I’ve always hidden half of me. Since I can remember, there are parts of my personality I’ve hidden, and other parts I’ve used like a defense mechanism to keep myself safe. We live in a misogynistic society. That means traditionally masculine traits such as individualism, competitiveness, and aggression hold value culturally and economically.
As a response to this messaging, I have hidden one half of my personality from the larger world for most of my life. The characteristics I’ve hidden include:
In order to protect myself, and win whatever game I thought life was, I projected these qualities instead:
These are all inherent parts of my personality. But I wanted to fulfill some sort of vision of success. I wanted to be taken seriously. I didn’t want to be a “burden” or “inconvenient.” The interesting thing is, keeping half of myself shamefully hidden away created a self-fulfilling prophecy: I hid my femininity because I was scared of being rejected for my femininity, and I ended up being rejected my entire life for being a girl who presented as wholly unfeminine.
Because that’s the thing. I don’t wholly fulfill society’s definition of “woman.” And honestly, I never have. Part of why I think I’ve hidden my feminine side is because adopting it fully didn’t feel like “me” either. Basically what I’m saying is, I’m gender fluid.
What is gender fluidity?
It’s the idea that I don’t fulfill the societal definition of any one gender.
I’ve felt this way forever:
The summer before fourth grade, I refused to get back-to-school shoes if they weren’t the light-up Vans from the boys section. I’ve been shopping in both women’s and men’s sections of clothing stores ever since.
I’ve never felt the maternal instinct to procreate. During early adolescence I was always confused when my friends would fantasize about their future husbands and children rather than climbing trees and digging for cool rocks. There was never a “stir” in my ovaries when I held my newborn nieces. I am bisexual.
I chafe at domestic work.
I tend to be candid, direct, and blunt with my opinions and ideas; always expecting my voice to carry as much weight as my male counterparts. Only to be called a “know-it-all” or a “bitch” by all genders.
Even my body hasn’t felt completely “womanly.” I have endometriosis and PCOS; I’ve only ever had three natural periods. I am angular, broad, and flat from the waist up. I’m thick and round from the waist down.
I’ve never understood what this all means to me. I still don’t really understand. I don’t feel wholly like a woman. I definitely don’t feel like a man. And I definitely don’t feel like I really fit in anywhere.
Enter the term gender fluid.
I have the femme expereince of being a woman; and all the consequences that come with it living in a patriarchal society (and all the privileges of being white because identity is complex). I present a feminine gender expression. But when I started working in circles of people who are intentional about asking for pronouns, I felt like a sham saying “she/her” and leaving it at that.
The way we use gender in our society puts us into incredibly small boxes. By identifying with “she/her” I am giving others permission to make many assumptions about me that make me uncomfortable. By saying “she/her” I am betraying my identity. And then, when my masculine, competitive, individual side comes out, it unsettles people. It sometimes even makes them angry, or aggressive. Gender fluidity gives me the power to take back the narrative. It gives me the power to confuse people right away, and force them to come to terms with their confusion if we are to have a good relationship. It gives me the power to come out of hiding, and celebrate all sides of my gender identity.
So, where does this leave me now? First of all, I’ve changed my pronouns in my email signature and social media profiles to she/they. I still identify with “she” because my lived experiences are important to my identity as well. I identify as “they” to be upfront about the fact that my personal gender identity is too dynamic to stay constricted within our gender binary.
My goal has been to bring out my hidden side of my personality and put it on display. This is essentially what I’ve been doing already in my personal life over the last 10-ish months without realizing, as I literally became incapable of compartmentalizing when my mental health fell apart. Hiding like that forever gave me such low self esteem I tried to kill myself in October 2019. Stopping the habit was necessary for my survival.
I have felt like an exposed wound through this process; raw and sensitive. But, as I take stock of my growth so far I’ve noticed two overwhelming patterns that will be utterly essential to the next phase of my journey:
- Asking for what I want, calmly and directly, works.
- People like my vulnerable side.
It’s not necessarily that I always get what I want now, but I do more often.
I also haven’t completely gotten rid of my harder side.
Instead, I am learning to find self love in the fact that I can be both hard and soft at the same time.
I can be strong and vulnerable.
I can embrace my gender fluidity.
I can be myself.