Note: This blog was originally published on my MySpace blog, November 18, 2008.
Looking back, there's one thing I wish someone had told me when I was a kid. It would have made my life so much easier:
Growing up, I was taught that boys were boys and girls were girls. Not fitting into either category was just asking for trouble, especially once I hit high school. I didn't know what was wrong with me, and I always felt like an outsider. Which, really, is par for the course in high school, so I don't remember it as a particularly bad experience.
I don't think I was ever myself in high school, though. My focus was on being the perfect kid, so I was always on the honor roll (except for senior year, because I skipped a lot of school to go to the beach), I was almost never in trouble (almost never got caught), and pretty much did whatever was expected of me. Outside of writing (in composition notebooks, yeah!) I didn't really care about anything, least of all myself. I sorta just let fate have its way with me, and fate did an okay job.
College gave me a little room to stretch and, god, it felt good. I had an eighteen hour course load, two jobs, was a member of almost every club on campus, volunteered, had a short stint as a chaplain, learned to dance, got my first kiss, and won a poetry contest. And it was a liberal arts college, so I could do things like take Archery the same semester I took Environmental Biology. A light went on inside of me and I went, "Holy crap! I can do everything!"
Then I went to law school and it was time to cram myself into a box again. This time it didn't go so well. The classes were law, the clubs were law, all anyone ever talked about was law. You were supposed to conduct yourself a certain way and dress accordingly. I don't remember ever being so miserable in my life, but I was determined to stick it out.
Fate saved my ass by striking me down. I was in the hospital for three weeks. A year later, I officially let my school know I was never going back.
I'm probably sharing too much here. But I wanted to give a little background on where I was coming from, because I didn't start living until the year I almost died. It was scary and confusing and it hurt like hell, but for the first time in my life I felt like I was someone real.
I've known I'm gender fluid for a long time. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, the Urban Dictionary defines it this way:
Gender Fluid is a gender identity best described as a dynamic mix of boy and girl. A person who is Gender Fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more boy some days, and more girl other days.
Being Gender Fluid has nothing to do with which set of genitalia one has, nor their sexual orientation.
Wikipedia also has a pretty good article on being genderqueer/gender fluid.
I cried when I first heard the term. Not only did it fit, but it meant that there were other people out there like me. It was okay that I didn't identify as a man or a woman, it was okay to be what I felt when I felt like it.
There were problems, of course. On a practical level, filling out forms is a constant headache. Not many of them let you go "unspecified" or "other," so I generally choose "male" because that's the closest that fits. On a personal level, people will tell me that I'm indecisive, that I should just go ahead and get the operation already, that I'm in denial about my sexuality, etc etc etc. The fact is, I didn't choose to be in between any more than another person chooses to be gay or straight, male or female.
And for the record, anyone who says it's easy to be in between is fucking insane. Some people get mad when you don't identify as one or the other. And I cringe every time I read some rant on the internet telling a genderqueer person to "Get off the fence" or starting a sentence with "They claim to be…" I get the impression that they want a Proof of Queer card or something.
There is no Proof of Queer card. As far as I know. As implied above, I'm bad with forms so maybe I missed the registration process.
It took me a quarter of a century to discover that I was, in fact, a real person. I fully believe it'll take the rest of my life to find out who I am, and that is true for a lot of (if not most) people. My world isn't binary and I'm far more complicated than is convenient. It's interesting, though. And an adventure.
So, to all the in between people out there, whether it's your gender, sexual orientation, race, or anything else—You don't have to choose. You are who you are, and you're allowed to live your life.
A friend asked me to include an FAQ on being gender fluid. I don't feel comfortable doing that, since everyone is different, but here's a quick FAQ on being Rowan:
Are you a man or a woman?
My gender flows back and forth. While I don't identify 100% as either male or female, I tend to hang out more on the male side of things.
Yeah yeah, but what's in your underwear?
Yes, why? Would knowing what I'm packing in my pants change who I am or what I write?
Now you're just trying to be mysterious. What are you hiding?
I'm not hiding anything, it's just (ahem) private. You probably wouldn't ask the boi at the flower shop if they have a penis or vagina, or if they're gay or straight (at least, I hope you wouldn't, since it's none of your business if you're just there to buy flowers).
We're not friends and you're not asking me out. If you should see me on the street (or at a convention), you'll know instantly what parts I was born with. It's been a source of dysphoria for me on and off all my life because I don't have an androgynous body. However, I'm not about to start every online conversation with, "Hey, how you doin'? I'm gender fluid and have a ___ between my legs."
My friends and family know. My online friends who become my real friends know. Now that I'm a little older, if I see I'm heading for an awkward situation, I generally nip things in the bud and let those people know.
But I'm just a writer, and not everyone needs to know.
Okay okay. But what do I call you?
C'mon, you know what I mean. Are you a he, she, or it?
Oh, god. Call me anything but "it."
When I first started to get published, I'd write the reviewers and ask if they could change the "Miss" or "Ms." to "Mr." I wasn't used to having a public online life, and I figured consistency was important. Now I let either of them go, since I figure it's at least accurate part of the time.
Personally, I like gender neutral pronouns such as "hir" for him/her and "sie" for he/she, but not many people are familiar with them. Plus there are lots of other neutral pronouns out there and no standardized system from what I can see. One of my all time favorites to be called is Mx. Rowan McBride, but it hasn't caught on yet.
I'm fine with being called "he" or "she," but I will admit that it jars me a little to hear "she."
Would you call yourself transgender?
Sometimes, but generally when people think of a transgender person they're thinking of someone who's making or planning to make a permanent transition. For that reason I prefer the term gender fluid.
So…when's your next book coming out?