FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: Riding the Gender Roller Coaster

Every one of us has a gender identity – whether we don’t think about it at all or it’s something that is constantly spiraling in our brain space. For some people this is just something that has always been, there’s been no question or maybe it was given a passing thought and that was that. For some people it’s a big deal, and for others it’s an incidental element of who they are. For others the journey has been more about presentation (e.g., butch, femme, tomboy, etc) than identity (cis, trans). And then there are journeys that have nothing to do with presentation at all! It’s really all over the place!

To others – like myself – discovering, exploring, and identifying our gender can feel like this yellow brick road leading…somewhere? Home? A home in our bodies? To accepting that maybe we won’t ever feel a “home” in our bodies? I don’t have an answer! So here’s what I’m asking you all today: how did you realize and/or develop your relationship to your gender identity or gender presentation?

In my early twenties gender felt like a ride I Could Not Get Off. Once I had something figured out – my identity felt THIS way, I wanted to express myself LIKE THIS – I would surprise myself by wanting the exact opposite! It got confusing because what I wanted didn’t match up with what felt good in my bod. I would want to wear a thing but when I was actually IN that thing I felt like my entire body was screaming at the sky. Has this happened to anyone else? Just me? Coolcoolcoolcool.

Over time I generally chilled out – I stopped analyzing what felt good or what I wanted and leaned into whatever words and identity felt solid to me. It took me a hot minute but I now solidly know I’m genderqueer, which to me means I am neither male nor female (isn’t it wild that even these WORDS can have a multitude of meanings! Damn! Etymology, amirite!) and I use exclusively they/them pronouns.

I don’t think my gender is done expanding/exploring/changing though. I think if anything, what I learned when I was younger is that my body/mind/heart/soul is always going to do what feels exciting (does my Venus in Gemini have something to do with this?). I also don’t think this is a journey that HAS to have a solid ending, although I know for many folks it does and that is awesome too!

What I want to know is how YOU, dear Autostraddle readers, are doing in your own personal gender experience! How’d you know you identify however you identify? Are you in the thick of it or are you wearily taking a drag of a cigarette as you read this thinking, “Oh, GENDER!” in a dry husky voice?

This conversation is open to everyone, transgender/non-binary/cisgender/folks in-between/etc.! Please be mindful to give each other space to express individual experiences. We all have different words and meanings and ways of being so let’s focus on being supportive to everyone, however we got to where we are today!

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I'm a cartoonist living in Minneapolis. Co-Author and artist of A Quick And Easy Guide To They/Them Pronouns. Author of Grease Bats, coming out Fall 2019 with Boom! Studios! If I'm not working I'm socializing. If I'm not out with friends I'm drawing. If I'm not doing any of those things I'm probably depressed. Support me using Patreon.

Archie has written 117 articles for us.


  1. I had a lot of confusion around gender when I was 18. I felt no real connection to being a woman and felt like I was doing being a woman wrong. So I rejected all femininity for a few years and thought maybe I was non-binary, though not enough to tell anyone. I hated anything that labelled me as a woman because it felt mocking.

    I feel like a lot of that discomfort came from being somewhat ace and being horrified by the idea of people being attracted to me and hating the idea of deliberating trying to make myself attractive with clothes and makeup and weird and painful grooming like I was told I was supposed to as a woman. I very much went the other way instead and tried to hide my body.

    Eventually I realised that being a woman is whatever I want it to be. I still feel alienated from a lot of common experiences of women and don’t completely connect with it but I’m comfortable now with my way of being a woman, even when that makes other people uncomfortable.

    • “I’m comfortable now with my way of being a woman, even when that makes other people uncomfortable.”

      I resonate with this so much.

  2. I think like you, I am still learning about my about my gender. I am bit all over the place as I didn’t properly discover myself until my late 20s to early 30s. I’m somewhere between agender, non-binary, and trans woman but, yet feel like I get mistaken a lot because I am not on estrogen or on t-blockers. I’ve also been mistaken as afab trans where people want to see top surgery marks, which is weird & feels fetishy. While I am thankful for activists like Alok; however, most of the non-binary and agender folks I see who aren’t into men are generally white and thin. As someone who is West Asian and average weight, I feel a bit underrepresented there, which affects some of my morale. Safety is still a worry for me anytime I am visibly queer and that sometimes changes how I a present my look. I really wish it wasn’t, but I like to believe it slowly is getting better.

    How is everyone’s week going? Mines has been good. It properly spring here and the rain is over(for now). Twice this week I had to go to the mall to get my computer replaced(under warranty) and I think the dude there was a bit snippy with me last night(though to be far was 2 hours before closing time). Hopefully, this one is problem free as I am getting tired of restoring my documents.

