Why The Gender Binary Doesn't Work (For Me)
For some, the sharp black and white of gender works. Identifying with the gender assigned at birth is unsurprisingly natural to many people; never having to worry about the social consequences that follow identifying otherwise certainly makes it a very appealing option.
Being stared at, ostracized, or even physically hurt in public spaces because of clothing or a hairstyle choice is the daily grind for people like me who fall into the grey area between the rigid lines of male or female. Throughout my life, I have felt like a prisoner inside the body I was born into. As a young impressionable kid fearing disapproval of my family and rejection from my peers, I kept my head down and endured the unkind years of public school as any queer kid in the South learns to do. I kept my hair short, my clothes masculine, and my spirit crushed.
This is not, however, a sad story. As the years went by, I found support and love from the friends I chose, and slowly began shattering the stifling shell that is acting like a straight man. Once I got to college, I grew my hair out. I dyed that hair pink. I shopped the women’s section of Forever 21. I learned to apply makeup. It was a steep learning curve, but I learned well. Soon enough, I was building a small following on social media and even modeling in photoshoots. My newly discovered world of glitz and my newly adopted attitude of giving the rest of the world the finger if they stared was fresh and thrilling, but I wasn’t happy.
As it turned out, glamming up and serving fish was not a personality. I thought I had found myself, but it ended up being just a mask I briefly enjoyed wearing; one that had turned the person underneath into someone I was no longer sure I knew. Feeling content as neither a woman nor a man, I felt lost but also guilty, somehow. Guilty of deceiving everyone who saw me. Of concealing some true identity I didn’t even know. I shaved my hair off. I gave my dresses away. I graduated college. I moved to San Francisco. I got a dog. It’s a work in progress.
My father likens my personality to a butterfly, but I think the more appropriate stage to categorize me is currently the chrysalis. I am evolving and dancing between forms through metamorphosis, ever changing and preparing for the day when I have my wings.
// Photography courtesy of Griffin Moskowitz.