Struggling with Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Duality
Growing up as a tomboy is difficult. Coming out and coming to terms with my sexuality in my teens was more difficult. Fighting the urge to conform to societal standards and finding confidence to be myself was beyond difficult.
To an extent I always wanted to be a boy. As early as I can remember I wanted to do things boys did, play with toys made for boys, and wear boy clothes. One day, my father became upset with me, I don’t recall the reason why, but it had to do with me wanting to do “boy” things. He said to me “If you want to be a boy so bad, then we’ll go to the hospital and make you one.” My first thought was “That’s possible?!” Even though I was in trouble with him, it was probably the most relieving thing I’ve heard. I mean, I liked everything that boys did, including girls, so it would make sense that I would want to be a boy.
I remember another time when my mother went to my school for a parent teacher conference. My teacher, who of course I had a crush on, said “One thing I noticed about Alexis is that she doesn’t play with girls. She’s always hanging out with the boys.” Well, yeah. While I liked girls, I wasn’t interested in anything they were interested in. I hated dolls, I hated wearing dresses, I hated the color pink and anything else that could be deemed as feminine.
As a child I was conflicted because I felt so different. I felt like something was wrong with me. I wanted to fit in, and while I tried I knew I never would entirely. I didn’t fit in with the boys, and I didn’t fit in with the girls, which left me feeling very alone. This feeling continues throughout elementary school and continued on to junior high.
A couple of years later, my parents enrolled me in a very small Catholic high school. I got bullied and made fun of constantly off the bat. Everyone suspected (or knew) that I liked girls. I mean, it was obvious. I didn’t consider myself to be a “tomboy” anymore. I started realizing that this is just who I am.
At 16, I mustered up enough courage to come out to my mother. I said “I like girls.” She said “Honey, that’s ok.” I said “No, you don’t get it. I like girls the way that I’m supposed to like boys.” And her reaction to that was “Every girl goes through that, it’s just a phase.” I wasn’t surprised at her reaction at all. It was almost predictable. Even though my sexual identity wasn’t validated I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders because I finally said it. I don’t think I had even admitted it to myself before that moment.
Slowly but surely I came out to my friends as bisexual, and they all had positive reactions. Even so, I still got picked on and made fun of on a regular basis by other students. It’s safe to say that I hated high school. I hated everything about it, with the exception of my very small group of friends. Graduation was a relief.
After that time, I started getting comfortable in my own skin. While I identified as bisexual, I always had a disclaimer. “I’m bisexual, but I prefer women.” I think identifying as bisexual helped me cope with the fact that I was actually a lesbian and I wasn’t really able to fully admit it. It was almost like I was easing my way into my sexuality. Later in life, I decided to be truthful with myself. “I’m a lesbian.” I actually said it out loud. Damn, did it feel good to be true to myself. (I highly recommend it.)
I never knew any LGBTQ+ folks growing up which is why I felt really alone. I also felt like I would never find anyone who loved me. I would never get married or build a life with someone. I felt like the only lesbian that existed.
When I graduated high school I joined the Air Force. Don’t ask, don’t tell was still a thing so I couldn’t come out. However, I found that a lot of girls in my dorm were lesbians or bisexual too. There were actually a couple of girls that I kissed. Unfortunately, due to a bad back, I was discharged medically and sent back home to feel alone again.
After that, I decided to give college a shot. I started at 22 and that’s when my world changed. I met other LGBTQ+ folks and people who were more accepting of LGBTQ+ people. I finally felt like I fit in somewhere! It was during that time that I chopped all of my hair off to what it is now in order to embrace my masculinity, and after I did that, I got so much attention. I was reluctant to do it before because I was afraid of looking too masculine, but now I embraced and felt comfortable in my masculinity.
Do I look better with short hair? Most definitely. However, appearing more physically attractive wasn’t what helped me receive more attention. It was my newfound confidence that people were attracted to.
Throughout my early 20’s I dated significantly and was actually quite promiscuous. I settled down around the age of 27. It was my very first long term relationship. About a year later, something shifted, and I started to not feel so comfortable in myself again.
Some major life changes had happened. My partner at the time had some health issues that took a huge toll on me and our relationship. I was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and depression.
I put on a lot of weight due to the side effects of the medication. I was unhappy with who I was and how I looked. All the weight that I gained naturally went to my hips, butt, and thighs. I hated having curves. I hated appearing more feminine. I felt like I lost myself completely. I didn’t recognize myself, I didn’t know who I was anymore, and I hated it.
The feelings of wanting to be a man crept up on me again. I thought that becoming a man would solve all of my problems and just make life easier, and would allow me to finally fit in. It’s like I was convinced that my mental health issues were a result of my conflict with being a woman. I realized though that becoming a man would not “cure” my disorders or solve all of my problems.
Even though I developed these curves and had a more feminine looking body (which keep in mind I hated), I still constantly got misgendered or stared at. And I struggled with this big time.
I was tired of being misgendered, I was tired of feeling like I didn’t fit in. I was tired of people staring at my crotch on the train trying to figure out what’s in my pants. (As if that matters anyway.)
I couldn’t shake the thought of wanting to transition. I remember I cried a whole weekend straight because I was having an internal battle. Fortunately, I had a very supportive partner at the time, who I know would love me no matter what my decision was. I was truly grateful. While I wanted to transition there were all these uncertainties and fears around what people would think. The internal battle was a never-ending one.
Would the people in my life still accept me? What would my family think? My coworkers? The people who lived in my building? Even the guy at the bodega! Would I have to say goodbye to my late night bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches?
