Trigger Warning: Gender Dysphoria, Queerphobia
When I say I am a genderfluid pansexual person, cis-het people look at me like I have uttered something blasphemous. They look at me like I am E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and they are Elliot, from the Steven Spielberg film. The confusion on their faces makes my sexuality seem like a quantum physics formula. Many dismiss it altogether, while some very politely remind me, “But you are a woman!”
What follows this brilliant observation then leads to two types of conversations. One, where I relentlessly try to make my fellow human understand why I am not a woman while they insist on proving me wrong by pointing at either my breasts or reminding me of the nature of my genitals. Or, if they are feeling particularly queerphobic that day, then the conversation becomes a series of accusations and objections about my entire existence.
We all are familiar with these two types of cis-het people in our lives. But I have come across another kind who alienates me the most. The oh-so-supportive cis-het friends who claim to be proud allies of the community, but more often than not, really hurt our feelings with snippets of micro-aggression behind closed doors.
When I came out as genderfluid, a very considerate cis-het ally said, “Isn’t gender a social construct? So if male and female doesn’t exist, aren’t we all fluid?” Gender is most definitely a social construct which conditions us to abide by the gender roles assigned to our sexes, since childhood. But gender identity is not necessarily related to the genitals we are born with. A person born with a female sex may identify as a man or a woman or neither or both. Even though gender is a social construct, gender identity most definitely isn’t. I am genderfluid which means even though I have a vagina I do not identify as a woman.
Then there are some who call me “a chameleon”, “a shape-shifter.” Even though the idea is quite tempting and I would love to let go of this mundane muggle life, I am most definitely a human and not a character from Harry Potter. I am a human who falls under the non-binary spectrum which means my sex organ doesn’t define my gender identity. I sometimes feel like a woman, most times like a man and often neither.
My gender identity also brings with itself the cargo of gender dysphoria. This means that certain aspects of my body that come as a consequence of the sex I am assigned at birth, often distress me – the most disturbing of them being menstruation. But whenever I have expressed my distress in front of cis-het women, their response is either “I too hate periods,” or “You should be proud of it. Own it girl. Uterus is God.”
When cis-het women compare queer experiences with that of their own, it isn’t always helpful. Menstruation for cis women is not a constant reminder that they don’t belong in their bodies. This discomfort that I feel is not similar to something a cis woman experiences. By equating our experiences, one is not only invalidating my dysphoria but also hijacking the queer space I belong in.
The second response is also problematic. Undoubtedly, the female biology is marvelous but to me it’s often distressing. My uterus instead of being divine is often a burden to my identity. A “friend” of mine once jokingly said, “No offence but don’t you think menstruation is your body’s way of discarding your identity.” Yes, it is. It is a constant reminder that my gender identity doesn’t align with my assigned sex.
But the comment missed its point of being humorous and was offensive and rude. My gender dysphoria is not a joke. At times it might be confusing to you but so was the Marvel universe and you could still understand why Loki disappearing from the 2012 timeline led to a mess in the multi-verse. So, why is it so hard for you to understand this?
A few weeks ago, Ayushmann Khurrana, a Bollywood actor, posted his picture with eyeliner and nail-polish, which was the cover of the GQ magazine, on Instagram and captioned it as “Gender fluid.” This misconception of gender fluidity being a gender expression rather than a gender identity is inherent in many of my cis het friends as well.
Gender expression is a way in which a person expresses their gender identity through appearance and behavior. While gender identity is the personal conception of one’s self as male or female or both or neither. Gender fluidity is a gender identity which means it is not related to just the physicality of a person. Wearing a blazer or a skirt or putting on makeup is a part of gender expression and not gender identity.
By captioning it gender fluid, the actor is invading queer spaces and actively participating in erasure of queer experiences. Something that the non-binary and the transgender community have been doing for years and have been ridiculed and discriminated against for, shouldn’t be seen as an act of bravery when done by a cis-het man. It is not an act of defiance on the actor’s part but a rather greedy attempt to steal the space queer people have earned after years of struggle and resistance.
As if being genderfluid was not enough, I am pansexual as well. I came out in the beginning as bisexual and on further evaluation, I decided that pansexual is the label that gives a comprehensive definition of my sexuality. Many people assumed that I am attracted to pots and pans while other labeled me as “greedy” and “confused.”
Although I would prefer a cast iron skillet over these people, I am not attracted to kitchenware. Pansexuality is sexual attraction towards people regardless of their gender. The saying goes that there are plenty of fishes in the sea but I am not necessarily interested in all the fishes. I would rather be with a fish that matches my vibe. As David Rose in Schitt’s Creek said, “I am into the wine and not the label.”
I am not attracted to everyone I lay my eyes on. Like you, I too have preferences but those don’t necessarily revolve around one’s gender identity. For me, a person’s gender doesn’t concern my attraction or the lack of it towards them. But I am not confused. I am what Kat Edison in The Bold Type called “A lover of people.”
The labels that I have chosen to describe myself are not gibberish and my they/she pronouns do not make me confused. I am not an inanimate object and my sex organ does not define my identity. Although the idea of surviving on sunlight is very enticing, I am not Jadoo from Koi Mil Gaya. I am not an alien. I am a human – a human who expects a lot less ignorance and a little more kindness and empathy from you.
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