The LGBT rainbow drawn in chalk

LGBT History Month – ‘Genderqueer’ does not mean ‘gender dysphoria’

I realised, quite simply, that I had become disconnected from my body – I felt indifferent about it. That’s not to say that’s how I feel about the male body in all is forms – my thoughts and feelings about this are as complex as they are about the female body, but when it came to my own… Yeah, I was indifferent. I realised that I didn’t need or want a boy or girl body, and that I couldn’t ever be connected to one in the way it might be expected of me.

I kept thinking about my male body, about the things that made it special or different – the things that made it mine, but wasn’t able to do so. In ‘detaching’ my gender identity from my physical sex, I felt as though I’d given up ‘ownership’ over my body. Thinking about it, perhaps it had always been the case that I’d never thought of my body as ‘mine’ – after all, I didn’t place a request for this specific one. I didn’t ask for my skin, hair or eye colour; I didn’t ask for my height or build, and I didn’t ask for a penis and testicles. All of that happened by chance – genetic force majeure.

I remember wanting to change elements of my physical appearance to match my mood, my attitude, and always being disappointed that I couldn’t; and, this is one of those circumstances in which ‘doing what you can with what you have’ is grossly insufficient. Being locked into this body denies me the totality of the human experience, so perhaps this is something that helped me deny my body as a – or the – contributing factor to my identity.

My body has become simply a physical space I occupy that allows me to interact with the world. It is simply something I use, and this is one of the most difficult things to get others to acknowledge and accept, as they continue to see my body as a signifier of who I am – they see my male body as meaning that I am a man, and they project all their different cultural, societal and political opinions about men onto me.

I guess this is why I can enjoy it sometimes when someone mistakes me for a woman: It means that there is something about me that challenges and queers people’s perception of me without me having to make a specific effort to queer my own appearance – to make my body a physical signifier of my non-binary gender identity. This makes me think how it’s also difficult to get others to acknowledge and accept that ‘having’ a non-binary gender identity neither obliges or requires me to alter my physical appearance – and certainly not according to their expectations. But these are matters to discuss another time.

As I’ve become more confident with thinking about my body in these terms, I realise that there is scope for flexibility and fluidity with my physical expression, and that, if I choose to perform this, it must be in ways entirely of my own choosing that reflect my thoughts, feelings and experiences; it’s through this potential for this flexibility and fluidity that it becomes possible for me to connect my body with my gender identity. I hope that, as more people become familiar (and comfortable with) non-binary gender identities, they’ll look beyond the physical presence of the body as a way to identify a person – that is, if they don’t manage to move beyond the need to identify someone to start with.

As this applies to me, I hope people will understand that my male body (something I anticipate having for the rest of my life) doesn’t mean that I am ‘locked’ into any kind of male or masculine attitudes, aptitudes, actions or appearances; and that my non-binary gender identity does not mean I must dress and act at the ‘opposite end’ of the gender spectrum from the point my male body represents.

I feel as though the physical space I occupy sits between the two poles of the gender binary, and outside these at the same time. It’s a space I’m continually exploring and interrogating, and has become a space in which (paraphrasing a friend) I become authentic and am comfortable. Here, I can detach myself from the expectations, obligations and requirements that are associated with my body by culture and society – I just wish culture and society would detach themselves from the same.

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