This post continues some of the off-the-cuff observations on having a more genderfluid identity that I began here. I’m doing this for both for personal therapeutic reasons and to perhaps provide some sort of context to people who are going through similar situations. I may get shit wrong; it’s certainly possible. I’m not an expert & I’m not a “role-model.”
From my later teens, when I moved out of my family’s house, to my mid-twenties I pretty much lived in a sort of “innocent” genderfluid state. Which is to say: I lived in a very “liminal” state gender-wise. It was probably the most “me” I have every been in my adult life. It was the early 1990’s, and it seemed that ambiguity in both sexuality & gender identification was in some ways much more accepted than it is at present.
Once I entered the wider corporate world, as well as the dating scene, things sort of went to hell because I very consciously “upped my game” in terms of trying to be more feminine. I thought that if I fit in more genderwise I’d get better job opportunities & laid more. Of course: not quite that simple.
The thing is, you can put on this false layer of excess femininity (or masculinity) but eventually people are gonna “find you out.” Eventually, that mask is gonna slip. For me, some of this took the form of my voice actually getting a register lower when I felt comfortable with someone. It basically went from this studied squeak to something more along the lines of Robert De Niro. The answer to this dilemma was, of course, to never ever feel comfortable with anybody.
The thing is: some people just aren’t gonna like you if you don’t fit their ideal of normal gender expression. Period. And it’s going to feel unfair & it’s going to suck. And if you’re a person like me with trauma from a chaotic childhood you studiously want to avoid conflict; so it’s easier just to be “nobody.” It’s easier just not to be there, to be ignored, to stay in your own world.
The thing is, you’re also going to find some people who like you just the way you really are; and living an authentic life will greatly increase the odds of that happening. But it can be an emotional battlefield out there. On top of that, you can also feel physically unsafe. I didn’t feel physically unsafe being transmasculine in the early Nineties; but truth be told, I do now to an extent, because it seems the spotlight is more intense on these issues and people much more polarized.
Would I feel unsafe wearing a short hair cut? To an extent, I would. Maybe not so much physically unsafe as potentially “controversial.” I think if I identified as a lesbian or a straight male (which I don’t) at least I’d feel possibly more easily-accessible camaraderie with others.
In fact, the only time in pop-culture I’ve ever seen a “non-binary” person have a relationship with another man has been in the show Billions—and they really got it right because they explored the gender-expression fluidity of both parties. But that’s the only fucking time!
Of course, I’m talking about “legit” authorized pop-culture. In the world of fan-fiction & fan-art, genderfluid transmasculines are all over the place. In fact, one of the most prolific fan-comic series features an obviously genderfluid Arthur Fleck Joker partnered with the Heath Ledger Joker. And I’m talking many, many, many, many stories & tons of art; new ones seemingly every day.
So that’s mainly where my “outlet” of content for this sort of thing lies, outside of my own head of course. Most “approved” pop-culture’s handling of the trans issue—when it appears at all—seems to focus on either trans women or trans men who are attracted to women. So to say I experience “erasure” for my own seemingly unique situation is an understatement.
I did write some “approved” comic book stuff like 10 years ago, and always had the dream that I could eventually write about something fitting my idealized situation (though to be honest I didn’t have the self-awareness about my own gender identity that I have now). But the only LGBTQ thing that my editors seemed to be open to was lesbianism, honestly; in fact they suggested it!
What a crock of shit that I was hired to be this “feminist” comic writer. Holy fucking shit! Holy fucking shit. I identified with a man like the Punisher but I couldn’t write the Punisher…I could only write about a butch lesbian who gets murdered by the Punisher! Holy shit!
I don’t know how I didn’t blow my brains out dealing with all this bullshit, I really don’t know. Because…I’m already carrying a trauma payload from my childhood…and then from getting sexually harassed by my boss…and then targeted for massive harassment from a popular blogger because I was supposedly a “feminist”…and then targeted for harassment by feminist bloggers who didn’t believe I was sufficiently “female”…and then I get talked into writing this high-profile character with a partially very sensitive auto-biographical aspect…and it’s not even a story that really tells my wholly “true” story! Holy shit! Holy shit!
And so now I’m getting death threats because I’m a female who wrote an issue of The Punisher…but I’m also getting publicly criticized by other females for being not female enough…I mean, nothing I did was right. And I had a contract with a major literary agency & they kept rejecting my memoir because it “sounded too much like a man wrote it!” So they would tell me to go back…and make it sound more “feminine!”
This is all why, in part, I am thoroughly tired of the human race. You can’t please everyone or anyone, I guess.
In the mid-2010’s I understood my genderfluid identification a lot better & became publicly open about it; and that’s how I lost most of my other job opportunities and friends in the industry. It was amazing, honestly. Because a lot of these people…they befriended me because I was this “brave woman” who spoke out against harassment. That was the only reason they befriended me…for “political” reasons. And once it was clear that I did not fit that mold as perfectly as they wanted…they were done with me.
The irony is…that high-powered guy that sexually harassed me? You know who he was massively obsessed with?
Eddie Izzard. That’s all he ever talked about. And that’s really interesting, because several years before that, I actually attended an after-show dinner with Izzard. I sat directly across from Izzard and she was super-nice to me. In fact, my boss said he was envious that I got to meet Izzard; he would send her all these comics & gifts when she was in town for a show & invite her up to the offices (which, as far as I know, she never took him up on).
And it was really really interesting because in general, my boss seemed a wee bit conservative and not super-LGBTQ friendly.
…and this all goes back to what I was saying at the beginning of this post about feeling unsafe if I lived a bit more “open.” I’m not afraid of dudes in general…but I am afraid of dudes who don’t understand themselves. Because it seems like around dudes who don’t really understand themselves, it’s the liminal gender-sexually ambiguous people who get the blowback from it. And I don’t know why I think that way. Maybe it’s the trans woman who was brutally murdered with a cinderblock to the skull directly across the street from my house several years ago because of what the policeman described as “gay panic” during a sexual encounter. I just don’t know; maybe it was that, maybe also an adult lifetime of observations.
When I finally reported my boss for sexual harassment, by the way, his general tone got much more aggressive. He had allegedly told somebody at the job that he was going to “beat me up.” Years later, after I went public about my experiences, I got highly violent anonymous emails from a person with a insider knowledge of the comics industry that really seemed like this dude as well.
Cherry on the cupcake: most likely this dude (and, come to think of it, another co-worker who tried to feel me up in the office) only has any remorse for his actions to the extent that I came out as genderfluid & he’s afraid of seeming “gay” in what is still a pretty conservative mainstream industry.
By the way, after I came out as genderfluid/transmasculine? All harassment from male trolls stopped. I did make a few unlikely friends, however.
As one of my critics said not-too-long ago…(begin sarcastic paraphrase) I’m no victim! I’m actually really, really bad! I’m no friend to women! In fact…I’m worse than the worst male troll! (end sarcastic paraphrase)
…and while I would respectfully disagree with this fine individual…as I have spent an inordinate amount of volunteering time trying to assist in the cause of female equality & empowerment…there was one thing that this rant made me realize…
…and it was that I probably related more to many of those male keyboard warriors who had initially harassed me than the women I tried to go to for support. We read the same comics, watched the same movies, idolized the same actors, had many of the same pop-cultural touchstones and so on. (Of course…the first incel was a woman!)
And that’s the Shyamalan ending to the entire “Occasional Superheroine” story!
You’re welcome, be sure to sign up for my newsletter, I’m going to go back to largely being a happy hermit now.
Read more about it, kids: