Unable to share questions about gender
1. I have questioned my gender in some way for as long as I can remember, though it only occurred to me as maybe meaning something in my mid-late teens. It seems many of those around me believe only in male/female, gay/straight identities. They have no compassion towards those who choose to openly use labels and talk about 'those people' in a very patronising way. I have constant doubts in my mind as to whether what I think I'm experiencing exists at all - I only even have the language I do to express this because of extensive research I have done personally which usually quells my fears; I find internal acknowledgement is enough for me to get on more-or-less confidently, but as I grow close to people for the first time in my life this falls short.
2. I have a boyfriend. I fear that as long as straight (cisM/F) relationships are still on the cards (always will be, I'm bi) I don't feel I could ever voice these thoughts, particularly openly. I worry he wouldn't view me the same, and he seems of those who use labels like non-binary, or 'non-traditional' pronouns. Is this fear founded? Or at least shared by others? Knowing him, realistically I doubt he'd leave me for that reason, but the fear plays in my mind that he would view me differently and lose respect for me. Maybe I'm letting past experiences cloud my judgement.
3) Constant doubt that what I'm voicing here is real. I don't know anyone personally who relates to me. My main personal experiences with other LGBT+ people is limited to bi/gay women and they say they don't have these thoughts. I look feminine, I love makeup and nice clothes, I'm artistic. This creates a certain image and sometimes I enjoy this, sometimes I find it distressing. I have trouble with my body, but is that dysphoria or dysmorphia? I've heard of gender fluid identifying people and this resonates somehow. I all but shaved my hair off about a year ago which my mother shamed me for, and the look created conflict for me. I looked young due to small build which I didn't enjoy. Men avoided me which sometimes was upsetting, though I still snagged a boyfriend somehow - once I knew I was attracted to him I dialled up the femininity a little and it troubles me that I am being disingenuous, but pushing towards either end of the spectrum feel disingenuous, others' opinions constantly undermine my confidence.
Clarity is needed, from real people. I haven't said all I probably need to but it's what fits in the textbox.
Much appreciated x
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and welcome to our Beyond Blue forums.
What you're experiencing is real and normal. I'm a cisgendered bisexual female and I'm very passionate about all things sexuality, LGBTQIA+, gender, identity etc. I know what it's like to question your identity and over the years, I've found many queer friends who share similar experiences of identity questioning, whether it be constant or otherwise.
Let's address your points in order:
- Male/female and gay/straight are what I would consider to be binary labels for two spectrums that are anything but binary. It's normal within the queer community to have fluid sexuality and/or gender identity. It's great that you've acknowledged your feelings of fluidity, and I would encourage you to explore them. Play with different aesthetics and expressions, experiment with your pronouns, anything that would help you feel more comfortable with your thoughts about your gender identity. Also know that you don't have to assign a label to your feelings if you don't want to.
- Your feelings are always valid. Deciding to open up to somebody about your identity is always complicated, because there's an underlying fear of not quite knowing how somebody will react. I'm bisexual and have a boyfriend too. While he doesn't fully understand my experiences with questioning my sexuality because he's straight, he does fully support me and accept me. If you feel comfortable, have a chat to your boyfriend about how you're feeling. You may want to discuss your relationship boundaries, as well as his.
If he's straight, he may feel uncomfortable with the idea of dating somebody who identifies as any gender other than female, or he may not. This does not necessarily mean his respect for you decreases. If he does view you differently, this may be a different conversation to have with him entirely, as it may come down to his general respect from you rather than his support.
- Don't worry, what you're voicing here is a real struggle and it's normal. Play around with your self-expression if you wish, get to know what you like and don't like. If you resonate with gender fluidity or want to find other queer people with similar experiences, have a little research, see what you find. A great place to start for this may be Reddit, or even Discord. Congrats on shaving your hair off by the way, even if others may disapprove.
How are you feeling at the moment? Please feel free to continue chatting with us.
Hi, thanks for a great response.
Everything you’re saying makes so much sense but the doubt remains, the fear gets in the way, both of how people react and the fear that one day I’ll realise I’m a cishet woman looking for attention (which is what my mother always told me bisexual women were). I’ve read the Comp-Het essay and that’s comforting I must admit.