    In more fun news I took my best friends Boston Terrier to Venice Beach boardwalk, which I haven’t walked on in years. So, many cute(but straight?) girls came up to pet him and we met many adorable dogs. Great time for all. I may just walk her dog more, but I first need to find the dog park where all the lbtq people are at. Not sure what I will do this weekend other than having my car cleaned, but it’s nice being outdoors again after all that rain.

    Took this while walking back to the car with the dog.

    Thank you for viewing and reading my post. Hope you have a positive weekend!

    • The wanting to see scars sounds weird and invasive and kinda fetishy—validated. The nonbinary image of being thin? Yes. Also something I think about as I wander the gender jungle, as I’m not. I’m fat, I’ve v recently come to LOVE that and wanna see more pics of different body types (and colors and abilities and presentations) of nonbinary, genderqueer and trans

  3. Here we go…

    My story with gender and thinking about gender began around the time I hit puberty (a little before it, probably). I used to look in the mirror and try to imagine how I’d look with “a boy’s haircut”, would daydream about pretending to be a boy like in “she’s the guy” and other sorts of movies like it.
    Then, puberty finally came. The breasts my friends talked about never really showed up, but my hips got broader and my thighs larger.
    From 13 to 15 I tried my best to hide my periods from everyone, from myself even, as if if no one knew it wouldnt be real. As if no one knowing would magically allow me to continue being a child, to continue existing in a mostly “genderless” body.

    Eventually I made my peace with it, connected to them and got pretty comfortable with my cycle. For a while, my thoughts about the womanhood I was growing towards and my feelings of it not being what I was, got quiet.
    At 17 though, not a whole year after I had figured out that I’m bi, I started to disconnect from “woman” again, it didn’t feel right but I couldn’t find anything that did either and my discomfort with the identity felt too minimal for me to be aloud to be anything else.

    Last year, I had a lot of free time and a lot of time by myself, with no one around to react to me and inform me of who I was. I read and read and read, I experienced gender euphoria for the first time, I spent months going to sleep while thinking about it and then I finally found something that made sense to me, a lable that would allow me to explore and explain myself however I wanted. Realizing I’m non-binary was one of the best feelings I ever felt.

    Right now, I am trying to make sense of what it means to be a non-binary person in a world that views me 100% of the time as woman. What it means to be treated as a woman even if I’m not one and how it informs my identity and the way I experience the world. I’m trying to understand what’s my place in woman-centric conversations and spaces. What it means to be a woman in STEM while not being a woman at all.

    I’m listening and talking and trying to understand all this questions, I’m trying to understand if I can identify as trans and being enby/genderqueer while also accepting/adopting “woman” as a political indentity.

    I don’t know where I’m heading but I’m going, and I’m hopeful I can find answers along the ride.

    • “What it means to be treated as a woman even if I’m not one and how it informs my identity and the way I experience the world. I’m trying to understand what’s my place in woman-centric conversations and spaces. What it means to be a woman in STEM while not being a woman at all.”

      DAMN YES!

        • Yes to the thing about women in STEM! I’m a cis woman, but I have NB and trans friends in the sciences and I often wonder how it feels to be a gender minority but not THE gender minority targeted by most STEM advocacy groups. I am heavily involved with Women in Science and Engineering groups, especially with encouraging young girls to get involved in math/computer science, but every time I share or invite friends to an event for WISE I feel like I’m excluding an important group of people who are experiencing gender discrimination in a completely different and less publicly visible way.

          I want to try using more inclusive language and maybe hosting events specifically for LGBTQ+ folks, but I live in a small town and I don’t know how to reach enough people and how to approach it in a way that is sensitive, since I am cisgendered.

          • This is such a good, important, and overlooked idea. I found a lot of support from WiSE groups in grad school—but those excluding other non cis male groups is really, really rough

          • I’m also trans and nonbinary, and so far I’ve been welcomed into women-in-STEM spaces with open arms. I think of it as kind of like being a registered independent but still caucusing with “the women,” and it makes sense to me in that context.

            But I’m still trying to find my place because, well, I was already in STEM long before I ever started thinking of myself as anything but a cis man. I’ve been hired for my “potential” and “culture fit,” I’ve gotten used to being seen as inherently competent, etc. And ever since transitioning, I’ve kind of been waiting for the misogyny hammer to come down on me, and it … hasn’t really, at least not yet?

            It’s hard for me to know how to tell that story without feeling like I’m invalidating *someone’s* struggle, even if it’s just my own.

          • Personally, presently I’ll usually go to those kinds of events targeting women. Mostly cause I know no one will question my presence, but also cause those are the spaces that get the closest to my experiences in STEM and the problems I face (I don’t even know if there are any events at all focusing the experience of trans scientists in my country). But, yeah, I very much cringe every time I actually check a box with woman or only accept it as the default for “non cis men”.

