Anne Stagg in Color
Musing,  Sexual Wellness

Is There a Right Way? Living Loud as Genderqueer

Content: Discussion of genderqueer identity, sexual abuse, gender roles, and sexuality.

Hello, My Beauties. Coming out as genderqueer femme is a strange and fantastic experience. It’s also confusing and scary. I’ve policed my thoughts about my body for literal decades. And now that I’ve claimed my physical and emotional truth, I’m struggling with the freedom. 

I have loads of questions about myself.

Genderqueer Flag Heart

Some of those questions are profound, like “how do my spouse and I navigate my coming out with our less-than-accepting relatives.” And others, like “Is there a genderqueer look?” don’t sound profound, but confront some challenging personal experiences.

Imagine being almost 50, with Google searches like “is it okay to call my clit a cock?” I’ve spent the past five years learning to live with a lot of change and embracing it. This is another step in that journey.

Curious about how I got to this point? Check out my post “I’m Genderqueer: A Revelation 49 Years in the Making.”

So, why am I searching for external validation? 

Maybe because I’m a glorious mess. It might be because I finally can embrace my gender as visibly as I do my sexuality and sexual expression. Or perhaps it’s because I feel like I have to get it right and live as loudly as possible at the same time.

I recognize I carry a profound amount of unearned privilege. Being pansexual and married to a cis-het fella means that I pass as straight, even if I’m not interested in passing. It’s one of the reasons I adorn so many things with rainbows and scream my queerness from the rooftops. 

Too many folks are forced to live in silence. Challenging my own privilege in my day-to-day life is essential. I’m fighting for myself and for those who can’t. 

Shouldn’t I treat my gender identity the same way?

Again, with the unearned privilege. I’m femme as hell, and I don’t see that changing any time, ever.

And though I think it sucks that gender expression is attached to makeup and clothing, it’s a reality. And most of the time, I’m decked out in lipstick and glitter.

Which, so what? There are plenty of gender non-conforming folks who love to paint on a vibrant cherry pout and a smokey eye.

Even in my most boi moments, I still sport huge boobs and an hourglass figure of which I am pretty fond. Sure, there are times I wish I could stand to wear a binder and have a straighter line between my shoulders and my hips. 

But I live with chronic pain. Ugh. And I find binding to be beyond uncomfortable. I’ve got enough physical pain in my life, I’m not adding to the pile. 

 Anyway, my dysphoria is about what I’m missing, not what I have.

I was nine when I first felt my body didn’t match my internal self. But there wasn’t a lot of time in my younger life to think about gender identity. 

To begin with, I was a kid in the 1970s.  

Though it was post-Stonewall, there wasn’t much positive talk about gender identity, at least not in Burlington, Vermont. 

I was assigned female at birth (AFAB). Everyone around me treated gender as an immutable fact. Being a girl wasn’t something I even knew I could question, regardless of how I felt on the inside. 

Learning how to act and display femininity was based on the cues and presumptions of those surrounding me. The expectations came at me from all sides. 

The loudest voice defining my womanhood was my father. 

He was super-nova of a person, blinding and destructive. To him, I was either the bastion of his hopes and dreams or an ungrateful, wretched failure. There was no in-between with him. And it all revolved around my gender and sexuality.

Any validation depended on perfecting my performance as a woman whether that be socially or sexually. My mother and I lived with him until I was fifteen. By the time we left, my self-image and perception of my gender were shattered in ways I thought were beyond repair.

Exploring what it was like living with my father was at the heart of the creative non-fiction piece “To Mourn the Living,” published in the Fall 2017 issue of Burnt Pine Magazine. The piece is published under my given name Jennifer K. Kowalski.

My experiences told me anything beyond hyper-sexualized femininity was doing it wrong.

And that left me with no idea how to square not only my own perception of womanhood. I was at odds with not only myself as a woman, but with the masculine and non-binary/other parts of myself. I couldn’t live safely in my own skin without having to act out a part and pretending to be something I was not.

Fast forward three decades and a million miles of self-discovery.

Social Justice

It wasn’t the most straightforward journey. Before I became the bastion of moderately well-managed mental health, I endured some darkness.

It took a spectacular and extended period of self-destruction to begin searching for peace. And another decade of therapy, loving myself, and learning to love others without fear to get here.

Where is here?

Here is being able to say, without fear and with a great deal of pride, that I am genderqueer femme. I’m discovering that the only cues I need to follow when it comes to my identity are my own.

I’m not genderqueer because of what I wear or don’t wear.

I’m genderqueer because my experience of gender doesn’t conform to a binary definition. There’s no one feeling within me, but a collage of experiences grounded in a body that I’ve learned to love. To me, gender isn’t a static, immutable experience but something that flows together like the movements of a symphony. 

It’s complicated and beautiful.

Anne in the sun with purple hair

There’s no look I can craft that will say, “I am unapologetically genderqueer femme.” And even if there were, I don’t think I’d be into looking the part. 

I spent decades trying to live someone else’s image of my gender. The time has come for me to live loud without shame or apology. So, if you need me, I’ll be over here, decked out in KVD Vampira lipstick and purple hair, making my own packer because I can. 

And for the record, I call it both a clit and a cock. It just depends on how I’m feeling. 

Be well, be wonderful, and above all, be you. 

Anne

2 Comments

  • Ro

    I get the thing about looking for external validation – I think in general people want to know that others see them they way they want to be seen, or how they see themselves. Especially if they’ve had to hide for a long time as you had.

    Well for whatever it’s worth, I see you and I think you’re fabulous and I wish you all the best in navigating living the expanded you.

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