So, I finally bought a binder.
I've been wanting one for so long, but I was too afraid to actually get it. Oh, they're too expensive. Oh, figuring out the sizing is too confusing. Oh, making one is beyond me because I have no arts-and-crafts skills. (Am I still allowed to be part of the queer and/or blogging communities if I admit that I have no arts-and-crafts skills?)
A week ago, the excuses ran out. I just couldn't stand it any longer. I ordered one online, and yesterday it finally arrived.
I'd been really on edge waiting for it. I knew it was ridiculous, but I just felt like putting it on for the first time would be this ~magical moment of truth~, an epiphany where everything fell into place and I would be able to stand up straight and tall and say LOOK AT ME, WORLD, THIS IS WHAT I AM.
Of course, this is not exactly what happened. It's a nice thing to have; I like what it does to my body shape a lot; but it doesn't make me completely flat, and it certainly doesn't solve all my issues in one swoop. But I did think that my first day wearing it out would be a day without (or, okay, with less) dysphoria.
It started out grand enough. I went into the city with a group of friends. It was a beautiful day, and I was wearing my new binder under one of my favorite T-shirts. I felt okay about myself, or at least as close to okay as I ever get.
Then we went to a bowling alley, and I nipped to the bathroom. There were non-gendered bathrooms, which was nice. I adjusted my binder and made sure I looked okay, and then went to join my friends in the bowling alley. They'd already paid for two lanes and entered everyone's names. They'd split up the group into “men” and “women”, and included me among the latter.
Do you want to know what the dysphoria felt like? I will tell you. It felt not unlike a panic attack: waves of nausea would crash over me, so intense I could barely stand upright, and then recede just enough to make me think I could cope before hitting me again in full force.
I am not very good at confronting issues head-on, and anyway I didn't want to ruin anyone else's fun, so I did not say anything. And it's not that I expect my friends to read my mind or anything – I haven't spoken about it openly with many of them and I don't expect them all to be totally sensitive about it – but they see the gender-neutral pronoun buttons I wear; they know gender is kind of a difficult subject for me; they know I prefer gender-neutral language wherever possible.
They should've fucking known this would upset me.
Like, I don't know, maybe gender dysphoria is trivial or a joke to them; but it's really, really painful for me. Every time someone uses female pronouns for me, it stings a little; every time someone calls attention to my assumed femaleness in a major way, it's like a punch in the gut. It really does feel like a physical injury.
The other day one of my friends referred to me as a “girl”. I didn't say anything, but afterward I cried about it in the shower.
All my life, I've been suppressing this. At a very, very early age I intuited the need to suppress it. I assumed every girl wanted to be a boy, but nobody talked about it because (a) it would upset their mother and (b) there was nothing you could do about it anyway. I channeled all of these feelings into fiction: I desperately sought out novels written by female authors from the perspective of a male character as legitimation that it was okay to do this, and I wrote all my own stories from the perspective of boys or gender-non-conforming girls. I guess the gender policing I encountered as a very small child made it clear to me that “not being a girl” would have to sit alongside “walking with dinosaurs” and “solving mysteries” as belonging to the realm of pure imagination.
Well, guess what? I give up. I give up trying to be who everyone wants me to be. I don't have a clue who I am, but I know who I'm not. The bowling incident has made that crystal clear: if I were a woman, it would not have upset me so much to be called one.
I packed up my not-girl-ness in a box marked PURE FANTASY at a very early age. Inside the box, it festered and grew; now it's a big ugly mess that has burst free of the childhood fetters, and what it will look like once I've given it two decades' worth of care and attention is anybody's guess.