On validity.

Gender, sexuality, being non-binary and trans.

by Kat Bak

It’s taken my a very long time to understand my identity, particularly in regards to gender and sexuality. I know I’ve always been extremely empathetic. In crèche, I would go over to the dolls and scratch them. My logic was that if they were secretly alive, or felt in some way… well, they can’t bend their arms to scratch themselves, and that’s unbearably frustrating, isn’t it? I’ll help.

I know I’ve always been attracted to many genders, including to the one I had been assigned at birth. In Primary School, try as I did to have a crush on a boy (at least I picked the prettiest one with the longest lashes), I still got butterflies when one particular girl walked past with vanilla lip balm on and the smell hit me in the face. Picture American movie: LipSmacker brand vanilla lipbalm stink in the air, cue Aguilera’s hit Genie In A Bottle, my jaw slack. Hello 1990s.

Still, I experienced some internalised homophobia. During one of my pre-pubescent sleep-over birthday parties, the girls and I got a little too hopped up on lollies and fizzy drink (pardon my Australian vernacular). One girl had the bright idea of “hey, why don’t we all kiss each other, to see what it’s like”. My blood began to boil, I was approaching panic attack. I didn’t want to participate because I WANTED to participate, probably more so than they did. I began crying, freaked out that my friends were doing something “lesbian.” I giggled about this a lot now.

I always appeared very ‘tomboy’ish, but was reluctant to use the term. As I got older, I resented the term ‘lesbian’ and in particular, ‘butch’. I cringe when my family talk about how I’m such a “pretty girl” with a “lovely figure” and that if I just “dressed to accentuate it” and “wore some make up” so my “beautiful feminine features” would stand out more. Even when we speak about physical traits of the women in our family, and I’m put into that category… it stings, and it just doesn’t feel right.

So I’ve always felt, and presented, in the way that I do. I’ve never felt entirely comfortable with my femininity, my apparent womanhood.

I had an introduction, of sorts, to transness and gender diversity quite young, I suppose. My mother designs, makes and distributes costumes to exotic dancers and sex workers. In that world, there’s many gender and sexuality diverse people. I’ve always been around open and frank sexuality and gender. I am grateful for it.

But I never understood that it could, and did, apply to me.

My first conscious and deliberate thought of transness applying to me, or being something I could actively pursue to ease dysphoria and present how I feel, was actually during a dark moment. My mum and I had argued, and in a rage, she said something (which I know she doesn’t believe, now): I don’t have positive* traits of either† gender, I’m an entity.

[* Rage-fuelled and untrue, disregard. † Gender is not binary]

I was vaguely offended, but beyond that I kind of enjoyed being referred to as neither gender. I held on to it, obviously — even though there was some negativity around it, which I chose to push aside.

As the old cliche goes… reading those words changed my life. The cogs began turning subconsciously. Years later in an effort to learn more about people I discovered many trans, ftm, non-binary and gender diverse blogs and tumblrs. I learned about intersectionality, about gender, about sexuality, about appropriation, about racism. It was eye-opening.

I saw these ftm men becoming themselves and I could read on their faces the happiness, the comfort, the confidence they had since transitioning. But they were men, assigned female at birth. I was assigned female at birth… but I didn’t feel like a man. I just didn’t feel like a woman. But I wanted to look less like a woman, and more like a man? I guessed I was just mixed up.

Eventually I found a whole community of people that were assigned a binary gender at birth, and were truly non binary. These people were amazing in my eyes. They fucked with gender. They had facial hair and breasts and wore eyeliner and crop tops with snail trails. They knew who they were and who they were was non binary. And that? That was VALID. That… was me? I saw myself in those people.

Then one day my amazing partner, Kassy and I were sitting on the couch after dinner, watching a documentary. My mind was wandering. I was thinking about how happy and comfortable I was, but I could be happier and more comfortable. I could be able to present and be accepted for who I felt like I was. I already used they/them pronouns. I could… I could see a gender specialist? I could bind? I could take testosterone? I could do this? Why couldn’t I?

My heart started beating so hard I thought Kassy could hear it.
I squeaked out, hesitantly, “Kassy?”
“Yeah babe?” she replied, pleasant as ever.

I choked. Couldn’t do it. “…uhh I love you!”

“…Yeahhhh I love you too. You ok?” I guess she could tell something was up. I’m not very good at lying. And she knows me very, very well. Filter? Nah. Subtle? Nope.

I said I was fine, we watched the documentary for a view minutes more.

I couldn’t shake it though. Eventually, I did it. I fucking did it.

“I think I want to take testosterone.”

She turned her head and looked at me immediately, without pausing the show. Her smile was huge, and stunning, but I could tell she was taken aback. When we talked later she said she felt it coming, but was happy and surprised. I knew she knew. We all knew. Always known.

All I can say now, is that I’m excited and impatient. I’m learning to love myself now but I know it will come.

I’m excited to present as ambiguous as I want to. I’m excited to explore my feminine side more confidently, because I won’t be automatically read as a woman due to my appearance. I’m excited to wear pink, to wear glitter, to wear make-up. I feel comfortable with my identity, but when I feel I truly represent that, I’ll be able to express it fully.

I learned about about who I was, who I am and the fact that I am valid. It took my whole life thus far — and I’ll be 30 next year. Everyones story is different and important. Through sharing your experience, you provide someone else out there with some visibility of diverse genders. You might even give them a little courage to accept who they are, their validity, and the fact that they can truly embody who they are. And maybe, hopefully, one day… they will.