I don’t know how to begin to explain the whole sex-and-gender thing. To do so means to discuss things about myself that I don’t feel I owe anyone, and it sets me up for backlash from just about all sides: my family, the community, a world that’s ready to both label me and tell me I’m “doing it wrong.”
Here are the bare bones:
I grew up in the 1980s. In Texas. In a conservative and religious family. When I was little, I liked dressing up in girly clothes. But I also liked always being the boy in any games I played with my friends. I was Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes, and even David Addison when my school friend and I played Moonlighting.
When I hit puberty, I panicked. I bought big clothes—often men’s clothes—in an attempt to disguise my figure. Oversized shirts. Straight jeans that were sometimes a size too big. Guys’ Timberland boots. I told my parents it was because they fit my wide feet better, which wasn’t entirely untrue. My mom kept buying me cute, stylish clothes like stirrup pants (remember those?) but I had no desire to wear them. She encouraged me to start wearing a little makeup, do my hair like other girls, but I couldn’t be bothered. I told myself it was just because I was lazy and things like hair and makeup take time.
I didn’t think I wanted to be a boy, but I definitely didn’t want to be seen as a girl. And when I would lie in bed at night and let my mind wander before falling asleep, in my imaginings I was always male. (And, for whatever reason, always a gay male. Which explains some of what I write, I guess.)
Growing up sheltered and without things like the Internet, I didn’t know about binding, or gender fluidity, or anything of that sort. I figured my lack of interest in sex was because I was a late bloomer and/or I was supposed to wait until marriage. (Yay! God was saving me by not giving me a libido!) And I didn’t think about being male at all because I was a girl and, as far as I knew, that was that. Even if I played pretend sometimes in my head, well, so? And I did still like dressing up for things like prom. I didn’t, for instance, want to wear a tuxedo instead of a dress. It seemed like if I was going to be a girl, I wanted to be the ultimate girl: dressed up, hair, makeup, nails, etc. But on any typical day, being a boy was easier and better suited me.
And since sex didn’t interest me (another thing that my mom was weirdly invasive about), what did it matter if I was a girl or a boy in my own head? To the world I was “she” and “her”… and still am. It makes the people around me comfortable to think of me that way, and I’m fine with it. I don’t feel like this identity has been forced on me, any more than I felt like my Asperger’s diagnosis solved anything. I’m just me, and I’ve never worried all that much about what others think of it. My desire to figure myself out has always been purely academic. Which is why I tend not to go around saying things like, “I’m asexual,” or, “I’m gender fluid.” Because it invites a level of scrutiny and policing I don’t welcome and that doesn’t ultimately make any difference. I’m not interested in being told how I am, or how I should be, or what I should call myself, or how I should identify, or how vocal I should or shouldn’t be about it. I’m me. Full stop. And I’ve always figured I’m the only one who has to make sense of that.