Am I *really* trans instead of cis?

TW: sexual assault/abuse, gender dysphoria. This originally appeared on our Medium page.

I have struggled with my gender for all of my life.

[1998–2000ish: Kirsten on a Ferris Wheel during a sunny day, holding the pole in the middle; she has long hair blowing in her face, round John Lennon-eque glasses, a striped white/blue/green shirt, and she is smiling]

As a pre-teen, I was very much a tomboy and began to wonder what I would look like as a male. I would dress up in my uncle’s clothing to see how I would look.

TBH, I was really fucking cute.

In high school, I learned to use my body for sexual attention. I got into clothing that showed off a lot of my body. Still, during any given school week, I would wear more tomboy-esque clothing two days and very feminine clothing two days. The remaining day was probably spent wearing my PJs to school if it wasn’t one of those two options.

[2005, high school senior picture: Kirsten sits on a stone bench with white pants and a teal/dark blue striped collared shirt; she is looking up towards the camera while smiling; she has long hair that goes from dark brown to blondeish at the ends]

When I was in college, I finally told my mother about some sexual abuse I had gone through years earlier. During that conversation, I brought up that I felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body often.

“Don’t you ever say that to me, ever again.”

Just in case you needed more proof of my family’s conservativeness, Ted Cruz and my mother follow each other on Twitter.

[2006/2007, Freshman in college: Kirsten is taking a selfie; she is wearing a white button up dress shirt with a grey waistcoat and white lacy bra; she has short dark hair and is standing in front of a dark blue wall with an abstract art poster]

It was really hard to share both of those things with my mother. When I came out as bi/pan on social media, she assumed it was because of my abuse and literally never talked to me about it. I never officially ‘came out’ to her about anything.

I never felt like I fully wanted to be a man, so I really didn’t bring it up to anyone again.

As I started learning more about gender identities and was exposed to them — thanks, Queer Ghost Hunters! — I realized I was genderqueer or genderfluid. I had fellow sex educators recognize this without it being verbally communicated and have had others pick up on this as well. When I began explaining my gender identity with these terms, people were fairly accepting. Overall, it was handled pretty well.

[2016: a photo of Kirsten holding her right arm up in front of her mouth with her hand in a fist, back of the hand facing out with the words “Weird Queer Fat” written on it in black sharpie; a rainbow bracelet is on her wrist; she is making a neutral, though kind of sad, face with her blue eyes staring out piercingly; she has on a grey tee and has dark brownish purpleish hair spiked into a faux hawk]

Like many people who are not cisgender, I face gender dysphoria. One of the biggest things that has helped me are videos from Chase. This one, on gender dysphoria, is one I especially like:

Chase documents criteria for a dysphoria diagnosis in adults (need 2/6):

  • Difference between assigned and expressed gender
  • Want to get rid of primary/secondary sex characteristics
  • Want primary/secondary sex characteristics of other gender
  • Want to be other gender
  • Want to be treated as other gender
  • Feel as though you have the typical feels/reactions of other gender

What’s interesting to me about this is I often wonder if I’m really and truly non-cis or if I’m somehow making things up. This is, no doubt, a result of being raised in a household full of abuse and gaslighting. I try to gaslight myself about what my experiences are, who I’m attracted to, and what I want to do with my life. Why would my gender identity be any different, right?

Do I really want to be male? Do I want to be treated as male? Do I act male? I don’t know.

After all, there are plenty of times when I can embrace my femme side.

[2017: color pic of Kirsten laying down tangled in sheets (which cover the good bits) on a white bed with short red hair; pic is taken from end of the bed so K is upside down, legs crossed and bent at the knees, right hand on sheet on chest, and left hand up beside her head; she’s smiling/laughing]

Being genderfluid doesn’t necessarily mean that I would do away with femme features for more non-binary ones. Sure, that’s part of why my hair is short. How I express my gender changes daily — and can change from moment to moment. In those respects, not much has changed since high school or college. The biggest thing is that I am finally embracing being a member of the LGBTQQIA+ community — and that winds up making me unapologetically queer.

You know, in addition to being unapologetically disabled and super justice/rights oriented… which then makes me concerned for my safety in this time of Cheeto-encrusted fascism.

I am certainly not cisgender and that’s permanent. With things changing for me all the time — especially how I feel about my body from an illness/disability perspective — I don’t feel like transitioning is something I can safely do or that I need to do at this point.

Some people don’t feel like that’s a valid trans identity, but it is.

[2017: pic of Kirsten from above, sitting on a dark wooden floor with white moulding and a blueish background; she has her legs bent criss-cross style, though not completely, and is looking down at/playing with her hands; she has on black jeans, a gray tee shirt with white text “Let’s talk about sex — Vibrant” and her white Converse are visible; her hair is reddish-purpleish]

I don’t know what the answer is to my struggles with my gender identity. Some days, I want shaved legs. Other days, having smooth legs just contributes to the dysphoria and anxiety I feel about not feel like I own my body (more than when my body causes itself pain and harm).

For right now, trans and genderfluid both fit me well. And that’s enough.

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