I go through alternate days between dressing like a pastel princess and others dressed like that fuck boi who is gonna take your girlfriend (but probably couldn’t cause I’m short AF). I have had a cropped pixie and hair as long as Princess Jasmine, waxed legs and hairier legs than my ex-boyfriends, push-up bras, and taped breasts. This is something that changes over time. Some days I feel more masculine than feminine, and vice versa. It is only recently that I have understood that this isn’t an experience everyone has.
As a Gen Z, you think I would know all the different LGBT+ terminology. Turns out, there are more out there. I would like to have a frank discussion about what it is like to be genderfluid. Being genderfluid means mixing between feminine and masculine. Some genderfluid people are more comfortable with gender-neutral titles (they/them).
I have not been comfortable enough to call myself genderfluid until this year. Even then, it has not been something I am confident enough to bring up in a conversation. The idea of providing others with a dictionary of how to address me has been nerve-wracking like I’m selfishly demanding attention. I have not reached the point of changing pronouns. But I can’t wait for the day I find that confidence. I would hope that if I get to the point of changing my pronouns from she to them, the people around me would be respectful enough to ask my preference and address me.
I was a late bloomer to everything, sheltered throughout my teens. The first time I saw anything LGBT+ was Hozier’s 2014 Take Me To Church. I played that music video non-stop on repeat on my shitty cube computer for over a week. It was the most beautiful I had ever seen, and I didn’t fully understand what it meant until years later. There were obviously instances when the LGBT+ community had been represented before this music video, but it was the first time my small mind had come across something that resonated with me so much.
Language brings power to the people. Every teen flick has told us that labelling is derivative and discriminatory, but I find that diction to express my emotions is the most powerful tool to hold. Throughout my high school years, I struggled to understand why I was the only girl who hated having breasts, beyond the sheer embarrassment of publicly sharing them. I despised having hips showing my curvy body and wearing skirts that showed my freshly waxed legs. I had days where I wished I was born a flat-chested boy.
Having said all this, I also had days where I felt pretty in pink and freshly painted in thick eyeliner. Everything about my femininity was unconventional. I wished my boobs were like detachable cushions. I never had the terminology to explore Pinterest for outfit ideas. I would search for “women in men’s clothes”, and it was always an exaggerated suit or sweatpants and a tight crop top. Over the last decade, the internet has become a friendlier place to become more informed. Terms like non-binary, genderfluid, and genderqueer have become more common. The growth of social media and stream services has created a broader spectrum of representation. One day, I found the magical word to all my confusions: androgynous! For anyone who doesn’t know, androgyny is the presentation of both masculine and feminine qualities. Oftentimes, androgynous clothes on Pinterest include women dressed in masculine clothing, all shapes and sizes.
My experience of cross-dressing had been through shits-and-giggles She’s the Man, White Chicks, Mrs Doubtfire, Ace Ventura (ew) and even a childhood favourite Mulan. On the other side of the same coin, trans characters are used as a villainous attribute for horror films such as in Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, Chainsaw Texas Massacre, and Dressed to Kill. Men and women on screen cross-dressed because they needed to disguise themselves, or represent something inherently repulsive. Genderqueer figures have been likened to the image of a mistrustful figure, not knowing what they want. It was never a matter of someone enjoying experimenting with their identity.
The first time I saw a non-binary figure was on the tragically terrible Scream TV Series. Audrey, played by Bex Taylor Klaus, became an idol to me, one of the main characters. I had never seen anything close to a non-binary character on screen. Someone whose gender was entirely their own and not used as a place to laugh at. Over the years, these figures of non-binary characters and celebrities have grown exponentially: Ruby Rose, Hunter Schaffer, Ian Alexander, Elliot Page. It is essential to have these figures on-screen because otherwise, it would feel impossible to feel normal. Finding someone to look up to makes the journey to finding our gendered identity makes a trip a hell-of-a-lot clearer and kinder. I can’t imagine who I would be without encountering them.
Just a few days ago, I finished binge-watching Sex Education and found myself drawn to the newest character, Cal, a non-binary student who is still trying to figure their own identity. It was the rare occasion that there was an open conversation about the use of safe chest binder use and working out romantic and platonic relationships as a queer person. I so dearly wish anyone who has the pleasure to watch this show gains a better understanding of how joyful and frightening to be non-binary in a traditionally cis society.
While I have been at university for over four years, I have had the privilege of time and space to experiment with fashion and my relationships with people. I am lucky enough to have a friend with whom I can whole-heartedly open up about my identity and ask questions about whether what I am thinking is different or common ground. I have finally found a style that matches my identity: sports bra, dress shirts, loose jeans and sweaters. I spend every day dressing like a student from Hogwarts and love every second of it. This was not without resistance. My family has slowly grown to understand my fashion style as a matter of my style rather than being loose and lazy. It has taken years, slow and steady. I never made a sudden change one day but took everything day by day.
At the University of Auckland, we are lucky enough to have resources available. For students who aren’t aware of this, the university can provide support in several ways. This includes financial support for legally changing your name, Health and Counselling for those who would like help in understanding their transition process or other problems (and it’s free), gender-neutral bathrooms (a list available on the UoA website) and Faculty based LGBTQI+ support groups.