A lack of gender: the trans inexperience

Two large black concentric metal rings in a courtyard.

This essay contains reflections on gender from a nonbinary person’s perspective. However, due to the nature of these reflections, some of the rhetoric used may sound self-deprecating or even contain use terms and phrases reminiscent of anti-transgender sentiments. This is not the case. This is, however, a personal text dealing with the author’s own experiences, and has no universalist claim to the subject matter at hand.
This text is not a political document, it is a record of personal experience and ought to be read as such.

I often find myself amazed – and I am not being sarcastic here – by the confidence, conviction, and nonchalance with which other trans and nonbinary people and our allies say things like «trans men are men, trans women are women, nonbinary people are valid». I have never felt valid, and I’m not sure if I can put the blame entirely on a society that preferred to see me as a boy and now prefers to see me as a man, categories I have struggled to find myself in for most of my life, since the nurse at the hospital lifted me up and joyfully announced to my parents that it’s a boy (I’m assuming that this is what happened some 28 years ago within normal margins of error).

Even since I have come to terms with being a nonbinary person, an identity that is, in the terms of «the queer community» (if there is such a thing to speak of) a subset of transgender persons, being transgender (or nonbinary, for that matter, but let us keep this more general and less specific) and identifying as such has always felt more like a metaphor.

I wish I were x, I wish I looked more androgynous, has less body hair, I wish my voice wasn’t this deep and maybe most of all, that I wasn’t perceived as a man – something I resemble but do not identify as or with. I wish I were this perfectly androgynous human being, and therefore I call myself such and such, I self-validate by means of the pronouns I use and the Pride colours I fly, and demand that same validation from others (to varying degrees, as one does).

What I identify as is what I lack; in fact, that is my reason to identify as such. I identify as nonbinary because I am not that which I associate with the idea of a nonbinary person. My body is not very androgynous, I take hormones in hopes of it becoming a little more so, my mind certainly isn’t either; I was raised as a boy and in becoming an adult was moulded, my reluctance nonwithstanding, by the expectations this society has to a man.

I experience «being transgender» as a lack of gender, first and foremost.

My starting point when I say «I am this» (a nonbinary person) is not that I am something, it is not a feeling of allegiance to a thing, it is that I am not this, I am not the person I would like to be in terms of this strange entity we speak of as «gender», and that is why I find statements like «trans x are x, nonbinary people are valid» vacuous and insignificant at best and tiresome at worst. I am happy for trans siblings who find comfort and pride in their gender and their identities as a whole; I cannot say for myself that I did. Sticking feathers up my arse does not make me a chicken.

What I am trying to describe here is not dysphoria, the feeling of my gender identity not matching my gender expression sufficiently; the relationship between them is a disconnection, and my «gender identity» is the feeling of something I lack.

Is there a space for this experience in the «community»? Is it possible to speak of gender not in terms of experiences of pride, but a non-experience, a gender inexperience of sorts, without feeling like a traitor?

If you enjoyed reading this text, consider buying me a coffee.