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Gendered Zone

on . Posted in Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression.

I guess I can be considered “butch”. I’m usually not one for labels, but labels find their way to be attached to me anyway. This is not a post about the politics of the butch and femme dichotomy, being or not being. It’s an issue that bothers me every now and then, and lately it has just been driving me insane.

Why I said I “guess” I am butch is because while I don’t think of myself as one, other people seem to mistake me as a boy. And that’s usually fine because other strangers have no business in how I look, and my friends know who I am so it’s a non-issue. But it all stops when I step into the now much-dreaded bathroom/changeroom. Suddenly, my sexual identity becomes everyone’s business.

I’ve had plenty of encounters in the bathroom. Unfriendly stares, hostile confrontations and all. Most of the time it’s a genuine mistake — whoever gives me a hard time is the one to end up feeling embarassed when they realise that they have made a mistake, which is usually when I open my mouth to say, “um..” and my voice becomes proof that I’m not, in fact, a guy. Then I guess they look at me all over again and decide that I could look like a girl too.

Most of the time I just brush it off. I say, “it’s ok, it happens.” I try to shrug it off, but I know it bothers me, and it’s piling up. Now I avoid public restrooms if I can, and I try not to make eye contact with other women in the changeroom before I have my clothes off. My natural reaction sometimes is to apologize. I suppose I feel that I have unintentionally offended them or something. But the more I think about it, the less sense it makes to feel sorry, and I’m tired of walking with my head hung low.

It’s a mixed feeling. I know most women just react out of self-defense. Where that reflex comes from is a whole other can of worms, and come to think of it, if I were actually a man, I don’t know if I should feel offended for the assumed ill intentions rather than an innocent mistake. On one hand, I understand where those reactions come from, but on the other, knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better. And what am I supposed to do? Wear makeup and grow my hair out? What if I consider both to be too much trouble for me? Or go to the men’s room? I don’t see myself as a man, so that isn’t a logical solution either.

I’ve tried to come up with responses from my end that would go beyond “uh… I think I’m in the right place” and “no it’s ok.. it happens.. I’m sorry.” But I can’t. I don’t know what I’m defending myself from, or why there’s a need for it. I want to fix the problem, but I don’t know where the problem is.

One thing I do know is that I’m tired. I’m tired of being scared, and I’m tired of feeling that I’m so different.

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