Note: In December of 2018, a reader submitted an in-depth question about a piece I had written, titled “Too Girly to be Trans?”. I wrote a series of deep dives into my thoughts on gender identity as a response. At the time, I was still in the closet — I came out as a transgender man, changed my name from “Mimi” to “Marty,” and started using he/him pronouns in June of 2019.
You’re always welcome to question me on my thoughts and beliefs.
I love a deep critical inquiry. I’m That Person who spends the entire party engaged in intense, alcohol-fueled intellectual conversation that starts out as innocent small talk — sorry, not sorry. My mind’s favorite thing to do is to take a complex idea and break it down into tiny, shining pieces of clarity.
I’m not offended by polite questions about my foundational beliefs or reasoning. Know that the comments sections for my articles are always open. Sometimes, simple replies aren’t enough, and deserve to be articles in and of themselves. That’s where posts like this one come in.
An inquiry on gender
A few months ago, a generous individual who identified themselves as “P” wrote a great response to my “Too Girly to be Trans?” article. I have copied and pasted it below in its entirety, and added links to the two articles where the quotes were referenced. (These would be “Too Girly to be Trans?” and “How I’ve Changed Since Coming Out as Gender Nonconforming”, if you don’t want to click on every source link).
Here is what P said:
Appreciate your openness. I’m a little confused by a few things:
You said this in a previous post: “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.” [source]
But then you proceed to characterize someone leading you to the women’s restroom as “seriously overcrossing” your boundaries. [source]
You also say this: “Whenever I go to stores, I’m referred to as “miss,” “ma’am”, or “she.” People I regularly interact with continue to casually refer to me as female, even though they know I’m out. And while one part of me is righteously peeved…” [source]
But you also say that you use she/her pronouns for yourself. [source]
But you also will say to people, “Hey, I wanted to let you know that I’m gender-nonconforming, and would have appreciated it if you’d asked my pronouns before referring to me as ‘she.’” [source]
I’m confused about where your outrage comes from. If you present yourself as conventionally very feminine/girly and you date cis-gendered men — but you identify as male, but you prefer she/her pronouns, I kinda think the onus is on you for telling people how you identify and how you’d like to be referred to. 0.5% of people identify as trans, and, I imagine, you are one of very few folks who is biologically female and presents as ultra-femme but who identifies as male. Almost nobody is going to even think to ask you if you’re gender non-conforming — and as soon as you told the sales clerk, I imagine they thought you meant M2F.
I mean, honestly, the only way that it seems like you won’t be offended in any situation is if it becomes customary for EVERYONE to ask upon having any sort of interaction with ANYBODY “Are you gender non-conforming? What pronouns do you prefer?” And, unfortunately, with only .5% of the population identifying as gender non-conforming and a tiny percentage of that being bio females who present as overtly feminine but identify as male but prefer feminine pronouns … not only is it not going to happen, but it also isn’t practical.
Your offense when the LBGTQ woman said “masculine of center my ass” [source] IS warranted. That was incredibly disrespectful. Once you have told someone your preferences and your identity, it is absolutely reasonable to expect that they will respect it.
But asking someone where the restroom is and being offended when they lead the long-haired person in a dress to the women’s room? [source] Why not just avoid an uncomfortable situation for all involved and ask where whatever restroom you want to use is? If you want to use the men’s room, you can state your preference and avoid further confusion by stating that you’re gender non-confirming.
I usually am right there, nodding my head and silently agreeing with the things you say. But this time, it feels like your rage is misplaced.
First of all, @P: thank you for taking the time to leave such a well-thought-out comment. It shows that you genuinely care about this topic and are curious to learn more. Feedback like yours is what makes me take a deeper look at myself and what exactly I’m trying to accomplish by talking about gender identity all the time. It’s much appreciated.
I think there are two points I need to address here:
- Why do I identify as “masculine-of-center femme” rather than “female”? Why do I have that distinction, when it all looks the same (femme presentation, she/her pronoun usage) from the outside?
- What does my vision of an ideal society look like, in terms of gender? Aren’t binary genders inherently problematic in that they still box people in to arbitrary aesthetics and social roles?
These are hard questions to answer, which is why I’ve taken my sweet time with responding.  Gender identity is complex, fluid, and one of those things where every single person may have a completely different opinion on the matter. “Woman” to me sounds like a linguistic prison made of invisible expectations that I cannot fulfill. A pretty dress and red lipstick, however, are tools to ironically celebrate my distaste for traditional femininity. To another femme (even one who identifies as masculine-of-center), the the exact opposite could be true, and both of our opinions would be valid.
I will respond to this inquiry in two parts and in separate articles, to avoid the entire thing from getting too long.
I want to reiterate that I am only one voice among many who identify as gender nonconforming, and that others’ opinions are equally as valid as mine. I am not an expert just because I post about this stuff often! Trans, non-binary, and other gender nonconforming folks are all around you. Take the time to get to know them, their stories, their ways of seeing the world. Politely ask them why they see those things in that way. Support them in their endeavors to educate you, even if they may be muddled with personal feelings and contradictions. Seek to understand, not judge, and together we can make this world one that legitimately supports all people. ♚