Gender Identity: Breaking Through.

This has been a long time coming.
A lifetime, you might say.

If you don’t want to/have time to read further, then here’s the synopsis:
I am genderqueer, more specifically trigender, by which I mean I feel that I am not just female, but also male, and also androgynous.
I am a part of the wider transgender spectrum, that isn’t single-gendered.

For those of you that know me outside of my professional author/producer side of life, I would like to be called Lee – a gender-neutral name, which is one of the many versions of my first name Malise.

This is a little trickier, but I would also like, when referring to me, people to use neither masculine nor feminine pronouns but neutral ones – instead of her/him, try them or they. There are some others, which I’ll get into at another time, but go with the singular “they” for now.

That’s the basics – now you can read on if you wish.

There’s never been many people I’ve allowed to see into my personal struggles to work out who I am. I project – entirely on purpose – the idea that I know exactly who I am, and be damned to anyone who doesn’t like it. This isn’t all false, but it’s not the whole story either.

It’s funny, unlike many I never had trouble accepting my sexuality. If I’m attracted to someone, they’ve always been female – any experiments I made the other way were never satisfying, and I was ok with that. I kept it to myself for some time because I knew other people would be less accepting – and they were. I needed to build the ability to block out the bad stuff and not let it affect who I knew myself to be.
For most of the things that can be quantified in some way, that worked – sexuality, geekiness, etc, they were me and I was them, in my own unique way.

But there’s been something else which I’ve struggled with for a long time, and that’s my gender identity.
I used to try and hide my feminine side, whilst being simultaneously convinced I was too damn masculine. There was never a time when it was suggested to me that this weirdness, this disconnect, in who I felt myself to be was mostly about trying to stuff everything I was into a single box and finding no way to reconcile myself with myself.

Gender identity is a weird thing. We get told in so many ways what we’re supposed to be based on the gender we are at birth – for every thing we’re given consciously, we get given a hundred things unconsciously, and somewhere in the midst of all of that is the person we truly are.

Like sexuality, I believe gender to be a spectrum. As I accepted thatย  consciously, I began to look inwards in a way I never have before. I realised that the friend who told me she thought I was really a man, wasn’t entirely wrong. But nor was the friend who scoffed at that, when I told her.

Trying to reconcile all of who I am into one gender failed for 30yrs. I was never comfortable in my own body, and there was always something I shut away and refused to dig into. Life’s hard enough, you know? I was never willing to add yet more into the mix that I thought would cause more problems.

Then, a while ago, I hit the moment – the one where I realised I was making things worse for myself, and that I had the personal strength and the strength of amazing friends to actually drop the walls and wade right in, see who I really was.

So I did. Piece by piece.

I have never been so sure of, happy with and comfortable with who I am as I am right now.
This is a big deal for me, because it’s been a long, difficult journey – that is in no way over.

I’ve been amazed and thankful for the way friends, family and colleagues have reacted – there’s been nothing but support so far from all the people that matter. It’s shown me that I’m doing the right thing by being open about it, and reassures me that I have support when I need it. Thanks everyone :)

Finally, for now, a FAQ for some of the questions I’ve been asked more than once so far:

Q: Do I think like a man or a woman?
A: Neither and both. I think like myself, parts of which are male, female and something inbetween. I’m just a whole, complete person, who thinks in a way that’s unique to me – just like everyone else. It’s a philosophical answer, but the best one I have as yet.

Q: What does this mean for my sexuality – am I still a lesbian?
A: The simplest of all possible answers is that I am, as I have always been, attracted to women – and this has remained the same whatever gender I feel I am. I’ve not really found a simple, single word for it yet, though.

Q: Will you get mad if you get called the wrong thing or I ask a stupid question?
A: Only if you’re being a dick. Otherwise, no. I may occasionally correct something that has been misspoken, because I want to educate the people around me. I also want the people around me to understand and be comfortable, so I positively encourage questions.

