Kyle Fitzpatrick is a writer based in LA and the cofounder and editor of Boy Club magazine
It’s a weird thing, gender.
The way many of us were raised framed our entire sense of self as something that is assigned rather than discovered. This often dictated our entire lives, down a male or female path. We as a culture still have a problem escaping these so-called “norms.”
My upbringing was no different. My parents subscribed to a collection of parenting ideologies that made me who I am: I was raised in a post-Baby Boomer New York Irish/Puerto Rican Catholic, military household that came with several sets of rules about how to be. I deviated from this as an excessively flamboyant child. My young homosexuality was less about crushing on boys and more about experimenting with all things girlie. Once, my mother picked me up from daycare to find me in a dress. A radio host confused my voice for a little girl’s after I called the station without parental permission. I walked around in my mom’s high heels when left unattended. I did not have a single male friend, and my father sometimes yelled at me for this. People called me “Kylee.”
But all those rigid systems of rules – the Baby Boomer, the New Yorker, the Irish, the Puerto Rican, the Catholic, the military – suppressed those behaviors until very late in college. He was different, people would say, but that’s because he’s artsy.
I was indeed artsy, a high school painter cum actor cum drummer cum writer cum whatever the fuck else you wanted to add to the overachieving, overcompensating high school gay kid desperate to get anywhere else but here. It wasn’t until my early 20s that the sexual fluidity and queer tendencies inherent in art offered me the opportunity to see that I was GAY. In all caps. That was a revelation.
But my gender was left out of the exploration. People – including me – assumed that my “feminine” tendencies were just wrapped up in who I was as a gay man. Emphasis on the word man. He’s a girlie boy. He can’t play sports. He wears dresses for Halloween. He’s very . . . she.
Then, with the late aughts’ rise in awareness around gender queerness and transgender rights, something curious happened: people started to ask if I was transgender. In fact, I’ve been asked more times than I can count. In every instance, it seemed as though my queerness, my love of nail polish, of wearing earrings, of short shorts, of dyed hair, were just too confusing for people to parse: this “man” does not act manly and is confusing and, in many ways, queer, therefore, he must be transgender.
Understandably, these differences are easily confused and blended into an LGBTQ stew for non-queer persons. This isn’t their struggle. Why would they “get” it? It would be great if every ally – hell, every human – did the work to understand that you could be transgender and gay. But the homework assignment sometimes ends at vocal acceptance. This enables even the most liberal and accepting persons to confuse a female leaning man-ish person like myself with someone who is transgender.
There are many responses to this assumption and, for less knowledgable persons, the confusion or assumption by someone outside of the know would be cause for offense. I embrace this confusion. Proudly! It enables me to further question myself, my gender, my sexuality. It makes me wonder how much of me is man and how much of me is woman. Am I either? Are there limits to one’s queerness?
I’m constantly questioning my identity, my queerness, landing on the delightfully gooey, amorphous “man-ish” marker: a way to play with and create my own gender every day. This leads to experimenting with the boundaries of my gender and interrogating my man-ish-ness to see how close or far I can get from my biological mark. I’m proud to say I can do that and, as Zackary Drucker once said, I look forward to a future where one can “change your gender like you change a pair of clothes.” How fun would that be?
I’m lucky. Many of us queer persons are. We may be constantly under attack, but we must seek peace knowing that we have ourselves and each other and recognize the relative privilege we do have in America. I am still a cisgender male who can often “pass” as white, for example. In no way do I face the level of violence and discrimination many of my transgender sisters and brothers in the LGBTQ community suffer. This is why it’s so important to remember that we are not alone even if our experiences are unique.
Before we reach this happy gender f*cking future Drucker speaks of, I’m happy to question and happy to be questioned.
It’s a weird thing, gender. But what fun is life without these questions? To be complacent is to be boring. And I – like my family of queers – am proudly anything but.