I can sometimes be an idiot. A real, full blown, fool of epic proportions. Usually about myself.
More accurately, my conscious mind can be an idiot, my sub-conscious is a lot better and just gets on with things without bothering to inform the rest of me.
When I was younger I was a member of online gay youth groups, was interested in gay issues, I was scared of telling people, I was fantasising about guys. Despite all that, it didn’t really click that I was gay until I saw Queer as Folk - 1999, I was 15. (Sadly, I then modelled myself after an even less confident Vince).
Somehow, one part of my mind seemed to be busy getting on with it just without nothing with waiting for the idiot part to catch up.
On Twitter, @wordgeeksez pointed out that the trans narrative is overwhelming based on “I always knew I was…”. That this narrative is dominant and can hinder understanding and acceptance.
I didn’t always know. I didn’t always know I was gay (and that identity has shifted and been challenged). I didn’t always know I was non-binary. I still don’t know I am anything.
When I came out to my mum she asked. I said “no”. I absolutely stand by my answer as I understood things at the time - a time when I understood only the gender binary. I knew then and know now that I’m not a woman.
If I’m not a woman, I must surely be a man. I didn’t much feel like a man, but I had (and still have) a penis, I had grown up as a boy and a young man. I never really examined it. I hated (and hate) my body, but that’s entirely down to Western beauty standards and my disdain for exercise.
Then I got to uni and started reading and learning more about queer. I stopped being afraid of it as it applied to my sexuality and applied it to myself politically - I hated the boxes, the prisons, of L, G and B.
Through those books I discovered genderqueer. And my conscious mind filed it as “interesting, but not really relevant for you”. It was far too creative. And I felt I could never achieve a perceived necessary androgyny to pull it off.
I followed trans issues, vaguely and as an outsider. Then came Twitter and the chance to actually follow and understand the discussions.
And new vocabulary: Non-binary. But I still didn’t think it applied to me. I was still waiting.
Thankfully, during that time, my sub-conscious had not just been busy facepalming but was re-filing it all under “hey, dumbass, it’s you” and steaming forward and, in April 2014, the #IAmNonBinary hashtag managed to trick the two parts of my mind into working together, and my sub-conscious mind gave my conscious mind a concept of genderspace - a space-time like “plane” distorted by gravity-wells around “male” and “female”. At the time I was feeling somewhat trapped by the well which was “male”, but the conscious part of my mind was starting to work out the fuel for the rocket that my sub-conscious mind had built.
And we arrive at now. A now where I accept that my gender presentation will not get past male (or male in a skirt/dress) but understand that I am not that. A now where I am asking people online to use they/them pronouns (oh, how I wish we used properly singular they - “they is…”) and am starting to discuss it with offline folks too. A now where I attended Kate Bornstein’s gender workshop and my gender wasn’t dismissed.
A now where I can say I didn’t always know. And even when I knew, I didn’t.
A now where, despite everything else in this blog, I still struggle to call myself trans.
There are a lot of things which got in my way - the perception of gender as a binary and strong linking of gender presentation and gender identity. But the “always knew” narrative, that’s the bit that makes me doubt, makes me struggle to identify as trans.
I’m writing this to give a different narrative. One where knowledge comes in dribs and drabs, in conscious epiphanies and sub-conscious slogs. A narrative where doubt overwhelms. A narrative where shifting language and communication allows better understanding.
We cannot hear the stories we do not tell. Those first stories of genderqueer I read were “always knew” stories. This narrative, this story is for those who may take some time to get there, for those who doubt, who don’t understand. One day things will click into place. There will be new language, new conversations, new understandings. There will be shifts and changes. You will be a new person, we will be new people. And some of us didn’t always know.
FWIW, my sub-conscious mind is still sending my conscious mind smug memos like "those feelings about genderqueer when you first met it - jealousy".