When I was around 9 years old, a boy—who I went to school with for several years before and after—teased me about being a girl. I don’t remember what he said, precisely, but I recall he was attempting to gatekeep one of my (many) traditionally masculine interests. My response has stuck with me for two decades: “I’m not a girl.”
“Then what are you?” he sneered? “An it? Look,” he looked around at our peers and pointed at me. “That’s an it.”
The “It” moniker followed me for several years. Now that I’m older, I understand the real meaning behind that statement: that if I was not a cisgender girl, I was not a human. I was an object. I don’t hold anything against that classmate of mine. Twenty years ago, society was not as woke as it is now, and that kid was as clueless as I was, probably just parroting what he’d heard from adults. He was only nine or ten, after all, and I have no idea his stance on gender issues now, nor do I care.
The thing that nagged at me for many years later was, why did I respond that way? Why did I say I wasn’t a girl? Especially since, most of the time, I do feel like a proud Indigenous woman. A happy and confident mother. I wrote it off as internalized misogyny.
But other things over the years nagged at me as well. Alternating between a desire to dress masculine and feminine. Periods of body dysphoria I dismissed at times when the pendulum swung toward comfortable. And why, in my fiction writing, did I gravitate toward male protagonists? Was it just derivative, defaulting to the options presented to me as a young reader of young adult fantasy?
Those of you who know me probably know that I have been open about being bisexual and queer for… well, forever. I went through an awkward period in my late teens/early twenties where I wanted to eschew labels, but as long as I was old enough to be attracted to people, I have openly acknowledged an attraction to multiple genders. There was no “coming out” moment with most of my family. They’re intelligent, educated, and accepting people (and a few of them are openly in the LGBTQ+ community as well).
But I’m sure many other queer people could tell you that “coming out” is a repeated process with every new person you meet. When is the right time to share this info with a new acquaintance? Your work buddy? Your boss? Your in-laws? (Small note: I use the term “right” here to mean “right for the person,” not “right for society.” Fuck society. Queerness is not validated by your status as in or out, nor does society or etiquette dictate the “right” time to make that transition, if ever.)
So, most people in my life know that I am bisexual and have known I am bisexual for a long time. But it is time for a sort-of-second coming out, not because I was closeted, but because I was figuring things out. Now, rapidly approaching thirty years old (no, seriously, my birthday is this week), and thanks to a lot of interactions online, I have realized I am genderfluid and sometimes genderqueer.
This might be confusing or foreign to some of you who are cisgender, but the best way I can describe it is that sometimes I am a woman and other times, I am just… not. When I told my husband, I used some comical descriptions I saw on TikTok: sometimes I am Girl… sometimes Girl Lite… Girl+ …. and—my favorite—Girl you ordered from Wish (mostly girl, but something is a bit off).
As unsettling as this realization has been for me (and may be for you who have known me a long time), I find comfort in the knowledge that nothing about me has changed. All I am saying by coming out as genderfluid is, “Here is a label I feel fits a certain set of characteristics I already possess.” Characteristics I have always possessed. If someone close to you comes out, I think that’s important to remember. They’re the same person before and after.
This experience is my own and should not be taken to represent the experiences of any other genderfluid, genderqueer, bisexual, or other LGBTQ+ individuals. Best policy is to always ask the individual about their pronouns and labels, and to subsequently not be a dick by arguing with them about those pronouns or labels. Since some of you lovelies will likely ask, I am happy using she/her pronouns, but they/them or he/him don’t bother me in the slightest. The shirt pictured depicts the genderfluid flag and was created from a Lord of the Rings content creator @donmarshall72 on TikTok and comes in a variety of flag options, with 20% of profits during Pride Month going to The Trevor Project.