My ongoing gender journey
I used to think I was a man’s man and heterosexual — but why?
Where I grew up there was little public exposure beyond the traditional gender roles and heteronormative behaviors. As a kid, for example, I could have been convinced it was completely normal that my elementary school teacher tried to convert my left-handed writing, because it supposedly was a sign of the devil (anno 1999 in a Catholic region). Luckily, my mom thought it was ridiculous and let me do my thing.
At my high school, a few gay people were publicly out, but I was still trying so hard to fit in and be accepted that it didn’t even occur to me to explore my gender or my sexuality. Like so many in this world, I was bullied in elementary and in high school, making me feel left out of the experiences so many of the people around me seemed to be having. I vividly remember getting threatened for some mundane thing only adolescents would threaten somebody over. In an attempt to find some purpose, I resorted to identifying with my societally assigned gender: What being a man meant to me.
The lure of identifying with masculinity was strong, straightforward, and societally accepted. The cis resources are plentifold — websites like “the Art of Manliness”, "the Bro Code", or videos told me what it meant to be a traditional, cis man in modern times. They provided solace and affiliation but at a cost. Spoiler alert: Lots of those resources promoted toxic masculinity, even if in a modern jacket.
In hindsight, I was desperate to find validation and affection. Cisgender norms provided me with a structure to validate myself. Heteronormativity and raging hormones meant I directed my need for affection outward. I remember having crushes on girls left and right, not understanding that it had more to do with the affection I lacked for myself than the affection they gave me.
As I went from adolescence to young adulthood, I slowly started understanding myself more and more as I physically and emotionally moved on from the area I grew up in. It was like I was not just moving on from that time period, but that I was also moving from the embodied feelings associated with those points in space-time.
At university as a twenty-something, I (of course) still struggled with finding a purpose, but I slowly started to understand that I had been forcing myself into boxes that need not be. I found ways to become more comfortable with myself, through finding my own competencies, regardless of the identity others ascribed to me. After struggling with many superficial friendships, I was able to find the relational depth I needed. Breaking out of boxes has been a slow process occurring gradually for a decade, which I was unable to acknowledge for a long time due to unnoticable minimal differences. The insights came at the time I was ready for them, I like to think.
All that to say that only some years ago, I became comfortable to explore and say I am bisexual.
All that to say that over the past years, I have been becoming more knowledgable and comfortable to let go of gender expectations. I’ve become more comfortable exploring my gender, and overall how I want to be, instead of who I am expected to be. Even in that journey, I have had expectations as to my identity (gay people expecting I’m gay). The only terminology I really have found some affiliation with is queer. It’s many things at once, and ambiguous from the start.
In a process of unlearning, I become even better at what I have come to be real good at: Be my own voice of reason for radical change.
Some people reading this may not even know some of the things I write in here because I actively did not share. In an individualized society we are still products of the complex collective systems we find ourselves in — me not sharing is more because of how we are all products of our society rather than anything that has to do just with you specifically.
This journey of understanding is not solely one I observed on my own. It has been inspired by the many other people sharing their gender journey and showcasing that our boxes can be presents in which we find ourselves. The increased visibility of LGBTQIA+ helped me go on my own journey as the information is right there for the interested to find. If people are interested, I am happy to share some of the resources that helped me at a future time. Thank you to all the ancestors who came before me, and created the resources that are helping me find my presents.
I started writing this blog as an introduction for a completely different topic. I did not realize I wanted to tell this story until I wrote it.
I’ll follow up later with the topic I actually wanted to write about: My increasing frustrations with those researchers who assign gender in their studies.