Gender can be a tricky question, especially when you’re surrounded by people who have a very conventional view of such matters. (Note that this post is about gender identity, the subjective experience of gender. Not sexual orientation.)
It’s not a topic you find ever comes up in general conversation unless it’s to mock somebody who doesn’t fit the “accepted” norms: the standard Western view of two distinct genders. I have never felt comfortable with this.
I grew up as a biological male and was always treated as such. I attended a mixed school up to age 11, single sex to age 16 and then mixed again after that. All my life I have been trying to play this role that was assigned to me. I never felt I really fitted in, but I had been ascribing that to my Aspergers. For some time, though, I’ve been wondering: what if that’s not the whole story…
You see, although I certainly look male, I don’t feel masculine: I have never felt that many of the stereotypical traits of masculinity were applicable to me. This caused me some confusion because I used to feel that it meant there was something wrong with me. Even discovering I have Aspergers didn’t explain all of it, although a more fluid view of gender is not uncommon on the Spectrum — possibly a consequence of going through life feeling different for other reasons.
But how could I broach the subject? There is still such stigma attached to gender nonconformity by society. I have been afraid to raise the issue for fear of ridicule, or worse — there is still a possibility of incurring harm. The thing is… suffering in silence is also harmful. So I am writing this to describe how I feel, how I think of myself, and to put an end to my concealment. To come out, as it were.
The fact is that while my body appears male — and I have no great desire to change that, although a more androgynous appearance would be OK: I’m not gender dysphoric — my mind is less clear-cut: I identify more as feminine than masculine. This correlates with my score on the Bem Sex Inventory Test: I score highly for traits such as compassion, gentleness, passivity, caring, sympathy and understanding but not for ones such as aggression, assertiveness, dominance, independence or willingness to take risks. And although I find it difficult to show or talk about my feelings much — an autistic trait — inside I experience very strong emotions.
Another trait that is more commonly feminine: I internalize stress and hurt, dwell on things, incorporate them into my self. This can increase the risk of anxiety and depression which are internalizing disorders. On the other hand I’m much less inclined towards externalizing disorders such as anti-social behavior which are more typically masculine.
As somebody whose natural inclination is to be open and honest about things I have found it difficult to keep all this to myself, but my desire to express the feminine side of my personality through appearance and mannerisms is more than countered by my fear of people’s reactions. People who know me know what I’m like, but I am worried that there will prove to be a limit to how much they are willing to accept. So for now I will go no further than just labeling myself feminine.
The key thing I want people to understand is that announcing the fact I identify as feminine does not change who I am: it is who I am, who I have always been. It is probably one reason why my closest friends — the ones whom I trust most and feel able to talk to most openly — have almost exclusively been women: I identify more with them than I do with “other men”.
The shape of a man
Hides a secret deep inside —
Look into her eyes.