I see you as a girl

I’ve said this before: that sometime when I was a teenager, without having labels or a clear project, I started wanting to escape the gender I was supposed to be. “I see you as a girl,” said the first girl I was involved with, a long time ago now. I felt impossibly named in that moment, which felt wild and surreal at the time, long before I knew any trans people, long before my brother identified as trans. Sometimes surrealism is the only truth you can live by. Sometimes a voice has a curious authority to bring things to life by naming them: I see you as a girl says a girl, a moment where a girl’s eye sees something other than what it’s supposed to see, projects femininity upon what’s supposed to be a boy but really is something more indeterminate. More pliant. In such a moment, conventional gender can become undone, never to be repaired.

I’m glad it was never repaired for me. For many years afterwards, I lived in a zone of nonbinary experiments. I imagined androgyny as something stubborn, nameless, slightly radical, clandestine, wistful, and only recognized by those who were close to me. I didn’t see this as a model for living. I didn’t want to have a category. It just felt like me.

But it became too disappointing and exhausting to live in a state of silent protest, to feel perpetually misrecognized and in turmoil. I got so worn out by clandestine androgyny.

I got more consistently feminine, and then more trans, and learned to play with gender labels in a different way. And this is a story about that. But it’s not only about that.

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