My spouse went to read yesterday’s post with the meme of the ’90s kid about to instant message your girl, and he was confused. Gender trouble! “Is that you?” he asked.
“No!” I said. “I didn’t make that meme!”
“Oh, ok,” he said. “Wasn’t sure.”
“I didn’t look like a boy that much!” I said.
Then I looked at the pic. Hmm, he was right–it did kind of look like me. Jeans and a solid color teeshirt was my uniform! And I did like hightops, I must admit. Even the kid’s hair color was like mine, but mine has never been that short.
“My legs were never that thin,” I told my spouse. “Ever–even when I was really little.” I’ve always been fat. I was never that cool either, but I would feign cool sometimes, self-protectively.
The mistaken identity was a stimulating idea. Back when I was a kid, I was such a girl. I am a woman now, still cis, but much less cis. Being a girl felt central to who I was–being a woman now is like a costume or a joke that I enjoy playing over and over again.
Back then, I was struggling to survive. When I admitted I was queer, it was a big deal. I liked to kiss, cuddle, have sex with, partner with, fantasize about, and ally myself with women. It’s not like I lived in San Francisco or New York or some sophisticated place–I lived in a rural area, and being the queer kid at school was huge.
In fact, that’s how me and my first husband got together at all. He had sex with his dude-bestie and felt weird about the queer aspect. Because I was the out queer kid, he felt ok talking to me about it. We became friends, I had a crush on his best friend, I had a crush on him, we made out over a BBS chat, and the rest is history.
We were together for seven years total. I was in grad school when I finally broke up with him.
As a girl who loved girls, then a young woman who loved women, gender was something worth fighting for. Of course gender was real–otherwise, why were people trying to kill me for it? When I walked down the street holding hands with my college girlfriend and someone threw rocks at us, that was scary. Or the angry things yelled at us by men in trucks.
I’m sorry we excited you, men in trucks. It wasn’t until years later that I learned about gender as a performance and from kari edwards how defying gender is like defying gravity.
Now gender trouble is ok, something to play with, and being a woman is hard work, but it’s work I mostly enjoy. Being nonbinary would be work I enjoyed less, I’m guessing. Well, maybe I could be superchill nonbinary or stealth nobinary? Who knows–in a year or decade, I could decide I’m not a woman and maybe that I never was. Stay tuned!
Gender trouble is just part of life now. As for my spouse, he doesn’t get off on wearing makeup or dresses or dude-ly stuff, or need to amend his body medically. When people call us ladies or criticize us for being lesbians, he doesn’t get annoyed or overjoyed. His nonbinaryness is basic to who he is, but not something he needs to make a point about all the time.
Not to speak ill of people who need to make a point all the time. That’s cool too. Thank you for doing the brave work of changing culture and being who you are!
Love to the nonbinary people, all the trans people, all the queer people, lovers, fighters, kids getting rocks thrown at them, and nasty truck driving insecure yelling guys who think their well-being is threatened by sweet queer kids who are just trying to live. We’re all on this gender trouble journey, and we will all die one day. At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back into the same box, to be sure.