I used to believe I had some sort of essential gendered energy emanating out from my entire being, like an aura that can only be captured by one of those cameras at the state fair. I used to believe that this gendered energy could be sensed and interpreted correctly by other people, regardless of how I looked, dressed, or acted in the moment. So when people read me as a man or a woman, as straight or gay, as cis or trans, I used to believe their assumptions had any bearing whatsoever on what I “really” was.
Coming out bisexual/pansexual taught me how artificial are distinctions between genders, how so much more diversity exists between individuals than between Gender A and Gender B. Coming out androgynous has taught me how totally full of shit most people are about gender in the first place.
In the space of an average day, I pass through plenty of gendered spaces. I’m assumed to be a butch lesbian, a femme gay man, a 14-year-old boy, a straight woman, and people interact with me accordingly. In a social/relational sense, I am what other people want/need me to be.
Furthermore, what others want/need me to be often has far less to do with how I am physically presenting than with where they need me to exist in the gendered hierarchy of the moment – is this person socially above or beneath me? Are they a potential ally, or a potential threat? And, most importantly, can I fuck them and maintain my current investment in systems of power?
Guy at the gym, to me: Whoa, I’m glad you’re female. I was thinking “Oh shit, that’s one pretty guy.”
Would it make me less of a man to fuck that?
Woman I’d been flirting with in a queer bar: Wait. Are you… TRANS?
Would it make me a slutty, dirty, morally compromised bisexual to fuck that?
I’m beginning to learn that this involuntary gendering can be pushed back on, flouted, or “worked.” For example, my partner’s favorite hobby is frightening cis people. In the name of good comedy, I have given hir standing permission to gender me in whatever way will freak a stranger out the most.
Dudes on the street: Hey, your girlfriend’s really pretty.
My partner: Yeah, everyone’s gay for him.