Earlier this year, I made it public that I did not identify as a woman.
This had been on my mind for quite some time, and by “quite some time”, I mean “literally all my life.” I grew up squirming in discomfort whenever someone referred to me as female. It only took me this long to tell everybody because I’d lacked the ability to articulate these particular feelings until recently.
After I came out as masculine-of-center femme,  many of those little issues I’d thought of as character flaws resolved themselves: I was no longer awkward whenever somebody complimented me on my dresses.  I no longer felt like an impostor when I went to hackathons. I took up as much space as I wanted to. My conversations with close friends and partners became much more honest and sincere.
In other words, it felt really fucking wonderful for me to exist in the world as I really was, rather than the way I thought I had to be. I still wore the frilliest dresses and used she/her pronouns, but I no longer tried to squeeze myself into that narrow box labeled “female.”
While coming out as gender nonconforming had been a goal years in the making, I’m far from being done with growing and improving as a person. Here are some of the ways I’ve changed for the better since making my real gender known.
I learned not to judge others by their appearances
Ironic, right, that I would spend all of this time talking about how much it sucked that others would judge me based on my Lilly-Pulitzer-donning, heel-wearing, high-end-salon-frequenting self while I judged right back? I know that judging the hell out of everybody based on surface appearances is a primal thing or whatever, but we’re not fucking primates, and we’ve got to stop using “human nature” as an excuse to not have better accountability for how we conduct ourselves.
Coming out has led me to have a number of eye-opening conversations with people I never expected to have anything in common with — Southern housewives, guys in the military, and numerous alums of Greek organizations have all reached out to talk about their gender identity issues. Although I still make snap judgments about people based off their looks, I’m careful to consciously check myself/call myself out every time I do so.
I get extra annoyed when people misgender me
This happens in stores all the time — I’ll automatically be referred to as “she” or “her”, or I’ll be directed to the ladies’ dressing room, or I’ll get called “Miss”/ “Ma’am” without any prior questions being asked.
-cue eye roll here-
Of course, this is totally normal behavior, and I shouldn’t expect anyone, least of all busy store employees, to ask about my gender identity, and I’m happy with she/her pronouns anyway. I’m not going to make a big deal out of someone calling me “Miss” when virtually all of the other dress-wearing twenty-two-year-olds in that situation would identify as women.
I get it. But this constant misgendering still sucks because it’s a reflection of how ingrained gender assumptions are in society, even in “radically liberal” cities like San Francisco, and it’s proof that we all have a long way to go before gender-nonconforming people are taken seriously by society at large.
I no longer tolerate intolerant friends
There’s a big difference between “theoretically accepting” and “actually accepting,” something I learned with my own friends after I came out. I may not call out random store employees for misgendering or assuming, but you can bet your sweet ass that I check my friends each time, because, well … they’re my fucking friends! If I’m electing to spend time with them, I’m going make sure that I feel comfortable and respected.
I’ve noticed that some of the people I associate with are particularly stubborn about referring to me as a “girl” or a “woman”, despite me telling them numerous times that I don’t identify that way. Although I’m pretty accepting of “girl”,  I don’t really vibe with any of those other labels, and if a friend of mine is disrespectful of my gender one too many times, I’ll simply find other friends to hang out with.
“But not everybody can remember to make a special exception with your gender!” some are still bound to say.
Consider this: I’m also lactose intolerant, and nobody ever forgets that I can’t have dairy. The same people who roll their eyes when I say “I’m not a woman, so please stop referring to me as one” have gone out of their way to make sure that I can still eat when I’m out with them. If making a “special exception” to remember a friend’s dietary restrictions when you go out isn’t a burden, neither is remembering how they identify.
My gender isn’t a “special exception”, it’s just something else to keep in mind about my preferences, which also include no dairy and a penchant for sweet alcoholic drinks. It’s really not that hard to remember.
I no longer have trouble with things deemed “feminine”
Before I came out, I had the hardest time coming to terms with my emotions, being open to learning about cooking or cleaning, or working out without making some obnoxious display of one-upmanship, or being vulnerable whatsoever. To let myself care about people, cry at movies, or even take basic responsibility in maintaining the cleanliness of the place I was living in was “too girly”.
Hello, toxic masculinity, my old friend!
I certainly wasn’t happy when performing toxic masculinity, in which I would go out and get beyond wasted on the weekends to prove that I could hold my alcohol, or pick fights with my mom about stupid, arbitrary things so that I could assert myself. I also strived to keep up an image of invincibility at school — every assignment was done, every student government decision made without discerning the fact that I was, in fact, just as confused as everybody else was.
Since coming out, I’ve realized that having emotions or admitting weakness doesn’t make me weak and girly; it just makes me human, and that deeming any quality “masculine” or “feminine” is limiting the human experience of what we can do, feel, and achieve.
I’m glad that I was born a human with the capacity to do, feel, and achieve in the first place. Why the fuck would I suppress qualities that make me who I am?
I AM SO FUCKING GLAD I CAME OUT. It feels as though I was in a fog this entire time, and coming out made everything vibrantly, dizzyingly clear. Yes, I’m aware that’s a cliche, and yes, I mean every word I say. I’m able to have sincere connections, not just with others, but with my own self. No longer am I blocked with constant fears of appearing “not masculine enough”, or struggling with how to express what I feel when I’m misgendered. In all my twenty-two years of living, letting the public know that I am not female was the best gift I’ve ever given myself.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean everything is always sunshine and rainbows. I have plenty of off-days where I feel shitty about things that have nothing to do with my gender whatsoever, and that’s okay! Life will always be like that.
The best part is that my gender dysphoria, which used to define my entire existence, no longer has that exacting control over me. And that’s definitely worth celebrating. ♚
 Somebody who leans toward the masculine side of the gender binary while maintaining an outwardly feminine presentation. In colloquial terms, “I feel like a guy but like to look like a girl.”
 Previously, I’d thought I’d had to respond in the traditionally girly way of “Oh my god, thank you!!!!”, which just isn’t my style.
 I identified as a girl until I came out, and am fond enough of the label to use it to describe myself from time to time.