Content Warning: Discussions of sexual abuse, coming out, genderqueer identity, and gender dysphoria.
Hello, My Beauties. It’s two weeks before the end of 2019, and it looks like the year is going out with a revelation. Let’s get the hard part out of the way: I’m genderqueer femme.
I’m equal parts relieved and nauseous.
I was assigned female at birth (AFAB) and, lately I’ve been contemplating my relationship with my gender. Earlier this week, during our post-work snuggle time, I came out as genderqueer femme to Mr. Crispy (@Vanylla_Knight on Twitter). The sentence emerged as a jumble. “So, I’m thinking-am coming out as -mostly-questioning-am-do you still love me-please don’t leave me-I still love you the same-I’m still me genderqueer femme.”
For fuck’s sake, it was harder than coming out as pansexual to him. I did that on our first date. But in retrospect, his chill wasn’t surprising. He’s a spectacular human being. He said: “I fell in love with you, baby. All of you.”
What does “genderqueer femme” mean?
It means I was AFAB, but “woman” doesn’t describe how I live in my own skin. “Man” doesn’t work, in and of itself, either. The binary language feels incomplete, like looking at a painting with parts of the image cut away.
Genderqueer, being outside a purely binary description of gender, feels the most authentic to address my inner reality. It’s a fluid experience, the shifting rhythm of gender, like the movements of a sonata. Or, as I described it in my short story “Fearless:”
At times the flux of female and male was defined, like thick veins of gold in a piece of quartz. Others it was a subtle gradation, like the light and dark swirls of green in a bit of moss agate.
While Rylan, the character in “Fearless” identifies as genderfluid, I prefer genderqueer, which I feel encompasses a sense of “other/non-binary” in the definition.
It turns out the character Dar in my “Mound of Gaia Series,” and Rylan were both parts of a love letter I was writing to myself.
And I identify as femme, because I gravitate toward a more feminine presentation.
How did I get here from there?
It wasn’t easy to see where the road was leading while I was traveling. But when I look back, tracing the line of my gender expression from childhood to now, it’s a clear path from there to here.
At nine, I used to put things in the crotch of my pants or hold them against my pubis to simulate having a penis. I even tried a slinky once because it hung (albeit freakishly long) like a flaccid penis. Once my father caught me with the slinky. I stammered out an excuse, and we both walked away without further discussion.
By 13, I was at war with my body. It was an enemy that had betrayed me. My gender, during that period, was entirely for others, as was my burgeoning sexuality. The fear accompanying sexual encounters was often mixed with the sensations of an orgasm. It was confusing and created a deep well of shame. No one discussed the body’s mechanics, or that an orgasm can occur during a sexual assault. Apparently, Mrs. Paulsen left that out of our 5th-grade sex-ed talk.
Why does no one talk about that? It would have been helpful to know.
Gender and sexuality became not just the battlefield, but also the weapons used to survive the war.
In the spring of 1988, I graduated from high school. I was 17 when I moved from my hometown in Vermont to Chicago, Illinois. Embracing my sexuality and gender, I saw the move as a rebirth.
Though it took years to find language to express how I experienced romantic and sexual attraction. I identify as pansexual. My external expressions of gender ranged from sheer babydoll dresses with lace bustiers, to 100% boi, with baggy jeans, white t-shirts, and motorcycle jackets. The challenge was, though my external expressions of sexuality and gender reflected what I felt, it was still performative. It was what I knew.
Internally, sussing out my gender was more complicated.
There were periods where I found the wet, softness of my pussy distressing. Again, I was struck by a sense of incompleteness. I went through periods where I didn’t want anyone touching my vulva or vagina. “Sex is too squishy,” was my typical refrain when I was avoiding sex with partners or the folks I saw as clients. Life continued forward. I moved from Illinois to Ohio. Fell in and out of love a few times, finished college, and found the space to begin recovering from a history of physical and sexual abuse. I met the love of my life. I learned how to embrace myself and my experiences with authenticity, acceptance, and clarity.
So, what led to this moment of revelation?
A few weeks ago, on Twitter, of all places, I read about a group of cishet women who’ve been engaging in shady gate-keeping with queer literature. They’re book bloggers who’ve taken to rejecting novels with bisexual/pansexual women as not being “queer enough.”
A lot of people were justifiably angry that a group of cishet women had appointed themselves the arbiters of queerness. One thread supposed the bloggers only considered MM relationships “queer enough” because they, themselves, fetishized MM romance and sex.
I read a lot of MM erotica, and I had a moment of panic, thinking, “Crap am I one of those people? Because being queer doesn’t exclude me from being an objectifying creeper.”
Reflecting on my experience with erotica, I asked myself, was I obsessed with the MM pairing? Did I fail to see the characters as human, divorcing them from their physical/emotional/sexual selves?
The answer to all my questions was no. The characters that resonated with me, be it in my own pieces or others, were either deliciously filthy or emotionally compelling (or both) because of their humanity, not in spite of it.
My therapist once suggested reading about or watching two men was a safe way for me to experience sexual arousal. It was entirely divorced from the spaces in which I’d been abused. There was less of a chance of triggering a trauma reaction.
That didn’t feel right. It wasn’t about safety. My feelings when reading or writing was anything but safe. They were more akin to walking a rickety rope bridge over a canyon, equal parts thrilling and frightening.
Another person I was close with at the time asked if I was swapping out one of the men in those situations, and imagining myself in their place.
Not. Even. Close.
Pushing myself down this path of discovery felt dangerous.
But I’m at a point in my life where I’m feeling more authentically me. I have a partner who loves and respects me. There is also a chosen family of amazing people who support me.
I made a choice to walk through the self-imposed boundaries I’d placed around my gender identity. Hot sex scenes aside, the commonality among these stories was a physical and emotional longing that was at once fulfilled and deepened.
It wasn’t a woman’s gaze through which I saw these characters. I felt the ghost of a cock between my thighs and the heaviness of aching balls. These feelings went beyond the confines of womanhood.
In my most honest and private thoughts, I was back to being that nine-year-old trying to figure out what was missing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my pussy. The dissonance I experience isn’t because I want to separate from the swell of my breasts, the delicate folds of my vulva, and the wet heat of my cunt. It’s grounded in the yearning for the hardness of a cock that should be there, too.
Yeah. So, there’s that.
I’m embracing myself as a genderqueer femme. She/Her/They/Them. A Gender non-conforming person who is looking forward to finding ways to fill those empty spaces. I think acknowledgment is the beginning of this leg of my journey.
I’m scared, and yet, I can’t wait.
Be well, be wonderful, and above all, be you.