How I Identify
Last night I dreamt I had a penis. This isn’t an unusual occurrence, I often dream that I have a penis. When I wake up, I have a few moments of phantom limb sensations, then as my full consciousness returns, reality takes hold and I’m left with feelings of loss and emptiness.
I also dream that I have a vagina. I dream that I have a slender body with perfect breasts and smooth hips. I dream about being an icon of femininity, a perfect 10 that draws eyes from across the room. When I wake from these dreams, I am disappointed with the lumpy, bumpy shape that I am and vow (yet again) to do something to change it.
I was born into a female body and, as most females do, I have a number of general insecurities about my body, but I don’t hate my female sex organs.
I have always had a significant amount of “penis envy”. Back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, before gender identity was a common topic of discussion, I thought my feelings came from growing up with two brothers, being a “tom boy”, and the fact that I generally got on better with boys than girls. Learning a little bit about feminism made me think “Well, of course I want to be a man, life is so much easier for them,” but even now, when I believe this is a woman’s world, I still miss my penis.
The language used to describe the way that people identify, and which pronouns they like to be addressed with, is always changing and adapting and means different things to different people. I often use the term “non-binary” to describe my gender, as that’s generally accepted to mean neither male nor female. However, the term that more truly represents myself is “gender fluid” since I don’t reject being in the binary, I just switch from one to the other. Allow me to explain:
I was born with “normal” female attributes. In fact, as a mature female I have predominant female features. I have an hourglass figure, large breasts and hips, delicate wrists and ankles, an upturned nose and a dimple in my cheek when I smile. I also have long hair and don’t bite my nails which contribute to the female identity, though these are choices and not genetics.
Sometimes I love being female. I will wear makeup, do my hair, put on a well fitting bra and tight top to show off my curves. I enjoy feeling sexy and desirable as a woman. On a deeper level, I love and respect what my female anatomy was designed for. I love that I am able to carry a foetus through development then birth the child through my vagina and feed them from my breasts. That is miraculous to me and I am so grateful to have that capability (even though it means that I have 7/8 day-long, heavy periods).
Sometimes I hate being female. I see my body and cringe before looking away with disgust. I wear sports bras that hold my breasts as flat as possible against my chest. I wear loose, baggy t-shirts and hoodies to disguise any shape that I have. I put on boxers and baggy trousers and sigh deeply for my missing appendage. I do own a “packer” (a synthetic, flaccid penis that can be placed in underwear to simulate the “lump” that men have in their trousers) and I do wear it on the occasions that the loss is particularly painful, just feeling the weight and presence of it between my legs can bring me a little relief, but I’ve not had the nerve to wear it publically yet.
I don’t know how to describe to you the feeling of loss for something that you’ve never possessed. Especially when the thing you’re missing is integral to your understanding of who you are as a person. Call to mind something that is a part of your personality and identity, something that is you, that you could never be without. Now imagine you don’t have that thing, and you can’t even openly express the fact that you miss it because you were never supposed to have it in the first place. Imagine how it would feel to not have the thing that makes you who you are, how lost and unfamiliar you would be.
Operations exist to alter the bodies of males who wish to be females or vice versa, but no doctor would be willing to give a person two sets of genitalia. But I do still suffer with body dysmorphia, so I have to choose whether to remain female and live with the grief of not having a penis, or transition fully to a male and grieve the loss of my female anatomy. I am living in the lose-lose purgatory of gender identity. It is common nowadays to encounter transgender people, and their needs are becoming more openly discussed and met, but there are a plethora of other genders out there who are going underrepresented and who need guidance and assistance to make their bodies more comfortable to live in.
Gender and Sexuality
I don’t know how common this is, as I feel that it is impolite to ask people about their sexuality, but my gender identity and sexuality are intrinsically linked.
I am bisexual and have known so since I was very young. When I first started exploring my sexuality, I thought I was a lesbian since I found that I was only sexually attracted to women. My attraction to men came later and remained at a lesser level, but I am nevertheless, bisexual. However, the link that this has with my gender is something that I’ve only recently begun to understand.
When I am attracted to a man, I feel like a straight woman. When I am attracted to a woman, I feel like a straight man. During sex, I wouldn’t want a man to treat my body as masculine, and I wouldn’t want a woman to treat my body as feminine, both of those scenarios make me feel uncomfortable. In past situations when I have been with both men and women simultaneously, I assumed the gender that was opposite to the person I found most attractive, and I gave my attention solely to them. I could not, and can not, change my gender identity at will or switch from one to the other at a moments notice.
So that then begs the question, am I actually bisexual? Or am I straight and gender fluid?
What is Gender/ Coming Out
If you are transgender, coming out is an important part of the transition process. You are announcing to the world (or at least, your loved ones) who you are and how you wish to live. It is your declaration that you intend to shrug off the old you that never really fit, and begin your journey into the you that you know yourself to be. It is also an opportunity for you to inform others of your preferred pronouns and new name. It is the beginning of your rebirth.
If you are non-binary or gender fluid, your identity is not so clear cut and it can be difficult for others to understand. Some non-binary people may choose to adopt the pronouns they/them or ze/zir (or something else) and this is something that they can request of people, but other than that, what parts of their lifestyle will be different? They may cut their hair differently or wear new clothes, but they’re not adopting a whole new persona that people will need to adjust to. In todays world where gender stereotypes are no longer expected, what difference does it make if you are male, female, both, or neither?
I’ve gone back and forth on this idea of whether it’s necessary for me to come out. I don’t know until I wake up in the morning which gender I will identify more with, and therefore I am happy for people to choose whichever pronouns they think best represent me at the time. Nothing about my lifestyle or the way others treat me will change if I announce that I am gender fluid, but I also feel like, by not telling others, I’m keeping it a secret, and I don’t want to do that either.
Well, I guess you can consider this my public coming out. My name is Belle and I identify and gender fluid. Nice to meet you.