Presenting -but not identifying- as male
When I started transitioning socially, I felt hesitant because I didn’t fully identify as a male/man. So I went slowly, only taking steps when absolutely necessary: first I chose a neutral name, then a male one, then I switched pronouns with different groups of people… By two years ago, I was living as male in small parts of my life (extracurricular classes where I was perceived as a cis boy, interactions with strangers).
Fast forward to the present: I still don’t identify as male1 , but I’m perceived as one in all areas of my life. It can be odd to be read as cis and straight, and I do occasionally feel like parts of my identity are being erased; but it feels comfortable enough, and it’s much more fitting than passing as female.
I’m coming to accept that presenting as a binary gender doesn’t mean that I have to identify as one; likewise, my identity –or lack thereof– doesn’t force me to constantly live outside the binary (close friends do know that I’m neither here nor there). They’re two different parts of my gender that don’t have to “align” one way or the other, just like gender expression and gender identity and the body can combine in a myriad of ways. For me, it helps to remember that many people –for many reasons– choose to present differently from how they identify:
- trans people who don’t want to transition, or transition in parts of their lives
- genderqueer people who live within the binary
- in history, “passing women”2 —FAAB people who lived publicly as men– some of which lived/identified as women in their private circles.
I think it’s important, though, to acknowledge that how I identify –though important– is a rather abstract notion. I am being perceived as male, with all the privileges that it entails, and rejecting maleness is no excuse to deny it.
Since starting university two months ago, I’ve been living as male in my daily life to a further extent than ever before (and as a cis male to boot — I’m not disclosing my trans status for now). I’m curious to see how it feels in the long run, and whether I find a malehood that’s a closer fit for me. I’m pleased to announce, though, that I feel more at home with myself than ever before, socially and physically, so these gender explorations aren’t so urgent; they’re less about discomfort than about learning who I am as a person. Which, at 19, isn’t such an odd thing to do.
1 Actually, I suspect that I don’t have a deep-seated gender identity at all. I do feel strongly about certain gendered aspects like pronouns, names, and –in Spanish– word endings, but I don’t feel like those things coalesce into one steady identity. I’m still exploring this, though.
2 “passing woman – chiefly used in the historical sense to refer to a non-transgendered woman living as a man in order to have access to careers and lifestyles only available to men at that time. Some historical figures who would today be more accurately called FTM transsexuals or transsexual men are sometimes referred to as passing women. “ — definition from the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Of course, it’s hard to know how they identified and why they lived that way; the term probably lumps together wildly differently life-stories. Also, we shouldn’t force today’s categories onto the past.