Would it be bad for me to never verbalise these things? When I first posted I was very emotional about it and feeling a lot of conflict with my gender and relationships, annoying how it occasionally ebbs and flows. I’ve got more distracting me now even if it’s still always on my mind a little, and asking people to acknowledge this thing about me feels really important in some ways, and trivial/demeaning in others.
Also my hair has completely grown back! I cut it almost exactly a year ago and it’s past my collarbones already, fast regrowth is a blessing and a curse it seems. I’m at an impasse about what to do with it especially now that I’m thinking I may just keep this for myself. The anxiety about it feels too great to warrant sharing it. Never say never, but Im saying ‘not right now’. Im a twenty something now and worry no one would believe it’s a long term doubt I’ve had, particularly given my mental health history. Getting my family to accept I’d had OCD and phobias (etc) since I was a child took years, believing I was bisexual still doesn’t look like it may ever happen, and something as abstract as genderqueerness may be a final straw for them.
My boyfriend wouldn’t leave me for this, and I’ve spoken to him a little about the ‘queer experience’ but always in vague terms bc of my hang ups which is frustrating. God he’s great though :). I’m averse to publicly experimenting with this stuff too, I don’t know why. I don’t even care if everyone used different pronouns or if I got to dress masc or anything at this point, I just feel like Im lying and it’s becoming a burden on my mind, but there’s nothing I fear more than actually BEING the burden on others.
Heard a queer artist talk about his experiences growing up this week and it resonated so hugely with me, has informed some of these decisions I’ve made. Im not willing to give up what I have right now, even if it’s not perfect. Huge respect to people who can actually be authentic, being bisexual was one thing that I was able to settle on and just understand in my own way, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand this.
Sorry for the rant x
I feel for you so much as you gradually come to make sense of who you are and how you feel the experience known as life.
I think feelings play a big part when it comes to discovering who we naturally are. I believe they're a part of our compass, dictating our direction to a degree. While one person may feel a strong attraction to the opposite gender, another may simply feel an undeniable attraction toward a particular energy someone has and not relate that kind of energy to that person's gender. To simply feel or share that energy while seeing beyond gender is something previous generations (in general) may not be able to relate to. In some cases there are incredibly extreme views. While you can simply love vibing with someone's energy who happens to be the same sex, an extremist view will see you burning in hell. You always gotta question that kind of viewpoint. If a person's viewpoint creates a kind of hell on earth for you, you could say you're already in hell. Of course, feeling hell on earth is not good from a mental, physical or soulful perspective. As a gal who experienced years of depression, I can relate to what hell on earth feels like.
I've found the most sensitive of people can easily feel the energy of a person and situation. It's an ability that can feel like a curse at times. So, you could say you can easily feel your parents' judgement, resentment and upset yet that's not your fault, it's your ability to feel where they're coming from. To emotionally detach from how they are feeling a situation gives you the ability of pure analysis. Pure analysis will dictate the facts, through observation. In your parents, are you observing a closed mind, a lack of wonder? Are you observing their social conditioning and the distorted and/or outdated beliefs that come with that? Are you observing a 'holier than thou' self righteous attitude? Are you observing the conditioning that comes with a religious belief system? And then what about yourself? In yourself are you observing an open minded wonder filled (wonderful) perspective? Are you observing your ability to feel the energy of people, without gender creating bias? Are you observing the struggle that comes about through our own sometimes painful evolution? Are you observing your evolution toward greater self love and self acceptance? I know, so many questions...
Any great quest holds a lot of questions. Such is the nature of our quest to evolve beyond who we once thought we were 🙂
If you don't want to verbalise it at this stage, that's totally fine. You may feel differently later, or then again you may not. But if it feels comfortable for you at this time, you don't have to say anything about it to anyone.
"Bisexual people are attention-seeking" is such a laughable stereotype for me - there's a certain irony in bisexual people spending so much time in the closet, afraid of what people will say, then getting accused of looking for attention once we do come out. I think that people who say this are getting confused with performative bisexuality, which is when cishet women will kiss other girls or their female friends to get somebody else's attention, but they don't inherently experience same-sex attraction. Cishet men can engage in performative bisexuality, but it's more commonly seen amongst women.
Your feelings of not wanting to be a burden on others really resonates with me. For my own peace of mind, I generally ask my friends if it's a good time for me to talk to them about something, if they're in a good space emotionally, or if they have the capacity to listen to something emotionally heavy at the moment. When somebody we care about opens their heart to us about something that may be causing them emotional distress, our capacity to listen to and understand what they're saying may be limited if we're going through something ourselves. It doesn't mean we don't value what they have to say, we may just need some time to process our own emotions before taking on somebody else's. I find that reframing my thinking in this way helps me reduce feelings of being a burden on my loved ones.
