Last year, I was terrified to come out as genderqueer to my partner, Skylar. We had been going out for six months, and in that time I had come considerably closer to understanding the real me. The me that hated dresses and flinched at the sound of she/her pronouns. The me that was still mostly in the closet, despite efforts to poke a foot or a hand out now and then.
At that time, I saw myself as a rough-around-the-edges yet mostly masculine person in a skirt, always moving between genders in my chameleon-like body that I still didn’t fully understand. It was perhaps due in part to Skylar’s influence that I started paying attention to the part of me that still felt very much closeted, giving this part a name instead of a firm wag of the finger and dismissive shake of the head.
This is because my partner is actually very much like me — a beautiful, gender-fluid human. Skylar blossoms and shines in their proud outness. So it may seem strange to be afraid to tell my genderqueer and bisexual partner that I was, in fact, genderqueer too. That we had yet another thing in common, and understood one another more deeply than we initially realized. But I was afraid. I was terrified to speak with them about it, no matter how much I yearned to share this secret with them.
Every attempt I made at trying to working it into conversation failed, and as soon as I started to try, I would quickly backtrack and uncomfortably change the topic of discussion. Instead, I sent them a quick text about it while I was at work one day, explaining that I wasn’t ready to talk about it face to face, but that I did, in fact, think I was genderqueer. And they kept my secret, holding it lovingly in their arms until the day I came out to everyone in my life a few months later.
This secret that we held together for those months was truly magical. Without acknowledging a topic they thought I might still be too scared to discuss aloud with them, they would lend me their clothes and hold my hand in walks through the men’s department of my favorite stores. At this point, I wasn’t ready to visibly commit to masculinity by purchasing men’s clothes. So instead, I would stare longingly at all the cute button ups and boxer briefs, with gentle verbal encouragement from my partner to try something on. Usually, I’d shake my head, content with just looking. And they didn’t push me. They’d only smile and praise me for being brave enough to browse the men’s section, despite the often rude side-eye from fellow shoppers and nosy sales associates.
Skylar’s closet became my private space of experimentation, as I waded through the piles of shirts and jackets they would lay out for me. I marveled at the way I looked in them, like my true self, and soon I began to leave the house that way. Skylar’s clothing gave me so much confidence.
I never felt as empowered and attractive in my whole life as I did when wearing their button up and soft green cardigan, my hair tucked into one of their signature American Apparel beanies. In our year-long relationship, this was probably the greatest gift they have given me (despite their excellent eye for records and romantic gestures).
We used to talk in bed for hours about gender identity, who we want to be, how we want to look, and what it all means to us. I introduced an enthusiastic Skylar to my beauty collection, and gave them a crash course in eyeliner application and the lipstick color wheel (hello, blues and greens). Doing their makeup became a bonding exercise that we shared; it felt close and cathartic. Looking into their stormy blue and grey eyes as I covered their mouth with purple lipstick, I saw myself reflected. We are two people who may want different things (them femininity, and I masculinity), but working towards a common goal of loosening the restrictions of gender in order to be our truest selves, whatever that may be.
I’m universally out now, rocking my androgyny as proudly and comfortably as my beat up Doc Martens. I claim my masculinity on the streets, in the bedroom, and deep within myself. The questions and insecurities have changed, but they are still there. I talk to my partner sometimes about how I sometimes feel like a fake. That I feel less visible as a genderqueer person when I’ve worn skirts and lipstick for a week straight. Or that I feel nervous that my androgyny will come into even further question once I finish growing my hair out, as long hair often leads to invisibility within the queer community for gender nonconforming people. Last week, as we laid in bed together, I lamented over what I worry may be seen as homogenous femininity, compared to the colorful and endlessly developing range of genders that I see in my partner everyday. But, as Skylar tends to do, they stopped this rant in its tracks by validating me to my core. They informed that they do, in fact, see an entire gender spectrum in me and went on to list all of the masculine things about me. Their comments really opened my eyes to a beautiful truth about me and about us. I, an assertive take-shit-from-no-one-type in a female-ish body, beside Skylar, a sensitive and impossibly tender human in a male-ish body. Two walking contradictions, two people living somewhere between masculine and feminine, genderless and full of gender at the same time.
Whenever I forget to love myself, to feel valid and safe in a body that refuses to be gendered, I need only to look at Skylar to remind myself of the truth. I adore them endlessly, and validate their gender identity much more easily than I can with my own. But looking at them, into their mirrored eyes, I remember that we are both “the real deal,” as we embark on the same journey towards freeing ourselves from the constraints of genders we were assigned at birth. Gender is limiting, but our bodies, our souls, and our love for one another is truly limitless.