I’m being very serious right now but I also take a gender-as-pasta metaphor well beyond the point of coherency so just…be aware of that, going in.
Family, friends, and internet strangers! Welcome!
“Oh no, not another coming out letter.” — You right now, probably.
I get it. It’s been six years since I first came out, and, after everything, it’s probably starting to feel a little bit like I’ve boy-who-cried-wolf’d my own gender. But I hope you understand that, like most people who do this, I come out because I’m excited about what I’ve discovered, and because I want to be more fully understood by the people in my life.
For me, the incongruence of learning something about myself and then not being accurately known by those around me is extremely uncomfortable. And so I’ve come out, and then come out again as something else, and then come out even later as something different entirely (and kinda hoped that maybe you’d forgotten about the last time, since it’s rather embarrassing to find out that a label is so grossly incorrect after you’ve told everyone about it), and then I —
You get the point.
I don’t want to undermine myself by saying this, because the last thing I need is for anyone to stop taking what I say seriously. But…sometimes, in the past, I have PERHAPS been just a smidge hasty in announcing things. An inherent consequence of my eagerness to share my new discoveries with you all is that sometimes I get it wrong, and we all have to adjust course together a few more times than if I had but an inch more patience.
However, this letter is somewhat different. This letter is not the result of frenetic 1am google searches, nor did it emerge from the anxious need to have a label, any label. This letter is the cumulative result of the past six (or perhaps twenty-five) years + the completion of not one but two gender identity workbooks. I know better now! This letter does not in any way feel like I’m throwing spaghetti at a refrigerator to see if it sticks! This knowledge has been timed, my dudes!!! WHAT I AM SHARING WITH YOU IS AL DENTE.
Anyway. Deep breath, everyone. We’re doing this once more and then, G-d willing, that’ll be it.
First, an itty bitty bit of background: I wound up revisiting all the ~gender stuff~ again while preparing to attend a transgender support group. I was going to be in an environment where I’d have to comprehensibly and comprehensively vocalize my experience as well as my needs (pronouns, labels, feeeeelings), and I kind of had no idea what I was going to say to them. So I tore it all apart, inspected it, and built my understanding of myself back up into something that finally (holy shit, finally) made sense.
AND NOW! THE MAIN IDEA: I was correct in my initial outing of myself as a trans dude.
[Phew, okay, that’s over. Bandaid is off. Al dente pasta is plated. Deep breath in, and! continue.]
The reason I started to ID as nonbinary several years ago wasn’t because I didn’t feel like a guy; it was because I didn’t feel like the sort of guy I erroneously thought trans men had to be. I bought into a pigeonholed definition of what a trans man was, of what we had to look like and do and be and want. I put myself in a very small box I’d wallpapered with stereotypes that didn’t fit me and then I wondered why I was so uncomfortable there. :/
The classic, ill-informed image of a trans man (the very one I measured myself against! this just in: stereotypes suck for everyone!) is someone who transitions to be the Manly Man he’s always known himself to be, who is Masculine and Mans it up about town, Man-ily, like a Man.
And that’s…pffft. I’m completely sure those trans men exist, and I in no way judge or begrudge them for their experience, but. Have you ever heard a description that’s farther from how you know me to be? I’m soft. Among other things, I enjoy having hair long enough to braid. I love florals and big warm socks that I knit for myself. My eyeliner — now that I’ve learned how to properly apply it — will have to be pried from my cold, dead hands. And while that’s certainly manly, it’s just not Manly™. But, for a long time, I was under the impression that all of those things somehow disqualified me, assigned female at birth as I was, from being a guy.
(I KNOW, IT’S RIDICULOUS, I TOO HAVE PERSONALLY KNOWN PLENTY OF CIS MEN WHO DO/ARE ALL OF THAT AND MORE. NOT EVERYONE EMBODIES THE BRAWNY LUMBERJACK’S AESTHETIC. SHHHHHHh okay we’re going to be gentle with ourselves and others right now.)
Trying to prove myself masculine “enough” for other people is what made me essentially backtrack in the first place. The only requirement for being a trans man is that you have an internal sense of yourself that is, well…a man. You’re not required to unearth some ultimate vision of masculinity that’s supposedly buried deep inside you somewhere. You’re still yourself, only slightly to the left of how you came out of the womb.
If what I’m saying seems obvious to you, congratulations. You beat me to the finish line. I needed someone (many someones, and two workbooks) to slap me upside the head and say “You can do these things and it doesn’t disqualify you from being a guy any more than it would disqualify a cis guy from being a guy.”
That is, it doesn’t disqualify me. Or anyone else. At all. Ever. A guy is a guy is a guy and gatekeeping trans identities is for losers.
Typing this out makes me feel ridiculous, by the way. It’s one of those things that I applied to absolutely everyone else before I had even a whisper of the thought “hey, maybe this is also true for, uh, me.”
Alright, so I’m not going to post an entire Gender Thesis where I tear my childhood to shreds and examine the minutiae of my personality under a microscope in an attempt to convince the more transphobic members of my family (hello there!) that I am what I say I am. Nobody wants to read that, and I’m confident enough in myself to not even have written one and cut/pasted it into an Outtakes folder. (Woot! Growth!) Instead, I’m going to tell you what I’d like from you all going forward!
· He/him pronouns most of the time, please, but you may of course default to the relative safety of she/her if you’re ever in doubt as to someone’s bigotry and/or my safety.
· ‘Josiah’ is fine for now, but you all know me and my names! Prepare to adapt at least once more, probably. #Sorry [EDIT: I’ve changed my name to Nathaniel.]
· If you have questions, please ask them of me, not anyone else, as I am the only authority on my experience — and please be sure to ask nicely! I’ll answer nicely too, I promise. I understand that 1,300 words is not necessarily enough to make everything clear to everyone.
· If you don’t have questions, that’s fine too. You’re not getting a degree in my gender, after all. You can get one for your own, tho! I have a couple of excellent workbook recommendations for anyone who’s interested.
· Just know that I’m happy. Certainly happier and far more comfortable than if I were to continue on as I had been.
Thanks for listening! I love ya.