Q: Am I planning on transitioning, fully or partially, to male?
A: Right now I have no plans to, however there are some considerations, which are nudging me towards top surgery – to flatten my chest more properly and permanently than a chest binder can do.

Q: Chest binder?
A: Not as torturous as it sounds, I promise – it’s a specially made piece of clothing which flattens and compresses the chest, shaping it into something more resembling pectoral muscles.

Q: Isn’t it easier…not to be doing this?
A: It would be less terrifying, which would be easier in the short term… But otherwise no. A lifelong battle with who I am has led me here, and I’ve found a level of happiness within myself that I’ve never had before. Whatever struggles the outside world may give me will never be as difficult as it would be to continue shunting aside who I feel I truly am.

Q: Why are you making a point of telling everyone?
A: Because I’m aware that by far the majority of people I know haven’t been given the opportunity to come face-to-face with someone who is trans* – but there are a lot of people out there on the spectrum, some who know it and many more who simply wonder why they never quite fit. If I can assist in the wider attempts to educate people, than I want to. And for those that know me personally, if I didn’t tell you something like this, then I would not only be lying to you but I would also be splitting myself into pieces in order to do so. None of that would be right.
So, I’m talking – because I feel that being open about things is important.

  • Liz

    You are an awesome, awesome person, and I got your back. Your strength, drive, talent, and power are inspiring!

  • So well put, and very accessible, inviting, and clear. Thank you for sharing so generously!

  • Go, Lee – you’re fab :-)

  • How open, honest, clear and concise.Thank you sharing and for educating me. You show such strength of character. I admire and support you wholeheartedly. You will always be welcome here.

  • It’s only been a few years since I refused to accept anything other than cis-male and cis-female. I’m still trying to learn, and this blog is helping. Thank you.

    btw – I was identifying as male back then.

  • Hi Mary, thank you for commenting, I’m glad writing this is helpful for someone (other than me) :)

  • Well done you for standing firm and being who you are. I think there are tons of folk who don’t fit right into society’s “norms” and it is just a recipe for unhappiness to try and squeeze yourself into something you are not. I guess I have always been of the opinion that people are – well, people and that is it. By the way, it really is long time – no see! I hope all is well with you, m’dear x Mum White. ( nowI I am going to have to wrestle with this thing to publish my comment, I expect – I am still the worst technoklutz ever! )

    • :) Thanks Jane! I’ve been so lucky to have the friends and support I have, even those I haven’t seen in far too long! :) x

  • Pingback: Gender Identity: A little help for friends | Lee Hulme's Miscellaneous Geekery()

  • JMitch

    Hi, Lee. (This is JMitch from nerdfitness!) Thank you for writing this blog. My spouse had the realization of being trans last year, and ever since then I’ve been breaking apart my understanding of gender and putting it back together into a much larger and more beautiful picture. In the process, I feel like I’m coming to understand myself more fully, and finding parts of my gender identity that had been forgotten or ignored in the corners of my mind for a long time. Reading about the journeys of others with somewhat similar identities is helping me understand myself. I really clicked with what you said about trigender – sometimes, I feel masculine, sometimes feminine, but most of the time I just forget that I’m anything in particular. I’ve been using “genderfluid” as a label for a few months now, as it seemed to fit pretty well. I will consider “trigender” and see if it works even better. I know a lot of queer folk dislike labels, but to me it’s like trying on a shirt to see if it fits, and discarding it if it doesn’t. For that reason, I always love to learn more labels for things. ๐Ÿ˜›

    • Hi J, thanks for stopping by :)
      I love how stepping outside of the binary suddenly opens up these endless possibilities to be who you are. I’ve been chewing over the term “transmasculine” for a while, which seems to fit me pretty well. It’s a work in progress, as always :)
      I know what you mean about labels, I loathe when somebody else slaps a label on me, but if a word or a concept helps me understand who I am, and explain to others who I am, then I will happily make use of the language that’s there.!