A couple of weeks ago made a post on Facebook that my name and pronouns had changed to AJ or Andi and either ’they’ or ’she’. I intended for this to just be a small thing, but was blown away by the love I received in response.
The post I made about my name/pronouns was more of a… triage post. I just wanted people to stop calling me Andrew and ‘he', and I had to supply alternatives. I think it came across as a big, final announcement when from my perspective it was more of a ‘Can you stop doing this thing that feels jarring? Oh, and I suppose these are the less-jarring alternatives’.
I’ve been sitting with it all and I would like to clarify a couple of things. EVERYTHING I’m talking about applies only to me, and I’m in no way judging anyone else who makes a different set of decisions. I’m also aware that all of this sits inside my protective cocoon of being white, able-bodied/neurotypical, middle-aged, financially okay, and happily married.
For me there are three overlapping aspects to my gender.
1. My internal sense of my gender
2. How I want to express that
3. How I want to be ‘read’ by the world.
1. My internal sense of gender is complex.
If we’re going to assume/pretend the boy/girl gender binary is a thing, I’ve discovered I feel kind of 70-90% girl, 10-30% boy. Feeling that in my body has been a revelation, a sigh of relief where I can let go of this level of masculinity that I’ve been unknowingly working hard to maintain all my life, particularly my adult life. Things just line up when I feel that. What that doesn’t feel like (and this may be some deeeeep misogyny/transmisogyny but I don’t THINK so) is ‘woman’. i just feel profoundly not-man. In the binary world, not-man = woman, but #ithinkyoullfinditsabitmorecomplicatedthanthat.
When I say to myself ‘girl’, it’s like I can pick up young, soft, vulnerable bits of me that got lost on the way. ‘Woman' doesn’t match my internal sense of self, but ‘man' is (currently, often) dizzyingly wrong. Maybe if we had more mainstream concepts, I could just go ‘Oh, I’m that’. Somehow non-binary/genderqueer don’t really fit my concept of myself, even though probably objectively they are a description of what i’m saying here? Non-binary femme?
I’ve had moments recently with trans women where I felt incredible sisterhood, uncovering a longing I’ve had all my life.
I also remembered that, right up until my late teens, that I would have to remind myself that I wasn’t a girl. And one day let me tell you about the two years I was in an all-girl PE group.
In my twenties, I mourned not having a womb. My trans mum says that’s a standard experience for trans femmes.
Some days i feel a little bit more up the ‘boy’ end, but only within that 10-30% kind of range.
There’s also the added complication of having done a particular type of meditation every day for 15 years, and the eternal ‘soul’ aspects of my self are not gendered, so what the heck am I talking about anyway?
2. How I want to express my gender changes on a daily basis.
Literally I sit in bed and think, ‘What do I want to wear today?’ I’ve been experimenting in both directions.
What is it like to shave my face and body hair, cover my stubble with makeup, wear dresses/other clothes/shoes/bags coded as ‘female’ in our current society?
What is it like to let my face hair grow, wear ‘boy’ clothes?
What is it like to combine the two?
Which aspects feel most like me?
More annoyingly, how long can I be bothered to spend getting ready (I’m a bit of a stay-in-bed-reading-to-the-last-moment kind of person), where am I going, what am I doing, who am I meeting? The weight of patriarchal gender expectations really fall on femmes, right?
Currently I can deal with a day’s stubble but two days makes me go ‘bleaurgh’. I feel really happy with some subtle makeup on, especially covering my stubble, but don’t feel like i need it every day. I feel such a sense of relief to not have hair on my hands, arms and legs. Like, DEEP sigh of relief.
I love how I look and feel in a dress that suits me, and i also like the look of a dress and skinny jeans. My heeled Doctor Martins are awesome. I like the thought of heeled shoes and tailored office clothes. Also just casual femme clothes - doesn’t have to be ‘high femme’/glam. If I’m not working, I seem to default to femme clothes, if I have them. I haven’t worn ‘boy’ jeans for months.
Funny thing is I don’t mind wearing ‘guy’ clothes sometimes, but it feels more like dressup, like, well, a girl wearing boy clothes.
So, yes, there’s an aspect of finding the external expression that helps me feel comfortable in my body, but it feels connected but different to my internal sense of gender.
I currently have no thoughts of changing my body with hormones or surgery, but who knows what Future Andi might do.
3. How I am read by the world seems to be less important to me.
I played with the idea of wanting to be read by strangers as a woman, and it was freeing. And, maybe if I was going through this as a young person now, I might be someone who’d want to transition socially and medically.
But I don’t.
I’m bothered by the pronouns people close to me use, but I’m less bothered by the pronouns a barista uses, even though it can be jarring. (Please can we stop gendering strangers, though?)
I am currently growing my hair, and it is fun to play with makeup, and, yes, I like the thought of sometimes going ‘full femme’ and being read as a woman in public, but it’s the aspect I’m less bothered about.
So what the heck does this mean?
When you refer to me, please say ‘they’ not 'he'. "They said... they wore... they are... they went to... " And it's cool if you don't get it right every time, intention counts here, for me.
I thought I might really like ‘she’ but it doesn't quite fit right now. I find it too awkward in our gendered society when I, you know, don’t appear like a non-trans woman, or even to be making any ‘effort’ to do so. So despite my internal sense of being very femme, 'they' it is.
I like AJ. Kinda neutral.
I really like Andi. It feels sweet.
Do with that what you will.
This is all in flux.
All I can say is: I’ll keep you posted.