I stand in front of my closet every morning and stare at the clothes hanging from old plastic hangers with sleep still dragging at my eyes. Through the morning fog clouding my brain, I try to choose the outfit that will ‘do gender’ the best. Will that shirt make my chest too obvious? Will those pants hug my curves too much? Are those boots too feminine? Is this hoodie baggy enough? Will I be okay today?
In the end, I just choose whatever looks the most comfortable, I have a binder after all. The chest binder is white and has no stretch. I have to make sure my glasses don’t fly off my face when I pull the stiff fabric over my head. Once the binder is in place, my chest becomes flat and smooth. That coupled with my baggy shirts and guy jeans (with pockets!) makes em feel more masculine than when I woke up that morning. The problem I always run into when being in public is the normalcy of women wearing men’s clothing. My face is too round, too soft, my voice is too high. No matter how masculine my hairstyle or how low I try to speak, people still identify me as female with a proud look in their eyes. Almost as if they’re about to win a prize for sorting out my biological sex.
I am never ‘out’ as a transgender person. I am constantly correcting others again and again. Some people will never use my pronouns because it’s ‘too hard’. I’ll never tell others because I’m so afraid of what they will say or that they won’t say anything at all but treat me differently. Yet, some days, I am so fed up with being told I am a woman that I blurt out at the worst times that I’m actually a man. The words will just fall from my mouth without passing through my brain first. Most times, when this happens, I’m met with awkward acceptance and the world goes on. That doesn’t mean that I’m still not afraid.
So, imagine my horror when I blurted out my maleness in front of my history professor while we waited for the class in our room to be let out. My classmates had been discussing the disproportionate number of men and women in our class, gesturing to me as one of the women. “I’m a man, actually,” I said and my classmates froze and stared. My eyes went wide and I shot my professor a panicked look. I knew my peers would be easier to handle if they didn’t respect me, but the person in charge of my grade? I was more than a little terrified.
Yet, my professor just offered me a smile, shrugged, and suggested that we clarify everyone’s pronouns. The relief that filled me almost made my knees give out.
That day, I knew I would be okay.