            I think a nice way to make events more welcoming to enbies and other trans people is actually putting those identities as an option in forms (I’ll click the box that says nb in a heartbeat, but I usually won’t say it if it isn’t and option, even if the answer has to be writing/ there’s an “other” box), it shows us that you thought about us, that we are actually welcomed there.

            I certainly do not speak for all enbies and you should talk about it with other people, but it is a very very simple change that can have a huge impact

    • Thank you so much for sharing this. I feel like so much of my current (new!) exploration feels hemmed in by what you “can” do and what’s “allowed” or “respectful”…or genderqueer/nonbinary enough. Which was the same damn struggle I initially had with coming out as bi. And now rail against.

      • Yes!!
        Spent years questioning myself if I was “bi enough” and now, even though I’m sure of my non-binary and trans identity I still keep tiptoeing when communicating/thinking about it. I still spend way too much time wondering if I’m allowed to consider myself trans and afraid that I’ll be seen as a “fake trans person” and used to minimize other trans folx and their struggles.

  4. Archie, I personally purely hate cigarettes/smoke, but I still am kinda feeling your “Oh, GENDER” thing. I have too much time angsting over gender – am I really agender/nonbinary? Am I a woman who just resents the hell out of misogyny/patriarchy and the creeping omnipresent over-importance we give gender? What the hell is a woman anyway?

    Sometimes I wear pants and a button-down and blazer, and I look and feel good, but I don’t want to be mistaken for a man and I resent knowing that my association of this clothing with competence and professionalism comes from internalized misogyny.

    Sometimes I wear a flowy skirt and a snug scoopneck/V-neck T-shirt and necklace and bracelet, and I look and feel good, and I resent fearing that if I ever wore this to a job interview I’d feel less confident and be perceived as less competent.

    Sometimes I feel like “I am definitely a woman, and this is how I woman, so therefore women can exist like this, hear me roar.” Sometimes I feel like I got stuck in the woman box without anyone asking me and the whole existence of the box is just an irrelevant irritation. I’m so over it.

    So my gender is… 1) not a man. 2) fuck misogyny, fuck patriarchy, just, ugh, GO AWAY. 3) me wearing whatever I want and trying to internally match the badass definitely-not-at-all-internalized-misogynistic attitude I try to present as having.

    I wanna end this on a happy note ’cause I have now officially given more than enough energy today to being gender-cranky, so here is a little story from my week that made me happy:

    Kiddo and I went to a local skating rink. We skated, very slowly, holding hands, up and down the carpeted space outside the rink (because that’s her skill level right now). So that was fun on its own, but also, the announcer said we are going to have a couples skate, so any couples, come on out! Sweethearts, friends, parents and kids, whatever, you just have to be holding someone’s hand if you’re going to skate!

    Kiddo was not going there, but she wanted to sit and watch, so we did. And I saw at least two pairs of boys, all ages maybe 8-14, holding hands and skating like it was nothing. They weren’t self-conscious, they weren’t making a big deal out of it or daring each other to do it or otherwise Proving Their Manhood, no one gave them a second glance, they were just holding hands and skating.

    And I nearly started crying for a moment, because goddamn. I have no idea if they were gay and already comfortable being affectionate in public, or if they weren’t but it just never occurred to them that there would be any problem with holding hands with another boy at the skating rink, but either way, wow. Plenty of things about the world still suck but that’s a sight I never, ever, ever would have dreamed of seeing in my own childhood.

    Have a good weekend, everyone, and keep on fighting the good fight. That moral arc of the universe doesn’t bend towards justice on its own. :)

    • I don’t even smoke but I feel like a cigarette anytime I think about gender! Also YES to the cutie pies skating together on the rink! 🥰

  5. OH MAN, roller coaster is a good way to describe it.

    Spent most of my childhood thinking I was a boy, because, hey, that’s what people told me I was, and having grown up in a home that was pretty indifferent to gender roles/expectations, such distinctions seemed pretty irrelevant.

    Then around age 11, I started feeling like crap, plagued by a sense of distress that I was supposed to be…something else, even if I couldn’t articulate *what*. By age 13, I’d discovered I felt better and more relaxed if I pictured myself as female- but somehow managed to not connect those dots. I *did* occasionally wonder if I might be trans- I can’t imagine there are many teenage boys who daydream about being girls-but this was close to 20 years ago and there wasn’t that much information available back then. And since I didn’t match up with the stereotypical trans woman- I hadn’t “always known”, was exclusively attracted to women, was never particularly interested in crossdressing, and wasn’t suicidally miserable, figured I couldn’t be trans, and wrote it off as some sort of bizarre kink/coping mechanism/personality quirk/result of being single and/or a virgin for too long (and assumed that, sooner or later, it would go away once I was in a better place in my life).