I honestly felt so overwhelmed that I just dropped the idea. I stopped talking about it, but it was always in the back of my head. “Life would just be easier if I was a man. I wouldn’t have to struggle with fitting in.” I thought if I stopped talking about it, the desire to transition would go away completely. It didn’t.
Several years later, I fell into another relationship and confessed to my partner that I was considering transitioning and had been mulling over the idea for quite some time. She was immensely supportive. With her support and my decision to stop living for everyone else — based on years of lessons from trying to conform throughout the years — I decided to just start living for me.
If I was going to go through with my transition, then I was going to do it the “right” way (the right way is completely subjective, and so I mean what was right for me) and use every resource possible. With that said, I went back to therapy and told my therapist. She was incredibly happy for me and said that she was excited to be a part of my journey.
About a week later, my partner was diagnosed with cancer. So my transition was put on the back burner. I was still attending therapy, but instead of addressing my desire to transition, I was addressing my partner’s cancer diagnosis. It was just way too much of an emotional toll. I spoke to my therapist about it and she urged me to go forward with my transition anyway. I wasn’t too sure about it, but I gave it some thought. About a week later, my mother ended up in the hospital due to surgical complications. So I decided to put my transition on hold again. Two women I loved dearly were hospitalized.
After several months had passed, I revisited my desire to transition. My partner’s prognosis was a positive one and my mother was out of the hospital and getting better. It was the beginning of October. I decided that this was it! I was going to do it. I was going to come out to my family.
On October 6, 2017, I intended to visit my parents in order to come out to them as trans. I even wrote a letter that I could read to them. On that day, a few hours before I was about to leave to go and see them, my mother called me and said that one of my closest cousins died. I was crushed. I was under so much misery and stress and it seemed like everything just kept piling on. I had two major nervous breakdowns within a span of 6 months. I still don’t know how I got through it. The stress was so bad that I honestly thought I needed to increase my dosage of medication because I started hallucinating. I was slowly on the verge of becoming psychotic. I knew at that point that I wasn’t mentally capable of dealing with anything else that might take an emotional toll on me. Again, my transition was put on hold.
Fast forward to December, I turned 32 and things somewhat calmed down again. I felt something in my life shift. (For those of you that are into astrology, I completed my Saturn return.) I was in a new stage of my life. I realized that the relationship I was in wasn’t healthy and I decided to move on. I started to feel motivated to do something great. I felt like my life was changing for the better. I wanted to improve myself and my life and purge everything that wasn’t serving me, including people, and I did just that. My head was finally clear and I felt light again.
I took the opportunity to revisit the idea of transitioning and did some serious self-reflecting and soul searching.
In one of my therapy sessions, my therapist said to me “You know, you’ll be deemed as a straight male.” The idea of that just sounded awful to me. It was almost like my lesbian badge of honor (which I wore with pride) would be taken away from me. I wouldn’t stand out. I wouldn’t be special (which is also subjective), I would no longer feel as if I was a part of the lesbian community. I would just be another straight dude. I thought “How boring would that be.” Being a lesbian doesn’t define me, but it was and is a major part of who I am, and I was afraid that in an effort to find myself I would actually lose myself in the process.
Again, I started to really reevaluate. Life was still somewhat difficult. I kept getting misgendered, people kept staring at my crotch, and saying mean things about me. I just pretended like I didn’t hear it. After time, I found pride in being misgendered and my androgyny. I learned to embrace my masculinity and my femininity as well. I started to get a kick out of people staring at my crotch. In some weird way, I was almost flattered.
I realized that I wasn’t trans, but more gender fluid than anything. I came to understand that I was trying so hard to conform to society, that I limited my gender identity to just one of two options. I wore men’s clothes, I related more to men, I appeared masculine…so becoming one through transition would make sense. Right? Wrong!
After some self exploration, I found this unknown duality. While I always present masculine, there are days where I’m more in touch with my feminine side. I learned that gender is non existent, and is a social construct, so I didn’t see it as me getting misgendered anymore. If people referred to me as “he” that was ok, if people referred to me as “she” that was ok. I didn’t correct people because I didn’t see the need to. I actually found it to be awesome. I was and still am a woman and identify as such, but I was also getting a taste of manhood. It’s an incredible experience, and I actually feel grateful for it. It’s almost like having dual citizenship.
I’m happy to say that now I am completely happy with my life. I have amazing friends and family who accept me for who I am. I have an incredible partner that encourages me to tap into both my feminine and masculine side and doesn’t force gender roles upon our relationship. (I should note that gender roles can occur in same sex relationships as much as they do in straight relationships.)
Just because I’m masculine of center, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want someone to buy me flowers! (Gerbera daisies are my favorite, FYI.)
My partner is actually the first woman I’ve been with who makes me feel feminine. Go figure, my duality is what attracted her to me the most. If I went against who I was at heart, I would’ve never found this type of love and adoration.
In my process I found a new me. I found an amazing woman who is head over heels for me. I found a sense of wholeness and happiness. I found a new sense of pride. I felt confident. I felt privileged to be androgynous. The best thing of all, was that I felt and still feel incredibly sexy.
Staying true to myself reaped a lot of rewards for me and I’m grateful for it. I’m also grateful for all of the struggles that I went through, and some of the struggles I still go through. If I didn’t go through those struggles, I wouldn’t be where I am, or who I am today.
To hear more details about how to live a big, beautiful, authentic life, subscribe to Crafting Your Path for free. Each month you will hear more stories and lessons, as well as insights, tips, and resources from a variety of women who are all working intentionally to craft their unique path in life.