When I first decided to use male pronouns, it was because I needed people to recognize that I am primarily a fag, not a lesbian. When I first started taking T, it was because I couldn’t stand that people kept deciding I was female based on my voice and physical features (mainly my voice), no matter what I did to be seen as male. But nowhere along this process have I been sure that I would be happy being seen unproblematically as a mature, adult cis male 100% of the time. The goal was to become visible as a fag and to escape the discomfort of being automatically pegged as female. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure what I wanted.
My butch Pops has referred to me as a “trickster” before, attractive to fags, butches, and femmes alike, regardless of their prior sexual orientation. Like many things she says to me, this was an identificatory statement. Later, she complained that she didn’t understand why I needed to transition, why I couldn’t be more “playful” and “fluid” about my gender. Even later, she said that she had always found her own gender strangeness “enabling,” granting her the “trickster” position of both and neither rather than one or the other. In this perspective, one of her losses, as I transition, would be the lost of a fellow trickster, who would then become a monogendered person, a straight-up gay man.
Now, I have arrived at the point I once desired. I have become visible as a fag and a man and have become attractive to gay men. But I have not fully physically matured into adult maleness. On the one hand, my life is filled with countless embarrassments and frustrations due to being constantly misperceived as a teenage boy (I am 31 and a professor). I am eager to mature more so that I can claim my space at the table of adulthood. On the other hand, I hesitate to leave this androgynous boy form. First of all, because it suits me. I identify as a mischievous boy, defiantly laying claim to masculinity, rather than an adult man, placidly inhabiting male privilege. Secondly, because as someone who has been perceived as either a girl or a gender-deviant his whole life, I have become attached the experience of being oppressed due to my gender. Right now, the daily annoyances of going through life as an adolescent boy and being excluded, at first glance, from the table of adult male privilege are the form that gender oppression takes in my life, and a part of me doesn’t want to leave that behind. Fourth, because my current embodiment preserves the trickster position that I’ve so far inhabited, but in a more comfortable form for me. That is, I couldn’t stand being a gender trickster when I was still ultimately read as female; but now that I am being read as somewhere on the male side of things, I am far more comfortable being playful with gender.
I am at the point in transition where, to the informed, I am visible as a trans man. That is, there is still something of the butch gone awry visible in me. This is, no doubt, what my butch Pops sees when she sees me, and I believe her mourning would truly begin were my physical appearance to change so much that she could only see a man when she saw me, when the butch and the trickster would no longer be there. In fact, one might say that I occupy (for my purposes) the perfect trickster position right now. Strangers almost never assume I’m female (though in lesbian spaces, they occasionally do). Trans guys bond with me as another trans guy. Fags see a fag in me, and flirt with me accordingly. Straight people relate to me as a young man. Queer women see me as a trans man, and flirt with me accordingly (until we both get awkward and embarrassed, because I’m almost exclusively into men these days!). And lesbians see me as a butch gone awry. Most trans men, I think, would feel uncomfortable in this position and would be all too eager to continue transitioning until the entire world saw them, unproblematically, as adult males. But I am neither a “true transsexual” nor a straight-up gay guy. I am a gender trickster somewhere on the male side of things, and I find it enabling that people are able to see different things in me, enabling to be capable of mirroring people’s desires back to them.
And the fact of the matter is that my identity, though primarily fag, is more complicated than fag. I like purity in categories as much as the next person and have a kind of knee-jerk reaction to queer celebrations of fluidity (who is really that fluid, anyway? who doesn’t have some kind of fixity to their identifications and desires, and why should we see fixity as bad rather than interesting, anyhow?), but the fact of the matter is that I’m an impurely gendered being. I am not a straight-up gay guy. I am also a trans guy, a butch, a mischievous boy, a gentleman, and an authoritarian old curmudgeon. I like to play tough and swagger like butches and boys like to play tough and swagger. I like to play the gentleman with ladies. I get cranky, order people around, and have fantasies of total power. Some of these characteristics mark a guy who is normally attracted to ladies and girls, so I can understand why ladies and girls flirt with me, though I don’t know what to do with them when they do. But, ultimately, I do enjoy my position of Gemini trickster. I like being able to butch it up with butches and women, fag it up with fags, boy it up with Daddies, and Daddy it up with boys. And, of course, be either the charming young man or the hilarious fag with straights. It’s a matter of relationality: different aspects of my history and my identifications legitimately allow me to bond in different gendered ways with different people. In queer academic spaces, I could potentially be that person who currently does not exist – who is able to cross seamlessly between gay and lesbian academic circles, at home in each.
What this means in terms of transition I do not yet know. I do want to keep transitioning until my voice finishes dropping, acquires some real resonance, and loses the tinny quality that some call “tranny voice.” But at that point, I may either go off T (and see if that still leaves me in a satisfactorily male zone), or lessen my dose. All this in an ideal world. Because I may well hate being off T or be unable to deal with some of the effects of stopping. But to be this trickster being, to straddle the flashpoint between fag, boy, and butch seems like a dream worth entertaining.