    Well, fast forward to my mid-20s, I *did* eventually get laid, fell in love, got engaged, got my Master’s and started on my PhD- everything in my life was going well. But the feelings, the *longing*, hadn’t gone away- in fact, it was slowly getting worse.

    So, I started doing more research- and, thankfully, in 2014 there was *way* more information available. I gradually discovered that there were happily transitioned trans people who’s stories sounded a lot like mine; in response, I tentatively started identifying as genderfluid or bigender. The breakthrough came when I read Julia Serano’s _Whipping Girl_, and discovered that she’d used a lot of the exact same rationalizations I had used, at which point (with the help of an amazing psychologist) I came to terms with the fact I was actually a pretty binary-identified trans woman.

    Thankfully, everyone in my life has been accepting and fully supportive, even my then-fiancee-now-wife (admittedly, the fact that she’s been out as bisexual since high school, and outright likes me better as a girl, didn’t hurt).

    5 years later, I’m living my life quite joyfully as a cute, happily married lesbian scientist, finally more-or-less at peace with my body and my gender identity.

    • Omg I love this story and this journey and basically all of this, especially how happy you are now!! <3 <3

    • I very much understand where you are coming from and wish we had more stories likes this growing up, cause it would have helped a lot. I remember wondering if this is a kink or something of the sort. I was fortunate to make friends with a woman in the gender studies program at my Uni who was the first to tell my feelings are valid and not kink. It really helped. Also, thank you for being a lesbian scientist, the world needs more lesbian scientist.

    • Thank you for sharing—this has such a beautiful ending/point on the gender journey. Also he’ll yes, science (bio PhD here). I am just starting the WTF is my gender and I’m getting v tripped up on how unhappy with my body do I have to be? I have boobs and I really like them—can I still be non-binary? I mean, logically yes, but the ol emotions are just freakin out. In short: the rationalizing you talked about is making me feel better, tho im sorry that caught you up.

      • Oh,it’s never straightforward- my wife, who’s more-or-less nonbinary, went through a similar process. And yeah, working through the rationalizations is no easy feat. I wish you the best of luck, though!

  6. I’m kind of in the middle of a protracted gender freakout and would welcome some advice. I’m AFAB and was quite a tomboyish little girl. When i came out in my early teens, I got a lot of “Please don’t be butch” which i stupidly internalised like it made being queer more acceptable if i could beat the straights at their own game.

    I didn’t get my period until i was 15 and made the slightly wacky assumption that I must have CAIS, which would explain why I didn’t feel like an *authentic* woman and liked other women. When I did start developing, I thought i didn’t deserve or couldn’t manage androgyny because i was growing curves (but this is bound up in some disordered eating stuff). I tried to come out as genderqueer aged 17 but nobody understood what i meant and I thought maybe I felt like that because I was an oddball in a highly gendered environment.
    I started presenting as high femme because it was an “acceptable” way of being curvy and also because it’s a parody of sincere femininity – high femme shows up how much of a performance the whole ridiculous thing is. I’m now in my mid-20s and wondering if i’ve been kidding myself the whole time and I am actually genderqueer.

    I’ve recently made more trans friends and maybe this is more about how much I admire them and their solidarity with each other.
    I don’t suffer from dysphoria. If I woke up tomorrow with an xy body, I’d mostly be annoyed about the paperwork. I wouldn’t feel horror, but I also wouldn’t feel like I’d come home. The ideal would be flicking back and forth. Does everyone secretly feel like this? Is internal gender even a thing?
    I have quite bad OCD and I can feel my brain has latched onto this worry as the next thing to torture me with.

    Am I just making a giant fuss over an absent feeling of womanness when my genitalia match my presentation and I can move through the world pretty freely?

    • I don’t know about everyone, but I’ve never had an “I need to get out of this gender soon or I’m going to die” moment either. For me, it started out with “okay fine, I might as well start playing around with Gender Stuff or else I’m just going to be wondering about it forever,” and ever since then it’s been a stream of “meh” / “ooh, I like this” / “OMG I like this more than I’d planned for, what do I do???” moments that add up to “yeah, I guess you could say I’m trans.”

      Anyway. This doesn’t sound like a big fuss over nothing; it sounds like a big fuss over something that’s causing you a fair amount of distress! And in *my* trans community we don’t gatekeep our strategies for handling that kind of distress until someone proves they “deserve” them. <3

      • “okay fine, I might as well start playing around with Gender Stuff or else I’m just going to be wondering about it forever” < — this sounds like a much more positive way of approaching it.