Listening to the experiences of queer artists or media personalities can be another great way to come to terms with our own feelings, and feel comfortable with our identity. I believe I suggested this in my first post, but talking to fellow queer people on platforms such as Discord can also be very comforting.
Is there anybody else in your life who you'd feel comfortable opening up to? Do you have any queer friends, colleagues, neighbours etc.?
Gender non-conforming/non-binary person (and an LGBTQIA+ peer educator) here!
Something really important that I want to tell you is that gender and sexuality can be very fluid, and exist on a large spectrum. Unfortunately, this does mean that it can be terribly confusing and even upsetting, especially when you'd just like to know who you are.
I totally understand the anxieties around being seen as"fake", I myself only came out as non-binary last year (I'm in my early 20s). I still struggle with my gender identity and have days where I think I must be faking for attention. I love that your boyfriend is so open to genderqueerness, and while I totally understand your hang-ups, I think you might find it beneficial to share your gender-questioning with him in a more direct manner - of course, only do so if comfortable and when you are both in the right headspace for it.
I really resonate with how listening to other peoples' journeys help you - I suggest doing some reading and research on sites such as qlife.org.au (or give them a call too!), Minus18, Twenty10, or even the LGBTQIA+ section on Beyond Blue. I don't know where you're located, but a quick google search could tell you about any LGBTQIA+ or specifically gender-diverse peer support groups in your area or online - peer support is a great way to learn more about identity and potentially how to come out (if you so wish), as well as knowing that you're not alone 🙂
Hope this helps in some way
- TC (she/they)
So many responses! I don’t know how to reply en mass sorry, so this is for everyone.
I always experienced gender in an odd way, I felt weird saying I was a ‘girl becoming a woman’, it was like a nickname people gave me that never caught on internally, but I wouldn’t call myself a boy (maybe doesn’t help that I have a tiny frame and all things feminine). Existing as something outside of it which is derivative of both but still separate makes sense socially - in my head the whole thing is a binary which I am not fond of and which never played much of a roll in my self identity or sexual attraction to others. I’ve done too much postmodern theory to really believe in language anymore.
The boyfriend… he’s only repeating things he’s been taught by media and which has been reinforced by his immediate circles. I can see this so clearly and struggle not to get emotional when it comes up (because it brings up stuff I prefer to bury, not because he’s aggressive! We’ve never had arguments and aggression that I was taught define relationships, love securely attached people :D) but can’t push myself to explain just why it means so much to me and why so much of my knowledge on this gender stuff is weirdly specific and personal. That’s honestly my biggest issue right now.
I frankly don’t care enough right now about other people to give any about what they think about me or how they see me, only my friends and chosen family (birth family too but mostly because I don’t need to make life any harder for myself). My friends I see every day are all cis and mostly straight, my only queer friend I can reliably talk to lives in another state and we see eachother only a few times a year (most of my friendships with lgbtq+ people have come and gone sadly). My conflict entirely surrounds the groups of people I actually care about.
In conclusion, people are mean and I’m too scared of rejection because of past experiences to be honest with those around me and with myself. Thank you for the multitude of replies, and to therising who asked a million questions, can I answer yes to all of them? Because it’s all pretty darn true.
Again, thanks everyone.
It's interesting you say 'I’ve done too much postmodern theory to really believe in language anymore'. It's amazing how language can shape us and trigger us in so many ways. No matter how hard we try to let go of certain forms of language (such as labels or the language held within certain belief systems), I think we'll always come across trigger words. You know those kinds of words or word combinations that set off your nervous system or the kind you can feel raising you or bringing you down.
After coming out of more than a decade in depression, over time I came to find a more natural life. I'd describe myself as one of those 'woo woo' gals 🙂 I'm good with the term, as it's come to amuse me. There are plenty of terms that describe a more nature based perspective on life in insulting, degrading and depressing ways yet they've lost their power in my life over time. I may even correct people on occasion, such as those who insist I'm one of 'those weirdos'. 'No, I'm not a weirdo, I'm woo woo' 🙂 Some people just can't help themself tmas, they'll insist that I'm simply 'a weirdo' or 'an idiot' or something like that or worse. Not my problem if they just can't let go of their language. As my daughter would say 'It's a them problem. Don't make it yours'.
