Anyone else been having a lot of nightmares lately?
My mom, who is always informed about national and global catastrophes (my siblings and I joke that we have been greeted with news of terrible violence and injustice more often than a “hello?” or “how are you?”), said she used to have nightmares as a young girl and had to start sleeping with the Bible under her bed. (I tried this, but found it too uncomfortable).
Despite the fact that my church traumatized me by espousing the belief “men who think they are women” are confused and sinful wrecks who will never be welcomed in Heaven, I would be lying if I didn’t admit to the comfort I find in praying to God. Even when I am experiencing nightmares about targeted violence, I find that reciting 2 Timothy 1:7 is usually very effective. And when that doesn’t work, the one thing that always does is meditating on The Lord’s Prayer until the violence is over (either because I awaken or because, in the dream, I transition into a sort of neutral afterlife devoid of the suffering of Hell but without the all-encompassing Love of Heaven).
Recently, I had a dream in which I was dunked in acidic purple Gatorade while an unspecified figure repeated over and over again that I was the gender assigned to me. I don’t think any Freudian analysis is needed to figure out the source of this.
As a gender-nonconforming nonbinary person without dysphoria, I find myself wondering if transitioning my gender expression will be taken seriously (again on hold ‘cuz I’m back at home). Most of my gender dyscomfiture, a term I made up to refer to discomfort with the gender assigned to me at birth that I do not personally identify as dysphoria, is social (potential for a future post). It comes from the way my body, actions, interests and hobbies, instincts, brain, hormonal makeup, etc. are gendered by others. That is, how society imposes gender on my being.
And usually the more specific and gendered the terms become—including more non-binary and gender-nonconforming inclusive terms like “transfeminine” and “transmasculine”—the more unsure I become. I can be fairly comfortable with describing myself one day, feeling as though words like “agender,” “demigirl,” and “gender-nonconforming transfeminine” approximate my experience well. But the next day—due to a multitude of factors that could be totally unrelated to my gender but leave my confidence cracked and self-esteem shaken—I find myself falling back into uncertainty. That’s why I go with the umbrella term “non-binary.” It captures so many of the possible identities through which I have cycled.
In these states of uncertainty, sometimes I despair that I may never have a stable understanding of my gender to tie up in a neat box or a single coming out letter (even though I hate coming out as a concept, the surety of self required to tell people intimate parts of who you are is admirable). I think about how frustrating it can be to be unable to categorize something or someone, especially as a person who loves the way words can communicate difficult concepts (hence my proclivity for creating words like “dyscomfiture”) and bring people closer together (hence my proclivity to write poetry).
J is a friend from my hometown before I went away to Stanley Lanford and identified myself as non-binary. J noticed that I’d made little changes here and there, like painting my nails, using cute drawings of hyperfemme characters as my email and Zoom profile pics (‘cuz sometimes one feels like they have to compensate, okay?), changing my pronouns in my electronic signature, learning about retired persona Constance Veneer (potential subject for a later blog post), etc.
And J, the ever-perceptive always-supportive ally, asked very harmlessly what was going on and if there were things they should know in order to best honor my gender. And I thought to myself, “Girl, you got this, English major and gender-introspectionist.”
Whatever attempt at describing my gender I managed clearly left J more confused than before, and they ended up assuring me I didn’t need to explain anything I wasn’t ready to. So, I guess I wasn’t ready. This left me feeling kind of low. (In addition, I got a fake job offer. Watch out for those, kids. Do your research.) And this translated to me being like ugh… uugggggh.
The thing is, I know what my problem was. Sometimes, when a cis person shows interest in hearing me ramble about my gender, I freak out.
Even in the best cases my subconscious thinks they are asking because they think I’m fake (like that job offer) and are searching for proof that I am the gender I claim to be and justification for all the new things I am asking them to do to honor said gender (like I did with that job offer—they couldn’t justify why I needed to give them my bank account so early in the hiring process, an immediate red flag). The vibes that creep up from the insecure parts of me are “is it even real or are you just being difficult?” And in response to this inherent invalidation I sometimes feel around gender-conforming cis people, I do an awful thing…
This can be like searching Hell for a drop of fresh water.
Recently, I took a quiz—this is foolish and perhaps juvenile, I know—but I took a quiz that claimed to let you know if you have a dominant “masculine” or “feminine” “energy.” Now, perhaps the only useful part of this was paying attention to my desire.
I desperately wanted the quiz to say I was dominantly feminine, in part because I have always admired stereotypically feminine characteristics, but also because I feel this pressure that in order to be validly trans, I need to show signs of a gender or “gendered energy” “opposite” that of the gender I was assigned at birth. (This is one of the reasons I don’t always feel represented by the word “trans,” even though more recent and inclusive definitions objectively describe my experience—again, potential fodder for a future post).
