Me, my gender, and the “Am I REALLY trans?” question
I wonder how many gender abolitionists are actually agender and are generalizing their lack of strong gender identification as the default mode of being. I will admit that when I was a young teen, I had believed that my lack of strong gender feelings meant I was “enlightened” as to the “true nature” of gender. It took me a very long time to learn that other people experience the world differently than I do. I had (wrongly) assumed that girls and women (and boys and men), as a general rule, didn’t have feelings of connection toward the concept of being a girl/woman (or a boy/man).
Around the time I was 16 was when I realized that I wasn’t a gender abolitionist (or politically genderqueer). I realized that many cis people actually did have feelings of connection to their birth-assigned genders, as well as to their bodies’ sex characteristics. I had previously not understood that it’s actually very rare that a cis woman experiences dysphoria about having breasts. So I came to the conclusion that I was trans. That was nine years ago. Back then, I was discovering that being called a boy was much more comfortable for me than being called a girl. I continued to call myself a boy until about two years ago, when I came to a point where realized that I am actually uninterested in masculinity and being seen as a man. I also, in the past few months, have realized that I’m not all that bothered by it anymore when strangers call me “she” or “miss.”
I’m no longer upset by strangers who mistake me for a woman. There’s nothing wrong with being a woman. It doesn’t feel like much of anything to me when people call me a woman: it’s just factually incorrect. People I’m closer to who repeatedly call me a woman or “she” without correcting themselves are a different story, but that’s because they’re not mistaking me for a woman—they’re deliberately going against how I’ve expressed I want to be called.
When I first realized I wasn’t upset by strangers mistaking me for a woman, I wondered if that meant I wasn’t really trans. This thought was not frightening to me, but it was confusing. I remembered the voice dysphoria I had before testosterone and how I’d like to go back on T to finish my voice change, and I remembered that I would feel most at-home with my body if it had a flat chest and no genitals. Remembering what I’d want my body to be like in terms of sex characteristics made me question the possibility that I was a woman, but it didn’t dismiss the possibility, either, because there are cis women who want deeper voices and flatter chests and no genitals, and there are trans women who don’t have strong feelings of body dysphoria. There are women with all kinds of bodies and they have all kinds of differing feelings about their sex characteristics. So my “am I still trans” question remained.
Then I found an essay by trans woman Natalie Reed called “How do I know if I’m trans?” Her answer surprised me. Reed writes that you ultimately don’t know, because you can’t objectively prove a subjective experience (in this case, the phenomenology, or experiential knowledge, of what it means to be your gender) to yourself, or to anyone else. She also writes that the idea that trans people need to prove their transness to themselves and others is rooted in the idea that being cis is the default, and writes more about why “cis as default” is a poor hypothesis here. Cis people are not asked “Are you totally sure you’re a woman? How do you know?” Cis people “just know.” They’re allowed to know without having to objectively prove they know. Trans people should be afforded every respect you would give to a cis person’s gender. Including “just knowing.”
One of the major realizations I had that led to my discovering that I was non-binary was that many women and men (cis & trans) do have feelings of connection to being called women and men, respectively. It feels right to them. They just know. I don’t know if my gender is an exclusive product of my neurobiology. I don’t know if it’s an exclusive product of socialization. It doesn’t matter to me what makes me my gender. Based on my lack of gender-feelings, combined with my feelings about my body (though those are unnecessary to come to this conclusion), I think the best possible hypothesis is that I’m agender and neutrois. I just know.