        Thank you for being so nice about this. I've been too embarrassed to even tell my therapist I'm having these feelings, so it means a lot to read this from someone actually *in* the community. Hope you had a good weekend

    • You’re not making a big fuss bc it’s occupying space in your brain! I think you should allow yourself some space to flip flop for awhile (or forever). Lots of ppl I know use more than one Pronoun (“she/her and they/them” for example) and ask people to alternate when speaking to/about them.

      • I did not know having more than one set of pronouns was an option… sounds I may need to flip flop for a while as I ponder this one. Thank you for being supportive! <3

    • Hi! I feel like this too. The label I have settled on is genderfluid, & this might be one which you could apply to yourself, if you feel it fits.

      My dysphoria mostly stems from how I am perceived by others. I was speaking to a trans friend yesterday & said that my gender presentation would be exactly the same if I was male, in which case I would be labelled a sissy or transfemme.

      Being honest with yourself about how you perceive your body & consciously allowing yourself to separate your body from your gender might also be helpful too – it was for me.

      Wishing you the best on your continued journey! <3

  7. Gender right now makes me want to curl up under the couch like my cat in a thunderstorm and groan. It’s a lot. I’m nonbinary, but I wanna be a butch dyke, and at the same time I melt into a little puddle when my girlfriend calls me sir. I know that all these things can coexist, but it feels like I want to be all of them separately at the same time. My ex once jokingly told me “you can’t be all the kinds of dyke!!” And I wish I could say that was why she’s my ex. Damnit, Sofia, watch me. This… this digressed from gender.

    • Well I dunno about anyone else but I do believe you can be a non-binary butch dyke! Non-binary in how you feel & exist in your gender, Butch bc of it’s rich history and perhaps gender presentation, and dyke bc of its radical political history. I don’t believe non-binary exists outside of butch/femme identities but can exist with/within them. I 💯 disagree with your ex! Fuck em! You can be it all.

  8. True story: I’ve convinced two nonbinary friends to tell me their whole stories and listen to me be like “gender? What? AHHHHHH!!! Eeeeeegggr???” this week. Ummmm. Yeah. So your timing, Archie. Your timing.
    I only figured out I was bi (and not straight) 3 years ago, but it was blazingly clear for over a decade, just heteronormativity is a thing, didn’t have many queer friends, and have been in an extremely long term relationship with a cis guy.
    Similarly, after my first ACamp last year, I started using reaction gifs exclusively with pretty men, kinda wondered if anyone would out me for relating to Jerry Seinfeld saying he was a “pretty boy”/rapidly packed that thought away and didn’t think about it again until last month? When one day out of the blue I was like “woman as me? Eew” and “she/her doesn’t seem right. They/them? Nooooo. He/him? NOPEEEEEEE. Why do pronouns exisssssssst :(((“
    So, yah. I guess I’m kinda like that? And now feeling more like I don’t know what or where. It’s really exciting sometimes to think about exploring it, but when I actually think “nows a nice time for that exploring!” I freak the fuck out (is it just internalized misogyny? Is fear internalized transphobia? Is all of this “fake” because of past trauma? Will everyone I love leave me?). It’s a deal and a half.
    Um. So, happy Friday?

    • Me, wearily smoking a cigarette: HAPPY FRIDAY.

      Seriously tho, it’s so much when you first start exploring and figuring stuff out! Be patient with yourself! Asking other ppl about their journeys is such a lovely way to work on figuring stuff out for yourself! 🌹

  9. I’ve never had any particularly strong feelings about my gender and I’ve never felt gender dysphoria, so I identify as cis. I would not want to be mistaken for a man or referred to as “he”, though it also wouldn’t particularly bother me to be mistaken for non-binary or referred to as “they” (even though that’s not the pronoun I use for myself). Sometimes I wonder how much any of this is influenced by my social context, in the same way I wonder how much earlier I might have realized I was queer if I lived in a more accepting society. *shrug emoji*

    Gender PRESENTATION however is a whole different story. I’ve practically had to buy a new wardrobe every year for the last three years. I want to be kind of andro/moc but also fancy? Like a dandy! Billy Porter is my fashion hero. Idk no clue la la la

    • As I’m working on gender and presentation I’m buying so much clothing. Fun, but such money. I feel ya.

      And just heck yes to dandy!

    • I feel you on the new clothes thing! I’ll buy something and be like THIS IS IT only to not want it on my bod the week after!

