“Which came first, the phoenix or the flame?”
“Hmm . . . What do you think, Harry?” said Luna, looking thoughtful.
“What? Isn’t there just a password?”
“Oh no, you’ve got to answer a question,” said Luna.
“What if you get it wrong?”
“Well, you have to wait for somebody who gets it right,” said Luna. “That way you learn, you see?”
“Yeah . . . Trouble is, we can’t really afford to wait for anyone else, Luna.”
“No, I see what you mean,” said Luna seriously. “Well then, I think the answer is that a circle has no beginning.”
“Well reasoned,” said the voice, and the door swung open.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I’ve had several conversations with other genderqueer people over the last few days. It seems I’m not the only one who has had this happen and not even remotely seen it coming. In one conversation in particular, the person I was talking to said that though they hadn’t seen it coming, after they started going through their transition, they realized looking back that there were signs.
I didn’t think this was true for me, and in a lot of ways I still don’t (more on this later), but I had an interesting moment recently.
I’ve been doing my best to jump into this genderqueer thing with both feet, because as much as a lot of me would like to try and pretend things are just like they were before, all of the advice I have gotten, and all of the intuition that I have, says that is an awful idea. I watched a documentary on gender identity recently called “Just Gender” in which one of the trans women interviewed said that if she could do things differently, she would have made the transition to identifying and presenting as female 80 years ago.
I am not going to wait decades to do this only to look back later and wish I hadn’t.
As such, the other day found me looking around online for more feminine clothing options. One of the things I ended up searching for is a little difficult to describe, because I’m not exactly sure if it exists or if it’s just something I have conjured into being in my head. For lack of the ability to be more specific about describing clothing, the best I can do is say that it’s something along the lines of soft, capri-length, wavy pants.
All of a sudden, I realized that this was something I had thought about doing, daydreamed about doing, before. Without realizing it, within a few days of coming out as genderqueer, I was online looking for things that I had wanted to look for before but never had. I’m not sure I could say exactly why I never did it before; I don’t think it was as simple as my deciding not to let myself because I was male-identified, but I am not ruling out my former male identification as being a factor.
That started me thinking back to other things. I thought about how often I’ve wished that the dance spaces I had access to were less gender-normative, so that I could follow as well as lead without feeling uncomfortable. Partly, this was because I find the leading more challenging, and thus occasionally less relaxing. Also partly, though, it was because there were a lot of things I liked about the feeling of the other side of that dynamic.
I thought about the times I’ve fantasized about having experiences on the opposite side of traditional gender dynamics in a lot of different ways. I thought about past conversations.
“I’m attracted to you, which is unusual; I’m not generally attracted to cis guys.”
“Well, in fairness to you, I think I’m one of the least ‘cissy’ cis guys I know.”
I thought about all of the things I just don’t like about traditional male gender roles. I thought about some other retrospectively telltale-seeming things that are for the moment still too personal-feeling to put on the Internet.
I thought about all of these things. All of these things that were true before I started transitioning. I wondered what it meant. The thing is, I’ve asked myself before how I felt about my gender, and until recently the answer was always very comfortably that I was fine being male, and that being male felt like it fit me. The less ‘cissy’ things about me were just ways that traditional male gender roles rubbed me the wrong way. They were ways that I varied from the mean, but always felt like ways that I varied comfortably within my gender identity, rather than ways in which my gender identity didn’t fit.
So what’s different? Not that having or not having the answer to this question makes any of what I’m doing more or less valid, but I’m curious.
I wonder — I certainly don’t know, but I wonder — if maybe some deep part of my brain saw these things that I wanted to be and experience and decided to change something under the hood. It decided that there was so much resistance to being some of the ways that I naturally feel like being within the gender I was assigned at birth that it said “You know what, all of these things that you want, these things that could be important, defining milestones on your journey toward greater self-actualization, they are going to be so much harder as a guy that maybe the best thing for me to do for you is to just flip that switch, and release you from the concepts that confine you.”.
It makes more sense, and in some ways feels more right not to assume that my new gender identity is something that I was and didn’t realize it, but to assume that it is something that I wasn’t before that I am now. That it wasn’t so much that these ways in which I didn’t quite fit were a product of a different underlying gender identity, but that the ways in which I didn’t fit came to a head in a way that resulted in a sudden, fundamental change in my gender identity.
I don’t know if that’s accurate, but at the very least, given all that I’ve learned over the last few years about the brain, I feel pretty comfortable conjecturing that the bits of my brain outside my control are sufficiently powerful to potentially bring about a change like this.