I'm curious to hear what GT thinks about something that's been rattling around in my brain all morning specifically about the intersection of gender identity and privilege.

I'm cis male — I am "default," no special limitations applied against me due to my gender identity. Despite some medical "wrinkles" in my biography there is no time at which my cis/male identity is seriously questioned. And because cis male is at the top of the privilege heirarchy, my gender identity has never dictated any serious consequence to me. Growing up I was unabashedly "girly," playing house and playing with dolls and the like, but I was protected from any serious external inspection of my gender identity because (I propose) cis male privilege allows for pretty much any expression to be acceptable. Anything that may cause serious examination can be explained away as a "phase." I easily avoided anything sports- or rough-housing related simply by not wanting to do it, and that was that. Overall, my childhood felt "ungendered," but I have a strong suspicion that much of this is because the cis male category was so wide and unlimiting that I had no particular obligations that I needed to perform beyond simply having a male body. So even though I felt no identification with myself as a "boy," I didn't feel I was a girl either — there was nothing held off-limits to me and filed away under "girl's things/behaviors" that I needed to incorporate into my identity and couldn't, which I've heard frequently as a major element in how binary-identifying trans persons came to realizing that they'd been misgendered. Nevertheless, I can think of numerous childhood games and dreams that centered around fantasies of gender fluidity — I cross-dressed both for my own amusement and to amuse other kids. From a very early age I remember having a very clear mental image of who I would be as a girl, and in much of my fantasy life I would inhabit female roles.


By the time I came out as gay in high school, it was already the mid-late '90s and queer acceptance (for white cis folks) was incipient. As such my sexuality never made me question my gender identity because it seemed perfectly consistent that anyone regardless of gender could find men's bodies sexually attractive. For my young adulthood I sought out gay cis male sexual and romantic partners and things were never particularly complicated. It wasn't until I was nearing my 30s that I even became aware of genderqueer and non-binary gender, and the confluence of gender as identity and gender as performance. That helped some things fall into place — what has fascinated and drawn me since childhood is the desire to perform either side of the gender binary "adequately." The idea of flicking a switch to slide between being perceived as masculine or feminine is intoxicating to me.

I have to imagine this is pretty common, because in some ways it's a basic power fantasy. I want it all. But this absolutely does not correspond to gender identity, and when I try to interrogate that half of it things become very difficult. I know that I tell myself that I feel non-binary. I feel no strong attachment to my masculinity and sometimes feel that it in and of itself is a complicating factor (seriously, testosterone is a hell of a drug). I feel no great threat at the possibility of being gendered female by onlookers, but cannot empathize directly with the experience of being misgendered. I can say academically that my cis male privilege is something I'm uncomfortable wielding, but cannot escape the lived experience of having it constantly ameliorate things that would be seen as "mistakes" without it. Sexually I can say (without being TMI or bringing gender into this!) that my sexuality skews toward the non-phallic, although I'm comfortable wielding phallic sexuality.

At the end of the day, however much I may feel I identify as non-binary / genderqueer, the actual presence of my cis-male privilege makes it so hard to say for sure that I feel unwelcome entering that space. If I wanted to I could certainly push harder to "blur the lines" in my gender presentation but I don't feel any particular need to do so — I do not personally feel a great connection between my daily gender performance and my gender identity as stated above. But if I don't make it an issue, I'm just "passing." (This is something I think about as a gay man too, but that's another story).


Yowza, that got long. Anyway, I'd be really fascinated to hear from any non-binary folks we have around. Or really anyone who has an experience with passing. Is it dishonest to take up the mantle/label of a group you feel justified claiming membership to if you will not be outwardly identified as that group?