Semi-Permanent Questioning

This is a response for the first Gender Exploration Carnival theme (“Questioning”) for February 2021.

Summary: The process of realizing I’m nonbinary, multigender, and genderfluid has made it hard to know if I’ve hit the gender-saturation limit (and can ‘stop’ questioning). Being closeted offline has made it hard to experiment with offline specifics, and depression has made it hard to detect what’s going on internally, so I currently don’t have specific gender identity labels.

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve questioned some aspect of my gender. I started to get some pings back in high school, but I guess I wasn’t ready for that when I was also questioning my sexuality for the umpteenth time, dealing with mental illness, and the internal stress of trying to ignore some flagrant signs that I had ‘something’. It might be hard to believe, but I kind of forgot that I flirted with starting to question my gender until I really had to face that it was happening in undergrad. I think that corresponds with the time when I didn’t yet know that there was any other option than being a man or a woman, and old blog posts used to say that I was a trans man or transmasculine. I spent some time in a “Trans – Not Otherwise Specified” area before figuring out that other labels were out there, which is part of why I find it hard to shake self-identifying as trans.

Despite the choice of title, a more serious (if by now, outdated) response about being nonbinary can be found in “Wibbly-wobbly, gendery-wendery”, which is a 2018 post about the labels I used at the time and how I can sort of put words and phrases together to describe different experiences of gender that all add up to being multigender and genderfluid, but I’m not that great at in-the-moment identification for actually sharing different gender identity labels with anyone I’m interacting with. I don’t really have a forewarning sense that it’s going to be an [insert gender] day or can reliably detect my present gender with enough time to potentially change elements of presentation and expression accordingly (wearing different clothes, using a different name, using different pronouns, etc.). I’ve run into realizing after the fact that the gender flowed a different way based on how I felt about an expression or presentation choice more.

Examples:

  • Even though I was the one who told some online acquaintances that they could use he/they pronouns for me, it took me about two weeks of feeling inexplicably sad at seeing “he/him” used to refer to me in posts and comments before I realized the gender I’d been experiencing during that time was a ‘they/their only’ sort.
  • Certain elements of presentation that are traditionally femme associated used in a specific Goth aesthetic might not set off misgendering, but it has more to do with the mixing of masculine and feminine components that doesn’t work as well in practice as it does on paper.
  • I suspect there’s a very particular xeno-flavoured-gender that I would like ne/nym pronouns during, but I haven’t been able to recognize that gender again while it’s happening to really test it out.

If this sounds confusing, I can’t blame you. I wouldn’t exactly recommend trying to piece together what doesn’t feel misgendering to pinpoint something related to your gender, but I didn’t really have a way to do the “use a different gender and pronoun set in a sideblog bio to see if it fits” tactic with my in-person body and stuff. Add in returning home to people I interact with day-to-day not knowing that I’m nonbinary, so there’s no safe experimentation. Don’t forget several years of depression related indifference and feeling like I’m struggling to see through fog to whatever gender might be there. All in all, I suppose I could try to find a specific name for individual gender experiences, but it just doesn’t seem important.

If this sounds too linear for your liking, just give me a moment. Remember that ‘something’ was happening in the first paragraph? Well, if I admitted that something was going on, someone might try to fix it. I sometimes felt like ‘man and woman at the same time’ and ‘man and woman at the same time to the point of Other’ described some of my gender experiences, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that I actually went looking for a professional diagnosis after the ‘squint and you miss it’ symptoms became more pronounced and noticeable to others [“In Between” dates to Oct 2019]. While I am aware that there are other potential sources for hyperandrogenism, I currently have a diagnosis of PCOS (the hyperandrogenic subtype is the ‘classic’ and most common in resources).

That gets us to roundabout the start of 2020, but potentially because of already being a homebody pre-quarantine, I haven’t really experienced new gender questioning because of the coronavirus pandemic or lockdown. The closest I got to was making some progress on internalizing that I’m allowed to call myself intersex (because being hormonally intersex does ‘count’), but I’m honestly still a bit wary of approaching anything under the intergender umbrella (because what if I’m just another nonbinary person claiming to be intersex and using a gender label only for intersex folks?). But, you know, hyperandrogenism doesn’t have zero impact on my experiences with gender, so I don’t really want to sweep that under the rug either. It’s… Hm… It’s a bit like a non-consensual low-dose T experience at times, but it reveals different flavours of dysphoria instead of being solely and entirely gender affirming. (I do a bit of personal blogging about PCOS under the intersex tag here on WordPress, but I don’t really talk about it very often in other places.)

These days, I’m a not-so-little depression-fog with ‘meh’ presenting sweatpants and comfy t-shirts, who just sticks with they/their pronouns. I dunno what else my gender is doing. I can’t even guarantee there’s still a gender underneath all the fog, but I don’t think past experiences with genders can get removed from counting towards a multigender experience. In theory, I have a collection of potential genders to re-experience if I can figure out the conditions that will help me to recognize which gender is happening, but in practice, I’m just waiting for the fog to clear. Maybe I can, like, trigger and reawaken a gender? Are there other genders I could possibly experience? Maybe it’s more like a tourist souvenir in a little collection showing where I’ve been, but I’m probably not revisiting? I’m not sure.

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