While on Facebook recently, I noticed that a friend of mine recently posted an answer to the question “Is that a boy or a girl?” His answer was, “It doesn’t matter.”
It’s a question that hits close to home for me. As someone who conforms very little to the “norms” of my gender, I’ve been asked this question on more than one occasion. I’ve also been aware that you were asking this question about me. After a lifetime of questioning, I’ve become adept at identifying the pointing, the snickering, and the disgusted looks.
The answer is an excellent one, but it begs further questioning. Why does it even matter? Why does it matter that I look different than what you think I should in your narrow frame of reference on gender? How does the fact that I prefer to wear cargo pants and t-shirts make me less of a person because it may challenge your pre-conceived notions?
I am female, that doesn’t mean I need to be feminine to be worthy of being treated as a human being. I act the way I do because it reflects who I am. I dress the way I do because that is what I’m comfortable wearing. The last time I tried to wear a dress, I had an asthma attack, so don’t tell me that if I don’t want to mistaken as male, I need to dress more like I “should” be. Why do I need to stay in the safe little box you’ve created for me so as not to make you uncomfortable?
This is how I’ve been all my life, and there’s nothing wrong with it. The problem doesn’t lie with me, the problem lies with those of you who, for some reason, feel threatened by the way I choose to express who I am.
The fault lies with the men who gay-bashed me and the guy I was dating (the only heterosexual relationship I’ve ever been in), because they thought they saw two men holding hands.
The fault lies with the man who followed me off the bus one night, calling me faggot. The one who made me wonder which option was worse, being a faggot, or being female. The one by whom I felt so threatened that running into traffic on a busy street at night seemed like a better option than having him catch up to me.
The fault lies with the women who inform me that I’m in the wrong bathroom, then won’t accept my assurances that I am where I need to be. The women who have made me so self-conscious about going into a public bathroom that I rarely go without another more “feminine” woman to vouch for me. If I don’t have a wing-woman, my palms get sweaty and I make sure I’m humming or speaking when I enter the room so there is less chance I’ll be challenged.
The fault lies with the women who are the reason why I never try on clothing at the store. I would rather take those clothes home with me and make the trip back than go through the pain of being stared or snickered at.
I consider myself to be pretty well-adjusted. I’ve been privileged to have a supportive family and friends who could not care less what I look like as long as I’m happy. My heart bleeds for those who don’t have the same support and opportunities I have had. Those who have to make this stand on their own. Every. Goddamn. Day.
And it is a daily battle, wondering if this is going to be another time where I get yelled at or worse. And worse happens, people. It’s happened to me, it happens to others. No one deserves to get a beating for being themselves, especially when it isn’t hurting anybody else. It certainly shouldn’t be worth anybody’s life. I’ve had it easy compared to what others have had to confront. I am thankful for that fact, and I am greatly saddened by it at the same time.
So, yes, I may be short with you when you ask me if I’m in the right bathroom. And I will look you in the eye when you laugh at me behind your hand. I will correct you when you call me sir, and I may or may not accept your apology. Frankly, it depends on the day, and how tired I am of the whole dance.
The one thing I will not do is apologize for who I am. I am me, and it’s taken me a long time to get here. So I will continue to stand, unbowed and unapologetic as myself. And if you have a problem with that, then that’s your problem.
Because it’s not mine.