I’m agender. Or at least, I think I am. A person who identifies as agender is someone who lacks of gender or who feels genderneutral. But how can you know you’re agender when you don’t even know what having a gender feels like?
I was assigned female at birth.
As I child I played with dolls, I loved animals in general and horses in particular, I wore dresses and my hair in long braids – a typical girl, right? I never questioned my gender, I didn’t even know you could question it, I just took being a girl as a given.
However, the older I became, the more I realized how different I was from the others. I couldn’t quite pinpoint why, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, all I knew is that I didn’t feel like I could relate to anyone. The girls I used to be friends with became interested in things I couldn’t care less about. But I wasn’t able to connect with boys either. Football, gaming and cars and were as boring to me as clothes, “hot boys” and make-up. The more puberty hit others, the more alienated I felt. I didn’t get why girls were competing about who had the biggest bra-size. And it made even less sense to me why guys were interested in this too. In fact, I cried when I realized I was growing boobs; I refused to wear a bra for by wearing a bra I’d have to admit to myself that my body was changing in ways I didn’t want it to change. Instead I wore extremely tight shirts and slept on my stomach in a desperate attempt to stop them from growing.
At that time I didn’t have a word for the uneasiness I felt towards my breast, but now I know that this was my first experience with gender dysphoria. The way my body became was no longer a body I could embrace as my own. It felt like an ill-fitting body suit, no longer like a home. While other girls were happy about their changing bodies and looking forward to getting their first period, those very things made me feel extremely miserable. I felt overwhelmingly out-of-control and helpless, like this body was no longer mine. I started to hate my body, and soon thereafter myself.
Selfharm became my way to deal with this self-hatred and also a way to regain a little bit of control over how my body looks like. It goes without saying that is self-destructive behavior wasn’t a very effective coping mechanism. I knew I was on the wrong path, but I couldn’t just stop and turn around. It’s not that I didn’t want to grow up - I just didn’t want to become a woman.
Since I felt uncomfortable at the thought of turning into a woman, I considered that I might feel better as a man. A flat chest is definitely more “me” than the breasts I was growing. But what about the rest? A deeper voice would have been appreciated – but at the same time, growing a moustache would have terrified me. And while it would for sure be nice to be able to pee while standing, testicles wouldn’t have made me any happier than my boobs. I didn’t want to be a man either. I wanted to be neither.
But can you be neither? At age 14 I didn’t know that was an option. I thought I had to either fit into the category of “male” or the one of “female”. While, clearly, both felt equally wrong and inaccurate. So I informed myself about gender identities and soon figured out that you can also be “in-between”. Nonbinary. Nonbinary (or genderqueer) is an umbrella term used by people who don’t fit the gender binary of masculine and feminine. In my case, I just don’t feel like I fit the concept of gender as a whole. I don’t feel like I have a gender at all. I don’t even fully grasp “gender” to be fairly honest.
Gender is only insofar of importance to me since everyone else seems to expect me to have one and ascribes one to me – and usually wrongly. It’s difficult for trans* people in general to pass – but for most non-binary people “passing” is an impossible task. You can’t pass as agender when the majority of the population is unaware that there are more than two genders.
Being agender in a heavily gendered world is a difficult task. While blue shavers for men and pink one for women might be cringy at best and nobody stops you from shopping in all sections of a clothing store, issues become a bit more difficult when the job application requires you to pick between “Male” and “Female”. Or when the only toilet-options are one for men and one for women. There’s little space for people who are neither one nor the other. But most importantly: there are very few people (especially outside of the LGBT+ community) who won’t gender you. People put me in boxes I don’t belong. And I get it, I am an assigned female at birth, feminine presenting person.
I have rather long hair, whether or not I bind, my chest is never flat, I like wearing feminine clothes, I like necklaces, I have a high voice – and me not wearing makeup, not bothering to shave my legs, occasionally wearing clothing from the men’s section,… just won’t make me androgynous enough to make people question whether or not “female” really is an accurate attribute for me. But even putting that aside, there’s no way I can be agender-presenting for there’s no one way “agender” looks like. No matter what I do, people won’t be able to tell I’m agender unless I tell them. And while that means that I do get the “privilege” of “passing as female” (aka I don’t usually experience transphobia from strangers who don’t know my gender), it’s arguable if invisibility really is a privilege or rather some sort of discrimination. While nonbinary is already a widely unknown term, agender is even less popular – in fact so unpopular that Word underlines it and wants me to change it to gender.
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