Recently I had an incredibly interesting dream. Like many of my dreams, it switched back and forth between an alternate reality and a dramatic presentation. I either was or was portraying a trans man whose personality and character were pretty clearly inspired by Sir Sedley Clarendel and Chevalier Ilario de Sylvae — a man in a vaguely Louis-XIII-esque setting, of foppishly fashionable appearance and ludicrously exaggerated mannerisms masking seriousness and many good qualities, a gallant flirt with the ladies but only truly interested in a deeper emotional connection. I identified as a man, but experienced no body dysphoria.
As the dream story continued, my trans status was discovered by a man that had been my friend and ally (in fact he groped my crotch while I was asleep, which in the drama version of things I had given his actor consent to do, when he asked, for the sake of the story), and that man went on to try to kill me for being, as he believed, a woman daring to pose as a man. Everything kinda lost coherence from there, so I can’t really tell you what happened next or what the eventual outcome was (well, I mean, I didn’t die, but still). But the more interesting part of all this is my reaction to the role and ruminating on my own gender identity.
I’ve never been quite sure that I identify as strongly as a woman as some other women do. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been very clear, within myself, on what it means to be a woman outside a context of what oppression I’ve had to deal with — which is probably a pretty shitty way to form one’s identity. And I’ve often thought, “Well, cis privilege allows me to give very little thought to the matter, and that’s probably why I don’t have this deep certainty some women do of my womanhood.”
But since having this dream (so, yes, for, like, a week) I’ve been wondering at least a little whether the only small to moderate level of conviction that I am a woman may not stem from some other cause. Because as this man in this dream, I experienced a sense of ease and appropriateness that surprised me very much. And when, some days after the dream, I came across the term “gender euphoria,” I was immediately like, “Yes, that. That was what I felt in that dream.”
I would have dismissed it more easily if it hadn’t happened again within the same period. I was thinking about stories, as I usually am, and kinda daydreaming about how I might research certain settings for greater personal understanding and writing accuracy. And for one particular setting, my immediate thought was that I would be safer as a man — and with this thought came, in an instantaneous flash, the idea of the man I would be… and another brief shock of that gender euphoria that had so marked my dream.
The only body dysphoria I’ve ever experienced has been a long-running desire to grow proper facial hair. Thanks to PCOS, I have to deal with a ton of facial hair… but it’s never been enough to say, “I have a mustache” or “I have a beard.” It’s just a hassle, because it’s in that in-between stage that simply looks bad. (There’s one upside about wearing a stifling mask all over the place! I mean, besides the general upside of hopefully not catching or spreading COVID.) But I’ve always wanted to be able to try out a real mustache and beard, because I think they would look good on me and I’d like to test that theory. I have always felt curious what it would be like to have a penis (and even have the occasional dream about it, though testicles are never included), but, aside from an intense desire for a complete ovariohysterectomy, I’ve never had any active wish to modify my reproductive organs.
And I’ve never felt any kind of male identity that surpassed my (already only moderately felt) female identity and made me think I might be a trans man. But looking back over the last twenty years or so, I have to admit that I have felt something like a male identity on many, many occasions. Something like, but maybe not quite? And in each of these two instances of gender euphoria in recent days, there was certainly an androgynous lean to my masculinity. The women I flirted with as the fashionable man in the feathered hat knew me as a sort of female man, and received my flirtations as coming from some point in between; while the man I would be to fit into the setting I’d like to research was the type that could only with difficulty be distinguished from a butch lesbian with in-between facial hair.
I’ve always dressed however I pleased. I wear a lot of dresses, and love them, and I wear a lot of ties with dress shirts, and love them. I’m obese, with resultantly bigger breasts, and haven’t been mistaken for a man in probably 15 years. Even back then, I wasn’t trying to pass as a man; I was just wearing whatever I wanted, and more easily taken for a man because of my haircut and lower BMI (even though I’m also on the short end of medium height). My haircut for the last several years has involved 1/3 of my head shaved, though the rest of my hair spent many years long and gorgeous and a couple bobbed and super cute. I don’t wear makeup except lip gloss, in part because it’s such a hassle to put on and take off and in part because my glasses are always an interfering factor. So in general I would have to say my presentation has always been androgynous leaning toward femme. And I’ve never been anything but satisfied with it.
So why the gender euphoria? I think the answer is simply in the label. We’ve long since found that using a correct title for ourselves can make an unexpectedly massive amount of difference in how we feel about life, the universe, and everything. Changing to my middle name was revolutionary for me, in part because it put me in control of what I wanted people to call me (admittedly within the boundaries of my existing names), and in part because Robin is so much more androgynous than Jennifer — and I’ve felt just a little hint of connection with trans people that I didn’t before because of that experience. Therefore I’m actually kinda surprised to be discovering only now that I’ve probably been genderqueer all along.
Like HOH Sano, I make Fast Decisions, often to my detriment, but I think it would be unwise to throw myself into embracing this new identity without considering it for a while. So I’m not going to be changing my pronouns right away, nor do I feel the need to decide exactly what term I prefer just yet (at the moment I’m kinda leaning toward “male woman”). But I can say that I feel pulled in this general direction as far as my gender identity goes, and that it’s already more comfortable and welcoming than the “I am a woman” I’ve been using all along.
Comments on this topic are very welcome.