  10. I’m…what exactly?
    I‘m not queer or genderqueer.
    I‘m too old for enbie.
    I‘m certainly not hipster or cool or chill enough for any of the words the kids use nowadays.
    I‘m far, far from androgynous.
    I don’t like pronouns. None of them fit.
    I’m not a fan of being referred to as multiples either.
    To be honest: I don’t even believe in the concept of gender.
    I think that male and female are adjectives, for situations, or things and feelings.
    I‘m neutral, sometimes I swing like a pendulum and I‘ll be butch or femme or whatever the day or hour requires or wants, but I’m neither, I‘m all of them, I‘m none.
    Make of it what you will. Call me what you may.
    I won’t correct you, I won’t come out, as what exactly, anyway?
    Just call me by my name, feel the power of my outrage when you dare reduce me to the limits of my biology, feel the fury of generations of women, feel the strength of eons of men, feel all of it, unapologetically, because that’s where I am, at the center of the smoldering power of possibility.
    Neither here nor there and at the same time…everywhere.

    • You’ve pretty much described how I feel about it too. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m me, nothing more nothing less and I come packaged in an old lady suit, so there.

      • *sits down at the same crocheted table cloth clad side table with some cross stitch to while away the afternoon*
        Would you like some tea? I’ve been particularly fond of peppermint lately.

    • “Too old for enbie” I feel this! I’m not super old, edging up to 40, but it feels like a young people thing for some reason? Don’t know if it’s cultural or language or what.

      • I think I get where it comes from but the idea that being non-binary is exclusively a “young person’s thing” is unfortunate, non-binary people of all ages exist

      • Same and same. Sadly, I’m not a social studies girl either, but more of the STEM persuasion, so this will probably be a mystery that will elude me forever.

  11. Gender has always been an issue for me, but also… not?

    When I was little, I used to dream that the doctor would find my dismembered penis INSIDE my mother so we could all just admit that I was a boy and let me be a boy (reattachment of baby penis optional).

    But I was also incessantly told that I wasn’t a boy, so I also felt ashamed when people constantly misgendered me. But not as ashamed as when they forced me to be the girl. Or when they made a huge deal about figuring out my gender.

    At the same time, I was told I was a girl and I kind of accepted that. I never said that I was a boy. Girls can look like this and secretly desire a medical miracle, okay?!

    In puberty (after an initial few years of struggle with body… more betrayal than dysphoria really) I realised that teenage boys SUCK SO HARD and I wanted nothing to do with them, much less be one. I was also terrified of being a lesbian. So, I went full femme, won’t even wear trousers, complete denial about any “tomboyishness” in the past.

    As I’ve grown older I’ve gotten more androgynous and more accepting of my past self and the parts of myself I used to try to hide under 110% femininity 24/7. I feel a bit like if I were younger I’d identify as non-binary, but now I don’t care enough to make he effort… call me any gender, use any pronoun, it’s fine. But while I don’t feel very “Of course I’m a woman!” I also feel closely aligned with the female experience because everyone treats me like a woman whether I want them to or not. So I identify as a cis woman.

    • Ok I just wanna say I had real vivid dreams about also being a boy when I was a kid in a v similar way (not exactly but similar enough). and that was before I had any feelings about gender! Wild!

  12. I’m going to gloss over a lot of the repression and paths that led nowhere happy… let’s just say I’m still trying to find my perfect artistic semicolon tattoo and move onto happier times.

    Even when I started HRT, there was a part of me that was still hopeful that it would not help, that what I really needed were the more socially acceptable anti-psychotics. That really wasn’t to be, though: within the first month of depressing testosterone I noticed an absence of the negativity. Within the first weeks of getting into the right estrogen levels, an ability to be happy that confused me greatly until I learned it could be my new normal.

    The first external physical change I noticed was the softer, smoother, and much more sensitive skin, especially my face and cheeks. Every raindrop, every breeze, slowly became a reminder that my life was different now and that it is so much better. I might have turned it into a bit of a ritual, raising my face to whatever the weather may bring every time I go outside. Such a contrast, living, being, experiencing whatever storms arrive… versus just cocooning myself away and trying to enjoy them through walls and windows.

    I know which I’ve found preferable, and it is only with that hard-won knowledge that I’ve been able to build myself up to the increasingly awesome person I strive to be. I might, also, just for the moment, ignore those times I fall a bit short of that goal?

  13. This is a really lovely thread. I have a lot of gender presentation feels. I’ve always felt like I’m a woman but have been pretty unimpressed with the cultural expectations about how to be a woman. I spent so much of my teens and 20s dressing to be invisible, trying to avoid unwanted male attention.

    Discovering AS, discovering tomboy femme and lazy femme, discovering that there are lots of ways to be a woman, was pretty life changing.