Can't recall where I heard the following. Such a fascinating take on words. Never had I thought of words in such a unique way. Was something along the lines of:
When spelled out (on paper), words hold the power to casts spells, hence the nature of 'spelling'. When spelled out loud, they can conjure the worst in people.
Centuries of documentation that dictates all things 'wrong' with anyone who doesn't accept and live as their born gender or as their expected role in a heterosexual relationship, is spellbinding stuff. Such 'spelling' can lead people to kill, beat, degrade, reject and to do all things that go against what is loving. We will know those who have broken free of such spellbinding words, for they simply don't believe in them anymore. They see the true nature of them, the cruel judgement and hatred behind them.
To feel life as you do, to believe in life differently from those around you and to have managed this for so many years, you could say you have always felt life beyond words while those around you remain spellbound. While some around you will come to wake up, others never will. The challenge may involve figuring out who is most likely to wake up from what they've been led to believe 🙂
Language is funny. I’ve read a few things suggesting that in many ways the part of you that experiences trauma ceases developing, and that trauma experienced as a young person will prevent that part of your brain and identity from maturing (without intervention that is). I say this because for me, trauma came at pre-verbal point in my childhood and I can see how much of my identity crisis comes from this, as well as a disillusionment with the english language. It’s fun (not really, but it is enlightening) to think about. I recognise this in a lot of people who say they were anxious or depressed children, and even these feelings at a young age (which are never entirely ‘nature’ I might add) can be traumatic to the sense of self which has its development stunted.
It’s odd because language is hugely important to me, it’s a huge part of my reasoning and I love writing and analysis. At the same time, there is no part of myself that I have ever been able to verbalise, until EXTREMELY recently (the kicker was a year and a half of psychotherapy, don’t know why there isn’t more of that in Australia, CBT isn’t for everyone, particularly those who identify with what I’ve said imo).
There is no way for me to say a word and for you to experience the exact thought I was expressing with that word, and I will never be able to define it for you for the exact same reason - any word I could possibly use would be subjective. There’s no way for me to describe my self and have another person know what it means, and no way for me to put a word to the gender identification I am experiencing when my entire vocabulary is warped by the words others have given me. Words are not hateful in my opinion, they are sounds and pictures… and yet they’re so easily abused by people who stand to profit on their abuse.
A lot to consider.
I absolutely love your perspective. You're a great philosopher and student of human nature 🙂
It's true what you say, about words not being hateful and simply being sounds. I think it's the emotion behind the sounds (words) that can hold the greatest impact at times. It's the emotion that we feel, tied to those words. Crazy when you think about it but we can be degraded by another in a shockingly soul destroying way but it that person speaks a language (using verbal sounds) we don't understand, it simply has zero impact on us. If we understand the language, it can be gutting. Same with pictures or symbols. We can read a combination of symbols which create words on a page but if we don't understand the symbols and what they represent, no impact.
With my fascination regarding human nature, I tend to wonder about a heck of a lot. There's a lot to wonder about 🙂 We human beings are so fascinating when it comes to how we tick. The person I've been led to wonder about most in my life is myself. Wonder if you can relate. At times, it's almost like an obsessive need to know how you tick, so that you can ramp up what works and manage to understand and eliminate what doesn't. Sometimes it feels like an ongoing search for greater consciousness. At times it's enjoyable and even laughable. At other times it's downright challenging bordering on depressing. Raising our self through what's depressing is deserving of a medal, in my opinion 🙂 With the stunted development aspect, what comes to mind are spectrums of our nature. On the spectrum of people pleaser and self server there are the extremes. If we're conditioned to be a people pleaser, we don't exercise what healthy service to our self is. On the spectrum of self expression, we can be conditioned to exercise extreme silence or extreme expressions of opinion. In the middle, in balance, we are taught to find the right moments to openly express our self in healthy ways that involve our self and others. My heart truly goes out to kids who are suppressed when feeling the need to speak up. Such suppression may come about through the ridiculous destructive mantra 'Children should be see and not heard' or perhaps they are physically beaten into silence. Ongoing suppression can become depressing, as such suppression goes against our expressive nature. We are left grieving for a lost sense of self.
To re-member our self, our true natural self, becomes the quest for bringing all aspects of who we are back together 🙂