As ever, don’t take this as me dictating the One Right Experience—I’m just talking about me here—but for me the one big story that for decades shielded me from recognizing my gender issues (blinding as they may be) is our collective obsession with sexuality. We sexualize the concept of gender. We sexualize—or at least romanticize—all relationships, all emotions that connect us to others. It becomes this minefield of expectation; of these models of behavior, of feeling, of thinking, of existing, that you’re expected to fall into—and if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you.
Tied into all this are problems with representation, where unless you look for it, anything outside the gender binary might as well not exist except as a fetish. I know this is also a problem for other marginalized identities—objectification as the only recognition. You’re only valid to the extent you serve a purpose. I am terrified of being objectified; I have been for as long as I can remember. As long as I’ve been aware of sex, I’ve felt this vulnerability that I only recently have come to understand.
I don’t experience sexual or romantic attraction, but for most of my life I’ve been led to confuse empathy with a guilty sort of desire; for all that I’ve been told my affinity must be sexual, I recognize something isn’t quite right with that story. That uncertainty, that intangible sense of wrongness, it festers, leading me to feel just awful about the whole thing. There’s this anxiety that builds up about ever identifying with anyone, despite this strong relational draw to, in particular, gender non-conforming women (and active repulsion from men).
Getting through that, to nail down and embrace my sexuality, that was the first step—and it took me ages. Once I had drawn that division, I was free to unpick all the severed threads, to see where they led; what was going on with my attitudes. It’s only then I was able to recognize what I had so clearly been feeling the last four decades and why; how strongly I responded to seeing myself reflected in others, despite failing to grasp what I saw or how it affected me.
The notion that it was possible to be a gender non-conforming woman regardless of one’s assignment at birth, and not in the context of some fetish for someone else’s benefit, but just as a person, as an identity—it’s not a story one tends to encounter too often, culturally.
To exist for one’s own sake and not for the sake of someone else—this is such a long road. For that, I blame our culture’s obsession with sex and sexuality, none of which applies to me or the way I look at the world or myself. You know, I’m just me. I’m not here for any purpose except to be who I am. And through all this noise, I couldn’t see me at all.
As I say, other people are wired in their own particular ways, and take comfort and interest in things that bore me or make me want to cry. They’re not wrong for being who they are. It’s just that this one narrative, about how we’re meant to think and feel and relate to each other—it’s not The One. It’s not correct. It’s just a million slight variations of a single narrow story. Other stories are available.
The concept of sex, it was a shackle to me. To others it’s the key. The story is only wrong when it’s forced on you. And that’s the real point here.
Your story, it comes from inside. In this month of bricks and riots, and at any other time of the year, don’t let anyone else tell you who you are. Don’t buy into this notion that your script is sitting there, waiting for you to act out. Everyone around you, they’re all working through their own garbage, looking for validation of their own. But their stories, they have nothing to do with you. Yours is for you to tell yourself.
Love starts with you. Be kind to yourself, listen to what you’re saying—and let that make the whole world a better place to be.