My Girlfriend Called Me "She"
by SJ Griffin
I feel like a Dr Pepper can that’s been shaken up. There’s so much to say around the pressure building from the back of my throat to the top of my skull. Now it’s gone down my throat, all the way to my stomach.
I can’t speak to why I still think my gender isn’t valid, to the point that my dysphoria doesn’t matter. That my pronouns don’t matter to anyone besides me. That I will dress to pass as female eighty percent of the time, even when I’m not female inside.
I am genderfluid, so my gender fluctuates within and beyond the binary spectrum. I sometimes feel feminine, sometimes masculine, sometimes both or neither. I go by they/them pronouns because most of the time I feel agender. It’s not hard to pass as feminine when I feel like femme or neutral, but I’ve learned to mask my masculine side very well. I’ve almost smothered it.
No one around me understands my gender because society has told them that there is a binary, and anyone outside of that binary is ill. My own girlfriend slips sometimes and says “she” to refer to me because that’s what she’s been conditioned to see.
My girlfriend is trans, and you’d think she’d be the best of anyone about it. She is the best, but only because no one else cares. But she still slips up. Even during sex a couple days ago.
I’m not going to get into that right now. I know not to open a shaken soda can if I don’t want a mess.
I slip up, too. I’ve referred to myself as “she” a few times since I came out. It’s a hard habit to break. Especially since I try to pass as female most days, and that makes it hard not to see my outward appearance as who I am.
Why am I caged by social constructs?
I know these constructs aren’t who I am. I know that they are mere Merriam-Webster definitions, and neither “man” nor “woman” describes me. But I still find myself ashamed to admit that I don’t fit either of those definitions. I worry that transphobic people—who think that my gender doesn’t exist—will think I say I’m genderfluid just to be special, and I worry that other LGBTQ+ people will think I’m not actually genderfluid because of my presentation. I’m either too different or not different enough.
Whenever I tell someone my pronouns, I have the urge to say they don’t matter that much. If you slip up and say “she,” it’s okay. But that’s not how I truly feel.
Every time I hear someone call me “she,” they’re shaking the Dr Pepper can even more.
Why should I apologize for my gender, when you should apologize for imposing a gender on me? Why should I feel ashamed, when you should be ashamed of not respecting me as a human being?
I’ve struggled with this for so long. I always blame myself for people not caring. Because I’m a snowflake. Because there are only two genders. Because I was born female, so that makes me female. I shouldn’t try to be difficult; I should just make everything easier for myself and other people. I should just get over this mental illness.
I realize those are the thoughts I’ve been conditioned to believe. Just like the concept of biological sex and gender and the binary. But those things aren’t the same.
Identifying as a gender outside of the binary does not mean I have a mental illness.
But it makes me feel physically ill to mention my pronouns to someone, just because I fear their reactions and thoughts about me. It makes my heart flood with panic and carbonated bubbles, amplifying the pressure throughout my whole body as it pumps in waves through my veins. I already deal with anxiety, and it’s made worse by the fact that I have to worry about my gender, my future, and even my safety, which are all dependent on others’ perceptions of me. I am constantly on the verge of exploding.
My girlfriend called me “she” as she was touching me. I froze, but she kept going until she saw my face. When she released me, I curled up in a ball, shaking for half an hour until the carbon dioxide built up enough to force the can open.
SJ Griffin is a senior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, double majoring in creative writing and psychology in an attempt to comprehend their existence. They love traversing their native North Carolina backwoods and baby-talking to all dogs they encounter. They make it through life with undiagnosed-yet-very-real depression and anxiety. Follow them on Twitter @born2blossom.