  14. Roller coaster is.. a word for it. I’ve been going through a lot of angst related to gender recently, actually.
    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’ve, not regressed, but returned, maybe, to the way I dressed when I was in my early teens – short hair, lots of button-downs and mens’ jeans and almost never skirts or dresses – before I went through a High Femme phase, and now I’m in my mid-twenties and back to short hair and mens’ clothes. I don’t think I can call myself anything other than a cis woman, I don’t feel like I “deserve” terms like nonbinary or genderqueer or anything like that. I have been missing my long hair, and have been thinking of growing it out, but I’m afraid of looking too femme again. I use she pronouns, but wouldn’t mind being mistaken for a man, or referred to as a he. However, “they” feels like a misgender for me personally – they is just not me, which I think is part of why identifying as nonbinary doesn’t feel fitting.(I’m a big fan of they pronouns, to be clear, they just aren’t the correct pronouns for me).
    I think my current presentation falls somewhere around soft butch/occasional tomboy femme, but I struggle with those words, which in my mind have a lot to do with leaning hard into masculinity, and I am a soft and delicate thing despite also wanting to be called “sir” and be able to fix things.

    So, I’m a ball of confusion who hates gender and just wants to be called a person right now, and nothing more.

    • Aww damn I hear this. I feel you on tomboy, it’s never been a word for me even in the midst of exploring myself. I think if there were more soft boys represented in a positive way, in a queer way, then maybe being a soft delicate Sir wouldn’t feel so hard to achieve

    • What is it about “sir” that is so appealing and comfortable? Because I feel the same way. And I know at least one other person mentioned it in the thread.

      Im sorry that you feel like you don’t “deserve” certain labels/identities. I, ahem, very much struggle with the same as I’m figuring out WTF gender, but also presentation words (butch? Also do you have to be a cis lesbian to be a dyke? Are bi whatevers allowed too?)

      I digress. I wish for ALL of us that the focus could shift to what feels right vs what what we feel we’ve earned/deserve

    • you do you, but you definitely can identify as non binary without using they! I do. I don’t like that “they” implicitly outs me, in a world where I do not necessarily want to be outed every single time someone uses pronouns for me. overall, there are no boxes you have to check to nb/trans enough ❤️

  15. I remember being 12 at band camp (the only time I went to camp) and a girl I knew asked why I didn’t shave. Did I want to be a boy? My parents were hippies and my mom didn’t shave. I remember thinking but not being able to fully articulate that I was happy being a girl and being a girl could include not shaving or wearing a bra, it could include not caring about boys and wanting to eventually be a mother.

  16. This past May, I looked up the term non-binary for a (former) work related project.

    That’s when everything made sense.

    I started toying around with a new nickname and new pronouns soon later. both have stuck (they/them).

    The secondary labels I use for myself have changed. First it was transmasculine. Now it’s agender. And I have to research agenderflux because I think that’s me even more. But regardless, I’m happy I’ve found who I really am – labels or not.

  17. I recently spent several weeks and thousands of words overanalyzing a fictional character’s relationship to gender/masculinity but when it comes to my own gender all I’ve got is “??????”
    I started questioning my gender in high school when I first met an out trans person (my math teacher) and realized that was…an option.
    (I grew up very sheltered in a very conservative family.)
    I didn’t really learn about nonbinary genders until senior year, so all I knew for a long time was that I kinda sucked at being a girl and I really sucked at being a guy. So finding out that “neither” was an option – that “NOTHING” was an option – was kind of a game changer.
    More recently, I’ve described my gender as “assigned female at birth and wondering if it’s too late for partial credit.”

    • ‘More recently, I’ve described my gender as “assigned female at birth and wondering if it’s too late for partial credit.”’

      Hah! I love this.

  18. I’ve come to the conclusion that NBC needs to reboot the “V” miniseries for the Trump era. In the original miniseries the alien visitors: persecute scientists, take over the media, create an outreach program that appeals to the disenfranchised young white guy, and is a metaphor for fascism. The human resistance, on the other hand, is made up of a racial mixed cast lead by a young charismatic woman *cough*AOC*cough*.
    Leader of the visitors John


    I’m just saying.

  19. I AM STILL THINKING ABOUT MY GENDER! i’m so so so far away from being cigarette/husky voice status about it. love that this conversation exists as a friday open thread!

  20. This thread is so timely for me! I’ve been weighing a lot of things trying to come to some sort of conclusion and don’t know that there’ll actually be one, but in any case, I’m grateful that space like this exists to finally motivate me to sort out some of my thoughts :)

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether non-binary is a term that fits for me. I’ve always felt simultaneously Bad At Gender and also like the rules for girls didn’t really apply to me anyway (probably because I was already failing at them so badly). I also feel weird describing myself as a woman – it feels like that’s a club I was dropped off in but never asked to be, and never really got welcomed into it so why bother trying to cultivate some sort of sense of belonging? But then that also feels like a bit of a conflict because I also want to believe that you can dress and look and act however you want and none of it should invalidate your gender, y’know?

