Yesterday, there was a bit of a shakeup on kid lit Twitter over Ramona Blue, a forthcoming YA by Julie Murphy (Dumplin’). Its Goodreads blurb seemed to indicate a lesbian main character falling in love with a boy, which sparked some outrage. People close to the book said that the blurb neglected to mention that the main character identifies as bisexual by the end. That, however, did not ameliorate all the outrage, with some claiming that it was not okay to write that kind of queer experience because it was harmful to lesbians and…well, you can probably imagine. (If you can’t, hit me up and we will talk.)
I was very comforted yesterday to see so many people I admire defending the concept that queer identities can change. It’s sticky to talk about because anti-queer folks will try to use that as a evidence that it’s a choice, or that certain identities are just a phase, but it really just comes down to continuing to learn about yourself–our modern cohort of labels give us a specificity that we haven’t had before, and those specificities are worth exploring.
I’ve talked about this before, in various posts over the years on my queerness. I grew up in a conservative area. There was one openly gay boy in my high school; there was my art club/youth group where girls kissed girls but mostly, as we told ourselves, for the entertainment of the boys we paired up with. On TV, we had Will & Grace, and probably Ellen but I didn’t watch that. I knew I wanted relationships with boys and girls, and I thought that made me bisexual; I whispered that identifier to select friends late at night and never asked girls on dates because there were no queer couples in the realm of my experience. I had neither seen nor known them except in fan fiction.
I didn’t have sex until I was twenty-one, an unremarked upon thing in my town because plenty of girls were saving themselves for marriage. Old-fashioned, but not odd. But after the novelty wore off, my disinterest resumed, and that was odd–until I found out about asexuality, and I had to change my identifiers. Nothing about me changed. I just had a new way to tell people how I’d always been: a panromantic asexual.
Coming out as non-binary, specifically agender…that was harder. That was weirder. That got a lot more pushback from friends and family. But I had discovered something about myself which needed to be shared: that I was not a woman.
Remember that conservative area where I grew up? My college was in the same area. I was steeped in heteronormativity to the point where I couldn’t even smell it, and I tried to do it. I didn’t date the girls I wanted to date. I slipped in and out of clothing subcultures (goth, bohemian, vintage) looking for one that fit. I kept my hair normal, sometimes short and sometimes long but always feminine, dyed but naturally colored, because that was right. That was ubiquitous. Nobody specifically exerted this pressure on me (except my more conservative dad and stepmom, occasionally) because they didn’t need to. I was a good child; I was a normal child. I felt the expectations.
I got a tattoo for my twenty-first birthday, my first one, on the right side of my lower back “where it could be hidden.” It was my first permanent act of transgression, and a mild one at that. My mom had tattoos (pretty ankle ones), my best friend had tattoos–when I got mine, actually, my best friend got what I think was her first visible tattoo, on her wrist. I wanted another tattoo right away, as most do. But then I started dating a boy who didn’t want me to get more tattoos. Didn’t want me to cut my hair or dye it unnatural colors. So I didn’t. And I suffered, with that and other aspects of our relationship (I have no hard feelings, many years later; we weren’t a good fit, it just took a while to figure that out).
I got my second tattoo, a half-sleeve, within a month of getting together with the man who’d become my husband. The first time we visited Portland, I spontaneously cut off my super-long hair. When we moved out here, I felt freer than ever to be open about my identities, to be transgressive with my hair–a side shave at first, and then a mohawk, and then I went completely shaved!–and my clothing and it wasn’t enough.
It helped but it wasn’t right. Which is what led to me coming out as agender.
Let’s talk about how that’s gone.
Some things have been awesome. I didn’t share it here, but I’ve started going by Cal instead of Cait, which is the best. I’ve started dressing more masculinely, which is SUPER FRUSTRATING in terms of shopping because of how my body is shaped, but also SUPER GREAT when it works like I want it to. The pronoun thing has been hard, which is a bummer–but hold that thought.
One thing I’ve struggled with is incorporating my femininity into my presentation, because as I said in past posts, I still like feminine things. Makeup (though I’ve only worn makeup…once? since coming out?); I’m super into wearing necklaces instead of ties (may be because I don’t have any ties that look right on me proportionally).
I’ve struggled with this every day I’ve gotten dressed since August. For a few weeks, I thought wearing a dress would be like a reset for people; that they wouldn’t be able to think of me as non-binary when I was wearing a dress or a skirt.
That was just an excuse. The truth is that I haven’t wanted to wear dresses or skirts since coming out because it makes me a little nauseated. I don’t suddenly hate dresses, it’s more like, me in a dress right now, with my body the way it is, is that reset when I look at it in the mirror, and to see a woman when I look in the mirror is so at odds with who I am that I feel, to put it lightly, icky.
Because I’m not a woman.
I’m a man.
*manly jazz hands*
To reference the beginning of this post that is way longer than I thought it’d be, I am changing my identifier from non-binary person to trans man. I do NOT in any way support the idea that non-binary identities, or bisexual ones, are phases that come before a person picks a side. If you use this post to make that argument, don’t. Just don’t. I went into all that probably unnecessary detail about my background because I needed to indicate that I had a lot of conditioning to unpack. For me, I think I knew I was trans when I came out as agender, but first I needed a stepping stone. I was fucking terrified and I needed to get distance from womanhood, and test those waters with myself and my circle, before diving fully. Now, I know it’s time to dive.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW? you may ask.
Now, I’m getting together with my doctor and finding a therapist to initiate hormone replacement therapy. Now, I am making a game plan to change my name and gender marker on all my documents. I am NOT going to discuss my potential future surgeries with anyone who is not my husband or my medical professionals, for the foreseeable future, so please don’t ask.
Speaking of my husband, you may wonder about him. We are staying together and would appreciate it if you respect the privacy of our relationship as we move forward. My coming out does not automatically make Matt gay; if, upon reflection, he decides to change his own identifier from “disappointingly straight”, that will be up to him. Please don’t bug or tease him about it.
If you have not been calling me Cal, start doing so (Spiv is still okay). Please use he/him pronouns.
Any more questions, please feel free to ask, especially in a textual way (comment, email, private message).