I told myself when I started writing more that I’d spend less time writing about myself and more time writing about the things that I was learning. There is use, however, in being able to think things through in the process of trying to form them into words. The effort it takes to translate things into language from thinking or feeling is sometimes enough to tease them into greater clarity. Besides, I’ve written one of these before, and I suppose I should document at least some of the stuff that’s going on.

It’s kind of amazing watching the way identity and dysphoria shift. I’ve been off what hormones I was on for the last seven or so months and that’s led to quite a few changes. Of course, there’s the strange roller-coaster that’s been my libido as things shift around chemically, but other aspects, as well, such as hair growth, skin texture, energy levels, and temperature tolerance. Hair, of course, seems to be at the center of its own well of dysphoria, as I think it might be for many. I remember friends talking excitedly about being able to shave for the first time, and here I am struggling with a mix of too much body hair and too little hair on my head; genetics is really working against me here, and it’s exasperating how bad it can make me feel (and how stupid I feel for feeling bad about hair).

Really, though, I’m not sure what that means for myself, or what it should mean. I know for a fact from hard-won experience that one is hardly pinned to a gender identity or affinity, and that it’s the type of thing that fluctuates over time, but it’s hard to internalize that sometimes. Being able to just say “Oh, I’m $IDENTITY” at all times would be a helpful sort of thing, in social situations. People I’ve known for a long time could then easily assume that it’s safe to call me the pronouns that fit with $IDENTITY down the road, just as it was before. It’s hardly that simple, of course, and even setting time aside, I’ve found myself using different pronouns in different aspects of my life. Masculine, of course, for unsafe spaces and work/professional life, singular-they for some other places online, and more aggressively gender-neutral pronouns elsewhere, though to be honest, I’ve yet to run across a pronoun that doesn’t make me feel awful, so I guess it really doesn’t matter which.

All this by way of saying that I’ve been drifting more and more aggressively neutral, or something like it, and I don’t know what that means. I’ve got these things that make me feel bad, and no real way forward for dealing with them, since it often feels as though there’s no way forward that doesn’t involve expressing something. I’ll always be this dumb 6’2” man-shape with a receding hairline (or “high forehead” if we’re being generous). What way out of feeling bad is there? So far it seems to involve pretending to be a fox-person on the Internet a lot of the time, which is helpful that it’s so easy, but certainly involves less getting-out-of-the-house-ness than I’d like.

So how does that really fit in with the whole trans* thing, anyway? I still suppose I identify as such in a broad and general sense, an umbrella term encompassing gender-queer and so on, and I know I’m not necessarily alone. There’s a lot to be gained from the label, such as the sense of identity, the community, the support, the recognition, and so on. After all, transgressive matches that expression, and transgressive as it is, I really don’t feel strong enough to push forward without that community and identity.

However, along with all that comes the question of whether or not I really am part of such a community, and whether I’m really entitled to all of that. I know that there are groups within the community that would strongly disagree, of course. There seems to be a very ardent group gatekeeping the label, along with many others out there, which disagrees with myself, others like me, and even allies from being able to identify as such, speak on the matter, or even feeling like they have the right to think about it. My partner, delightful as he is, was notably called on the fact that he had no place talking about issues surrounding the trans* community, which is hardly a good thing to have to watch, or be a part of.

I count myself extremely lucky for the people in my life, to be sure, whether they’re in the role of ally or along the same path as myself. I would be nowhere without them, really, and for them to not be welcome in the conversation surrounding a community of which I’d like to consider myself a part, even as staunch allies, makes me feel decidedly unwelcome in the community as a whole. Sometimes, it feels like it’d be easier to leave all that behind, cheer silently from the sidelines, and just man it on up. It’s really hard to take an idea that crops up primarily when I’m feeling bad seriously, though.

I understand where a lot of this is coming from, especially as I watch the directions in which the culture (identity to a lesser extent, but definitely culture) surrounding the rest of the LGB community has taken - or, rather, has been drawn, with intense focus on marriage and other ways of being more effectively subsumed into heteronormative culture. The argument is that the fight of the minority should not be cast in the majority’s terms. What that loses, I feel, is the complexity of social interaction within and between identities. I am not solely someone who identifies as trans*, of course, and even though I have identified as such in the past, and am currently primarily (though not exclusively) in sexual relationships with other enpenised folk, I hardly solely identify as ‘gay’. I guess I just feel that gatekeeping denies interaction between identities as an unnecessary expense of focusing on interaction solely within an identity. After all, things like sexuality, or even gender, do not happen in a solipsistic world: I am not only confused about gender in the context of the trans* community, but also in the company of those close to me, and even those around me wondering “how did he get his legs so silky smooth?”

Allies make up my community, too, is what I mean to say. Allies who understand that there are imbalances in my world, and there are some that can and ought to be fixed. Allies who understand that language means a lot, that intersectionality is a thing and “cisgender” is a word we need if we don’t want everyone reduced to “trans*” and “normal”, and allies that will talk me down when I’m at my frumpiest. The goal, after all, is not to force trans* into being what’s considered normal now, but to add it to the list of things embraced in the future.

I try not to talk in manifestos most of the time, I promise. I just want to feel comfortable, and I want those who are closest to me, or can at least commiserate with me, to be able to say “that’s okay.”

I guess it comes down to the fact that I’m still just as confused about all this stuff as I ever ways, and that confusion is often expressed as a sort of malaise, a feeling of being upset: upset that this is even really a thing. When I feel like that, I think about it from the standpoint of cost-benefit analysis: what would be the cost of just going with the most privileged option? Is it worth feeling bad to just pretend like this isn’t a thing? Of course, it doesn’t really work that way, but that doesn’t stop me from considering it when things look bad.