    I do remember being thrilled at the idea that gender could be a spectrum, and extra thrilled when I first heard of the term “gender non-conforming”. That one in particular was definitely a lightbulb moment and I think it’s the one gender-related term that feels really correct as a descriptor, although not an identity per se. Mostly, I feel like I’ve experienced gender and had my experiences informed by gender in a way that’s significantly different than the average girl/woman and I guess I want people to understand and see that, and maybe non-binary is the way to do that? But even with all that, it feels too much like an option I’m deciding on rather than something I feel compelled to do. Like I like the idea of people using they/them pronouns to refer to me, but I’m also not upset with she/her. And I like how I look wearing a binder but not enough to go through the (relatively minor) discomfort of wearing one on a consistent basis. So in the end, it feels a lot like I’d be infringing upon what for other people is a really necessary and hard-won identity. I realize that sounds gatekeep-y and I’d never say that sort of thing to anyone else but I don’t know… I’m thinking that maybe for now it’s enough to just sit with the ambiguity and try to be more honest and open with people close to me about my experiences with gender, and also to keep learning more about how both cis and trans and/or non-binary people have come to their own conclusions.

    Anyway, thanks to everyone that made this space exist and for sharing your stories. It’s so helpful to know that other people are still figuring this stuff out too <3

  21. Welp I’m not typing all that again.
    Browser logged me out while I was typing, hit submit lost everything and the only thing in the clipboard was a word I checked the spelling of.

    So uh anybody with sensitive skin got black lipstick recommendations?

  22. So that first long uphill of “WTF am I in for?” on the gender-coaster happened once puberty hit when I started having intrusive thoughts/fantasies/whatever of being a girl. I grew up in a conservative Christian family and it was the ’90’s, so that was not a good combination. Of course I “knew” that these desires were wrong and sinful on the one hand, and based on what I could glean from secretly reading books at the library and the dial-up era internet it seemed that all trans women want to be 1950’s housewives, so apparently I was just an autogynephile pervert. That was the first big downward drop.

    I somehow managed to drag myself out of depression and learn how to be a functional semi-adult. Did college, got married, had 3 kids, and never really felt like I knew how to just be me. For most of that, it was semi-okay, not great, no major ups or downs, just kinda boring. Turns out my gender-coaster kinda sucks.

    It turned out with the first child that I liked being a stay-at-home parent. The other two kids came at once, and that was just survival mode for a couple years. Coming out the other side of that and trying to put life back together just didn’t work for me. One thing led to another and my gender broke about 3 years ago.

    After much angst and another downward spiral along with a lot of unrelated work/life stress, I finally came out to my “straight” wife. As it turns out, I’m not a dude, and she’s not straight, so it’s all good. Now the coaster is getting fun!

    Started doing all the transitioning things. E is so much better for my brain than T and I love everything it does to my body too. But some of the other things were less obviously right for me. I chalked most of that up to 20 years of suppressing my feelings and/or the fact that I figured I was likely to turn out at least vaguely butch. I could finally look in the mirror and say “I get to be a girl!” It seemed like maybe the coaster was coming to an end.

    And then I noticed that I was looking in the mirror and just saying, “I get to be me!” That weird androgynous place that I was occupying where strangers don’t always know how to address me was surprisingly comfortable. I realized that I didn’t hate all of my old guy clothes and that they could be combined in interesting ways with my new girl clothes. I also realized that though I had way less certainty, I wasn’t freaking out about it.

    For the last 9 months or so, I’ve been trying to hold my gender loosely. I think I could point to it on a map, but I don’t know exactly what to call it. Nonbinary trans woman is not incorrect, but it doesn’t give me a feeling of “ah, that’s me”. She/her and they/them are both necessary and neither is sufficient of itself. Some words resonate, like “demigirl” and “tomboy femme”, but they’re not quite right, or I need more time with them. Sometimes I think I’m looking for a word that nobody’s used yet, or I’m just wishing that there was a word that I could say and everybody would understand what I meant.

  23. A bit late but I wanted to thank you for this space. I feel less alone now reading your intro Archie and everyone’s replies. <3

  24. I tried to tell the same story typed a different way but it wasn’t abstracted enough, it got too personal, pitiful, and oh no time travel doesn’t exist I can’t give child me a soppy hug.

    Weird observation share tho, my boobs are erogenous zones that I greatly appreciate, yet nearly anytime they’re gussied up in something with shaped, padded cups it’s Dysphoria Zone Population: Me.
    Sometimes before my period when I’m ferocious-watch-out-I-bite-horny is when such a bra doesn’t trigger dysphoria.
    Other than that I don’t have much in the way of gender dysphoria about my secondary sex characteristics cuz “my face would look awesome with a long beard bringing more focusing to my sexy eyes” doesn’t say dysphoria as much as it does vanity and applied design skills.

    Still don’t like pronouns, any of them.

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