It’s OK to Not Know Yourself – Rachel Anne Williams
The typical narrative surrounding gender involves gnosticism, the idea that we all know our gender, or that we should know our gender. That we have justified true beliefs about who we are.
Decades ago, psychologists started thinking about gender in terms of a solidified identity that is cemented by around age 5, like learning a new language. This gender was locked into place and we either knew it or didn’t.
In the cis media, the “standard narrative” of trans people is that we have known our genders since a very young age. It’s often assumed that the younger you are when you realize you’re trans, the more valid your identity is.
It’s also assumed that it’s good to know who you are and bad to not know who you are.
But we shouldn’t predicate validity upon self-knowledge.
It’s ok to not know your own gender.
It’s ok to not be certain of who you are. It’s about to not know if you’re “really” a man, a woman, or perhaps something else. It’s OK to think you’re a man, woman, or something else but not be 100% confident in this self-knowledge.
That is, it’s OK to be agnostic about your gender. It’s OK to feel like your gender amounts to a paradox. It’s OK to feel your own identity contradicts itself. It’s OK to fluctuate in the knowledge of who you are. None of this invalidates the validity of your transness, nor does it necessarily make you “confused.”
The only thing that’s confused is the notion that when it comes to something as weird as gender, we’re supposed to have it all figured out.
You can be perfectly well-adjusted in your own gender identity and not have certain knowledge of your gender. Gnosticism about your gender is not required for being content in your gender.
The standard trans narrative emphasizes that we introspect to find out who we “really” are. I want to emphasize the possibility that maybe it doesn’t matter for everyone. That for some people perhaps there is no “core” self. That there is no “essentialness” to their gender.
That’s certainly how I feel about myself. I identify as nonbinary but in reality that’s shorthand for not being sure of who or what I am. Am I a weird kind of man? Or a weird kind of woman? Or something in between? Some days I care about finding an answer. But most days I don’t.
I know what my desires are. I desire to keep taking HRT. To try to pass as cis (most of the time). I desire to dress a feminine manner, to have my hair a certain way, to use she/her pronouns, etc. But when it comes to my identity? That I’m not sure of.
When I was earlier in my transition, my identity was of grave concern to me. I had to figure out who I am. It was my path to salvation. To validity. But now I recognize I don’t need self-knowledge to be valid. My choices and desires are valid regardless of whether I can proclaim to the world my identity. What matters is respecting the authenticity of my vision for how I want to live.
In the end, I don’t know who I am and it does not matter.