Anthony Doubek invites you to join in the revolution of rejecting gender confinement and creating space for new identities.
Identity. It’s something we all carry with us. Created by our experiences, opinions, intersectionalities, statuses and expressed in our styles of dress, communication, and life choices. Our identities are formed and reformed every morning when we set out for a new experience.
My identity, like anyone’s, is complex. Living as a man with a female past is only one layer of the complexity, but it is a layer that has colored all the others. Some transgender individuals choose to go stealth, meaning that once they have transitioned they hide their past identity and only disclose their transition when absolutely necessary. There is nothing wrong with this choice, as far as I am concerned. Some may argue that they are not doing their part to help our community move forward, but not everyone is born to be an activist, and we must not waste our time fighting amongst ourselves over these issues when there are much bigger fish to fry.
I have been asked many times how I identify over the past couple years and I have consistently answered, “I identify as a transman.” I am very particular about this word and the identity I have formed around it.
You see, I do not identify as a man. To me “man” implies a set of circumstances, intersectionalities, and statuses that would have been placed upon me long before I took my first definite steps towards masculinity. Growing up a girl, and a tomboy at that, gave me a very different set of socialization lessons than those I would have received had I been a boy. Gender policing is defined by Wikipedia as “the imposition or enforcement of normative gender expressions on an individual who is perceived as not adequately performing, through appearance or behavior, the gender that was assigned to them at birth. Gender policing serves to devalue or delegitimize expressions that deviate from normative conceptions of gender, thus reinforcing the gender binary.”
As part of this practice, I was given lecture in “lady likeness,” played with specific toys that taught me about being a parent, and was scolded for behavior not deemed appropriate for a little girl, even if it was appropriate for little boys. This policing of my identity happened in many aspects of my life as a child, at home, in school, on the playground, and inside my own mind. Because of this, I did not have the same experience a man had in his childhood. These efforts to put us in specific boxes labeled pink and blue were not only made by those who knew us, but were being reinforced in the media, in marketing, in every set of pink and blue isles in toy stores, and in TV’s depiction of characters we were supposed to emulate.
I also did not grow up expecting to become a man. I didn’t exactly expect to become a woman either. Thoughts of my grown up self were always extremely androgynous and unclear. I did not know exactly what I was, but I certainly was not a woman. I did spend a lot of time wishing that I would wake up the next morning a boy, but I was not really thinking about what that would mean in the long run. I guess I just assumed I would figure all that out later.
This world does a lot to groom us for very specific boxes. We have very set and ideas about what people are supposed to look like, how they are supposed to act, who is supposed to do what, and a lot of it seems to be determined by what is in our pants. When someone steps outside of the box they are assigned to, people no longer know what to do. I think part of the confusion is that people begin questioning their own boxes. This scares them. They are forced to ask themselves if they really fit where they are, did the take a wrong turn? Were they supposed to step out of their box somewhere along the way? Who would they be if they had done that? Then they shake their heads, fearing the regret that may come with the answers to these questions, and blame those searching for a wider world for their unhappiness.
I am one of the people who challenges others to ask those questions. I was not conditioned for the box they see me as filling. But at the same time, I don’t quite fit in the box they now wish I would occupy quietly. I have made up my own box of experiences that is different from the pink and blue pre-packaged identities they are used to seeing. This simple creation of my own box, instead of simply trading in my pink for a blue, is one of the reasons I do not identity as a man. I do not want to deny my past and ignore the lessons and socialization I grew up with, but I also do not want to be constricted by them. I carry them with me because I do not want to go through what I feel would be a rather harmful surgical procedure on my spirit to get rid of what I was.
Transitioning was also a life-changing process that many people do not go through. It changes you in more ways than simply the physical. It, hopefully, opens up your life, brings about new happiness that you never knew before, and, in my experience, helped bring clarity to my identity, both who I was and who I wanted to become. I would not be who I was without this experience. Making the choice to transition was possibly the bravest thing I have ever done. I knew the risks, I knew how painful it would be emotionally and physically, and I feared the rejection, pain, and discrimination I was likely to face if I moved forward.
Honestly, it might have been the first act of bravery I ever did. In face of all the fear I held for living as a transgender person, I moved forward. Since then, I feel so much more confident, have made more decisions I know would have been held back by fear, and have begun to examine fear and anxiety in a way I never did before.
Transitioning also opened up my eyes to the injustices that were happening in this world. I became more concerned with what was happening to other humans, more outraged by the hate crimes committed against people who were different, more upset about the gaps in equality across the world, and finally became enraged by the pain that was endured by every queer child discovering their difference and entering a sea of panic when they realized they would have to utter words that could shatter their world simply because they could no longer live a lie. The pain I went through in trying to come out as transgender led me to a life dedicated to making this world a better place.
Without that pain I would not have become an activist, I would not have decided to help others, I would not have started this blog, and you would not be reading this exploration of identity. Finally, I do not identify as a man because I do not feel any desire for a penis. This does not necessarily mean I am pleased with the genitals I have. I sometimes find myself wishing for a third option, but not a penis. Now there is the argument that a penis does not make a man, and I definitely agree with this statement, but I also feel like the lack of desire for a penis contributes to my identifying as a trans-man and not as a man.
Never expecting to become a man, I do not ascribe to be one. Creating my own box and refusing to confine myself in a pre-designed box, I do not claim the identities that go along with them. Not desiring the genitals associated with being a man, I continue to create a space somewhere on the masculine spectrum of gender for people like myself. Everyone has the power to create their own gender identity. We do not need to fit into the boxes already set up by society.
So I invite you to join me in the revolution of rejecting the boxes that do not fit us and creating space for new boxes, new identities, and new lives.
This article originally appeared on Boxers and Binders.