomfortable), and the thought of showing too much skin was disturbing. In fact, when I first started, I flatly refused to show my belly and had no intention of ever performing in front of anyone. Ever. I was even embarrassed to practice in front of my husband. That obviously changed, but most of my costumes are still relatively modest, comparatively speaking.
But now I think I’m ready to leave femininity behind. I’ve wrestled with it a lot. I love belly dance, and I’m not going to stop doing it (despite the question from nearly everyone I meet, “Will you still do belly dance? Can you still belly dance?”) I’ll stop belly dancing when I’m dead. Only then. Maybe.
I kept thinking, hey, I can probably still pass as female most of the time. I can still dress in drag and do shows as a woman.
But now I’m not so sure I can. I feel like it’s time to let the feminine go, to leave that damaged part of me behind. My femininity has been battered, bruised, uncared for, hated, and hidden for so long. It had a brief moment in the spotlight, a moment of healing. But now, it’s back to causing me harm. It’s uncomfortable to look in the mirror and see a woman looking back out at me. I don’t want to hide it again, not in shame. That, too, would be damaging. But I think it’s time to pack it away, like a piece of beloved clothing that no longer fits but can’t be given away.
It’s ironic to me, that this causes me discomfort.
For so long, being feminine was uncomfortable. It felt fake, untrue, not me. But now, I’m almost reluctant to let that little bit of being feminine go. But I think it might be time. It is time.
So I guess this means that she/her is gone, and they/them or he/him remain. I am still trans masculine, still genderqueer, but the feminine side of me is being let go.
*Just a note about this. I’m not making a judgement here, just pointing out that, as a kid, all I saw were trans women who admitted to being on drugs and being sex workers. As a child raised in a religious household, that was horrifying to me. I’ve since grown up and have come to understand the complex realities of life. There is no shame in being a sex worker or a trans woman. However, if you or anyone you know are addicted to drugs and wish to stop, please don’t hesitate to call for help.