Put simply, in this reductive and erroneous framework, a person assigned female at birth should show signs of masculinity and/or identify with manhood and maleness. And vice versa for those of us assigned male at birth (terms I am also not a fan of using for the way it focuses on the gendered perception I am trying to escape). It feels like there is a threshold for how much masculinity or femininity one displays or identifies with in order for one’s trans-ness to be taken seriously, and this ultimately goes back to what one was assigned at birth. I sense this “threshold” even in less binary, more inclusive terms such as “transmasculine” and “transfeminine.”
Trans tomboys? Butch trans women and queeny trans men? People whose genders do not reference these binaries at all, such as maverique individuals?
It feels like identifying as a woman or as female fulfills the femininity quantum for transfeminine people who otherwise don’t feel represented by “femininity.” (And vice versa for transmasc folks). But what about nonbinary people who don’t identify with femininity but also shun masculinity because of its proximity to their assigned gender (maybe that’s just me)?
I clearly feel at home to some extent in the trans communities in which I have participated (always more so when it is explicitly inclusive of non-binary and GNC folks), but I still cling to a harmful internalized belief that if I am not feminine “enough” or “at all” then I am not valid (i.e. not welcome). This insecurity is intensified if the only descriptors or umbrella terms available in a space are, again, “transmasculine” and “transfeminine.”
And, when I seek validation to counter these insecurities, my desire seems to swing away from wanting to be read as a feminine-of-center or androgynous enby to wanting to be read as a binary woman of any gender modality (a term coined by transfeminine activist Florence Ashley). It’s a secondary desire to feel like I can claim an otherwise expansive gender term. For instance, I see “woman” as pretty expansive, and often feel that, were I to identify as such, I wouldn’t feel so pressured to perform femininity ‘cause the “femme threshold” is met in our cultural understanding of “woman” itself, even though not all women are femme. Perhaps this is a naïve assumption.
But, as I mentioned, I am fine with my body. It’s just that I am thrown off when every bit of it is gendered masculine. I find myself looking into HRT (hormone replacement therapy), hoping that I could just feminize my body enough so that I could meet this imaginary “feminine threshold,” leaving the rest of me free to be however I please.
The only problem is I don’t need HRT, and though I now have times when I experience dyscomfiture around my body parts, the dyscomfiture wasn’t always there. It was placed there by societal notions of what counts as “masculine,” “feminine,” or “androgynous.” I can trace each insecurity back to a specific moment I learned how something was gendered. I don’t even know if my system is meant to develop in a way my Western, American culture would read as “female.” Is it worth the risk?
In my stronger moments, I know the answer isn’t to wait or try to conform, but instead to do my little part to push against society’s notions, or, rather, to live authentically and be an example outside the binary.
I write from the perspective of what I understand to be true for me, and if you find that any form of medical transition works for you, by all means go for it! I should also mention that one does not need to be entirely sure about how they want to transition in order to begin transitioning. What one feels is right for them varies from person to person.
Women and femmes with broad shoulders and flames of hair peeking from cleavage. If I transition to what I truly desire without making risky or huge sacrifices merely to achieve societal validation, couldn’t I be such a role model for another person struggling with the same questions? Easing the dyscomfiture by mere existence?
The Lord’s Prayer, which I had to recite a lot growing up, includes this line: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” It shatters the belief that we have to wait to die to experience what is heavenly—be it justice, love, joy, peace, or the feeling of ease when one is truly seen.
But given the current state of our world, we know it will take work to get there, to bring Heaven down to Earth. Similarly, I may not live in a world where my truth can be lived out and acknowledged, but I can do my part to create that world for people in the future. A world where people can express their genders without discrimination or the pressures of a cisnormative misogynistic binary transphobic etc etc society.
Okay, there ends my trial at being deep.
Tune in for future posts, who knows what I will cover. (Actually, I will probably do an expanded post around some of the terminology I threw around in this one, especially the made up word “dyscomfiture”). The possibilities are endless in the pigeonhole.
Thanks for stopping by,
P.S. If you related to any of my insecurities and/or want someone to talk to, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any legit job offers, preferably related to writing, editing, or proofreading, you can send that info to me as well.
P.P.S. I only post to The Pigeonhole and have no social media, so any other Connie Thompson you find on the internet is unaffiliated. Just thought you should know.
Tristamshadey Lol Con, why did it take so long for your next post? You said a week or two – LIES!