HOLAAfrica!

A PanAfricanist Queer Womanist Collective

On being a gender outsider

By Sté

The more I grow up, the less I feel… womanly. It can be a bit of a surprise to most of the people who’ve seen the skirt – wearing, nail – polish-ed, glitter-and-all-types-of-sweetness person that I am. Wherever I go, in all the spaces I’ve been in, queer or not, I have always been considered feminine, and as a consequence, woman. Because for most people, female body + femme = woman. Guess what? No.

Before even realising how gay my ass could possibly be, I knew, deep inside, that something was off. I remember my younger self, who preferred overalls to any other type of clothing, and who’d rather play with legos and puzzles than play «family». When we did play «family» to my great despair, I was always some random character. Not a woman. Performing womanhood felt fake. I tried really hard to act like the women I saw around me but it just wasn’t real. I didn’t even want to be a boy either. I wanted to be a mix of both and neither, able to wake up a boy today, a girl tomorrow, both the day after, neither most days.

Then puberty happened. My body became like a monster that swallowed me, people only saw it and expected something from it that I felt pressured to give. Plus, with my wide hips and narrow waist, I couldn’t really hide or as I used to. Also, I didn’t know how to be a tomboy anymore (still don’t, by the way). So I decided to go on and «be a girl».  Which is a role that I played until today. A role. I’m not a girl, or a woman for that matter.

I don’t know exactly what I am. Called me confused if you wish, I don’t even care because it’s true.  And I’ve recently decided to own that confusion. We don’t have to know everything and be sure of every single part of our existence, because things change. Last year, I didn’t know I would be here today. I bet you didn’t either.

But what I know for sure is, I’m not really a woman. I’m not a man either.

Every time I’m referred to as «woman», i feel a sharp pain in my heart, and it makes me mad. It has always been like this since childhood, and after trying so damn hard to conform to what being a woman is, I just can’t. I first thought it was due to the fact that women are expected to be so many contradictory things at the same time, and I can’t/ don’t want to be many of those things. But after deep thought, I’ve realised that I can be anything as long as the word «woman» is out of the equation. This simple word makes me want to disappear, literally. I’ve tried to, and it’s scary and painful, so I’ll spare you the details.

So I thought, maybe I am trans? what if I was a man ? nah son. I’m definitely not. If gender was a scale where woman was 0 and man was 10, I’d probably be somewhere between 3,5 and 7. Or  -10. Or x, the unknown.

Some days, I want so badly to feel like a woman, I want my inside to match my outside, but it just won’t. Some other days, I want so badly to be who I really am, but I can’t because I don’t know what that is precisely. In a world where you’re either 1 or 2, man or woman, gay or straight, good or bad, you can’t be in the middle. You can’t be outside either. You have to choose one side and stick to it. Some of us can’t afford that.

The thing is, some parts of me are really feminine, and the other parts are pretty much genderless. with a few spots of masculinity. and this changes quite often.

Call me a woman, and constantly remind me that because you said I’m a woman (because of my vagina?) I must do certain things and you’re pretty much dead to me.

I’m not a woman. I am a female human being with a soul that doesn’t fit in binary boxes.

But people love to assume. When they see femininity, they see someone who is submissive, and kind of weak / soft who will automatically be a woman, whatever that is. Because I give no exterior sign of androgyny or masculinity, people decide for me. Then I «disappoint» them when they realise that most of my «womanhood» is outside of me. It really hurts.

Even in queer spaces, people feel the need to put each other in boxes as if it were for safety reasons (I’m not fully exempt). That female masculine person opening the door for me because «ladies first» ( why am I the «lady» ?), everyone assuming you’re the fragile one that needs to be protected because you’re the one in the skirt, the partners’ surprise to your overall behaviour, feeling the need to remind you of your «duties as a woman» (mxm this is why i don’t even wanna date anymore) and you in the midst of all this trying to fit in and be yourself at the same time. But not being able to explain clearly what you are, first because you don’t know the words, then because you don’t wanna sound even crazier.

Then I found the word «genderqueer» and Lorde, it saved my life. What is genderqueer ? Our lord and saviour Wikipedia says it is a «catch all term for gender identities other than man and woman, thus outside of the gender binary and heteronormativity». BAM. Then it goes on to talk about gender identity as being one’s internal sense of being a man, a woman, both or neither. See that sharp pain I was talking about ? My internal sense.

This discovery gave me peace of mind. I can now regard my body as mine, not a woman’s body that I cannot change and that has to be a woman’s and do woman’s things even though it feels odd. My body doesn’t scare me anymore. It’s here, it doesn’t have to go and it doesn’t have to direct me either. Their presence is just due to genetics (or God or some alien, I don’t know) and is not relevant to my self definition.

I can now accept the idea of dressing more masculine sometimes, like I always wanted to, without panicking.  I used to freak out to the idea of looking like a boy, just like you would freak out that your mom will found out you did something really bad (but worse).  I am me, genderqueer , feminine outside, androgynous inside. I have nothing to freak out about. I’m not man nor woman. I don’t have to force anything anymore.

The point is one can be other than what they appear to be. Under my feminine shell, there’s a being that is neither man nor woman, and I’m pretty sure other people feel the same. I would be so much easier for us to just accept who we are, if there wasn’t such an intense pressure to conform and fit in whatever idea people have of us based on what we appear to be. There’s no such thing as two genders. For all we know, there’s 7 billion genders in this world until each of those 7 billion people tell us what their gender is. Let’s stop expecting and pressuring people into being one thing because that’s what we believe they are.

Also, oppressive gender roles suck for everyone, including you, so take that.

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10 comments on “On being a gender outsider

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  5. Mim
    02/08/2012

    I totally agree with you. gender is what you feel inside and not merely determinable on just physical attributes.
    I also feel that one falls in love with the person and not the gender of that person.
    I’m sorry that you went through such pain before you finally find peace.

  6. beesandthespirit
    13/07/2012

    heeeey ! Sté here! I’m so happy you guys love the article, i was seriously doubting my writing !!! Yes, it’s totally a Audre Lorde reference, she’s my own patronus for real ! i’d probably be dead or very close if it wasn’t for her !
    And i’m loving the article too !

  7. Kazoot
    12/07/2012

    If only it was my own. It’s someone (awesome) else’s, so spread her words.

    This article on the much abused category ‘woman’ (one which I’m not completely comfortable with either) is really good read http://tigerbeatdown.com/2012/03/08/show-them-how-to-resist-connecting-girls-inspiring-futures/

  8. Novia Olam
    11/07/2012

    This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing it,I’m so relieved to find other people like me! I’ve never been femme though I look it, and I’m certainly not butch. I’m somewhere in between and I keep being asked how I identify and I always said “I identify as me.” But people don’t like that answer. I like genderqueer very much, it’s certainly a lot closer than anything else to identify me.
    @ Kazoot, I am so stealing your quote! :-)

  9. HOLAA!
    11/07/2012

    You know what? will ask the author but i am going to run with it and vote…No Typo! Committee has voted! Thank you for loving this! P.s That is an amazing quote. WE are stealing that.

  10. Kazoot
    11/07/2012

    Loved this, thank you. Please tell me that your use of ”Lorde” wasn’t a typo and that you are referring to Audre Lorde, because I am stealing that expression. so cool, soooo cool, will have to find ways to use it on a daily basis especially since reading Lorde saved/changed my life too!

    ”If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
    Audre Lorde

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