The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

questioning gender

Mulling Over my Gender Identity

It’s been about three months since I came out about questioning my gender. For now, I’m most comfortable identifying as non-gendered. I don’t feel like I fit with the concept of being a woman or a man. This is quite freeing, and a source of insecurity. It’s also exhausting.

Self Portrait at Dawn by Jörg Reuter from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’ve been paying more attention to my physical body – how I wish it looked, and how these thoughts fit into my gender identity. For the most part, I’m not a fan of my feminine curves. I’d rather see myself with muscle definition – especially vertical lines on my abs and striations on my shoulders – but still maintain a thigh gap. I’ve never been a fan of my own boobs. They serve no purpose and I wish they would shrink. I’d rather have muscular pecs than tits.

I wish I could pass as male or female and/or be so androgynous that strangers aren’t sure how to interact with me because of my unknown gender. It would give me a “blank slate” to play with. As it is, my dress varies widely day-to-day. In one week I wore a feminine top with a bound chest, a shirt and tie, and a dress and heels. I was also giddy when my new Starfleet uniform arrived – the red mini dress from the Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Despite my desire to have an androgynous shape, I think my hips will disclose my biological sex. Even before puberty, my hip bones stuck out, and now, I have curves that I fear can’t be slimmed through diet and exercise. And while I know I have a “good butt,” I prefer to keep it smaller, firmer, and lifted. Being curvaceous does nothing for me.

Note: these are my thoughts about myself. I feel no animosity towards the female shape on other people and U.S. standards for beauty.

Image from Last Year’s Junkyard Photoshoot by Devon Christopher Adams (Used with Permission)

It became obvious that I want to be more androgynous when I was invited to the annual Junkyard Photoshoot. I went last year and had a blast. And I enjoy being a model – getting to show different emotions and aspects of my personality. When I model, I always want to feel my inner strength.

But this year, I declined the invitation. This is an open photoshoot where models and photographers get to show up, have fun reign of the junkyard to do almost anything we want. Most of the models are women, and many of them use the setting to pose in lingerie or less – very over-the-top sexy. (And a lot of female models do this type of modeling. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just not for me.) I’d rather be in jeans and a tank top, feeling more like Wolverine than a centerfold.

I decided not to go for two reasons:

  1. I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin. Questioning my gender and other events exacerbated my depression, so I didn’t feel strong and confident. It wasn’t a good space to be in for going into an artistic setting where there would be lots of people I’d never met before.
  2. I was afraid of feeling rejected by photographers who wouldn’t want to work with me. (I know, they can go fornicate with themselves, but easier said than done when I’m feeling vulnerable.)

I’m still mulling over lots of different thoughts about gender identity and how I interact with a mostly two-gendered society. The more I learn about myself, the more I realize that many social norms don’t apply to me.

Am I Non-Binary?

Earlier this year, a court in Oregon let a person legally change their gender to “non-binary.” It’s fantastic that the law acknowledges that there’s more to gender than merely male or female.

europa rainbow by  ** RCB ** from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

europa rainbow by ** RCB ** from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

As I thought about this ruling, I began to reflect on my upbringing. When I was growing up, children were classified as a “boy” or a “girl” based on their genitalia. By the time I was in preschool, I understood that boys and girls were told to use different bathrooms, play with different toys, and wear different clothes. As I got older, I learned that some people are homosexual and bisexual. I also learned that some people are transgender, meaning that they were born in the wrong body, and probably wanted a sex change; and some people are intersex, meaning they have both male and female genitalia. In all these situations, gender was represented as a binary characteristic.

I wondered, if I grew up in a culture that acknowledged gender as a spectrum, would I self-identify as non-binary. I’ve never fit in with the “girly girls” in school, and I didn’t want to be like them. In fact, I got in trouble when I was nine because I refused to talk to most of the girls in my class because I thought they were annoying. I find it delightfully ironic that I was a gymnast – a sport that is so inherently feminine and has drastic differences in men’s and women’s events. It’s also fierce as hell which is why I love it so much. I asked my teammates, who I spent years with, seeing each other at our best and our worst during our tween and teen years, to describe me. Some of their descriptors were “strong,” “powerful,” “determined,” “focused,” and “true to yourself.” I definitely wasn’t one of the balletic athletes in the gym.

Learning about this ruling made me the question my gender identity. I have no issues with being biologically female except that I think tits are overrated, and I would have an ablation in a heartbeat if it came with a guarantee. I have no desire to have a penis. If pushed to declare which pronouns I want, I can see myself choosing he/her – don’t ask me why, and, to be honest, I really don’t care what pronouns you use for me as long as you use them respectfully. As a model, I prefer poses and looks that are somewhat androgynous and portray me as strong – or at least possessing an inner strength.

I shared some of my thoughts about questioning my gender with my friends, and it was comforting to hear that I’m not the only one who doesn’t fit in a stereotypical box. Some are agender. Some have biologically male parts, no desire to change that, but feel they are more feminine in terms of their personality. The best response I got was from a friend who says she doesn’t identify as a “lady” or a “man,” but rather an engineer, an inventor, a housewife, an athlete, a seamstress, and a parent. I think she’s right in that what we do is more important than which bathroom we use or which gender box we check.

If you’re questioning your gender identity and/or gender expression, you’re not alone. We may not talk about it much, but a lot of us don’t feel like we fit into the male/female binary. You don’t have to decide on a label for yourself today and if you select a designation for yourself, you’re not stuck with it for forever. For me, for now, I’m content to classify myself as gender non-conforming and continue to be open to further self-exploration and experiences.