As a teenager, I often presented as a girl, because I had a baby face and the art school I attended allowed me to grow a long blonde bob. I did it for various reasons. I was a very late developer and I got asked for my ID a lot less in clubs and bars if I wore some eyeliner and a silver clip in my hair. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a girl so much as I enjoyed playing a gender norm disrupting game. I felt like a rebel. I was tricking all these people, and it was fun. It made me feel powerful to be able to travel between these binary male and female borders. I could go to “raves” like Close Encounters and Origin, with my friends, and the female bouncers, and not the burly guys, would frisk me on entry because they thought I was female.
I guess I was genderfluid even though I hadn’t yet even heard of this term. There was no hesitation or discrepancy at these parties; I was taken for a girl. Only later, in my first year of varsity, when the testosterone began to kick in, did I begin presenting more boyish and androgynously, and this was when I began to encounter my first experiences of aggression and hostility, from straight guys and gay guys alike. I was encouraged by my gay peers to cut my hair and be more “straight acting” because that’s “what other guys found attractive.” I began to conform, and the more “masculine” I became the less flack I got.
Where am I going with this?
We’re always going on about events, places and media that are LGBTQ+. But I hardly ever see any real support or representation for the T in that acronym. If trans people are not being supported, represented or championed, then it cannot be labelled as LGBTQ+. Like beauty products and microwave meals, it must be what it says on the label.
There is still a lot of stigma and open prejudice against gay guys that are gender-fluid, trans, non-binary or even feminine presenting. Now that I present as a more “masculine” albeit flamboyant gay guy, I often hear other guys talk openly in a disparaging or demeaning way about femme guys or members of the trans community, and it makes me feel nauseous because we all know what it feels like to be judged and ostracized, yet we do the same thing to others. We should know better.
I have heard similar childhood stories to mine from other gay guys that played in the gender waves but have since felt the need to conform, and I hope that jogging the memory of these stories will be a call to arms to be more understanding and supportive of the trans and gender non-conforming community. Although diverse, we are not all as “different” from one another as we may think.
Today, as a 37-year old gay man I am happy to present as a cisgender queer guy. This means I am happy to express myself in society, as the gender I was assigned at birth. I don’t experience any gender dysphoria and don’t long for any gender transition, affirmation or adventure, other than those regarding my current expression of masculinity. I may be a product of societal pressures, indoctrination and wishing to benefit from the privileges afforded masculine (relatively masculine) presenting cisgender gay white males, but this is my current reality.
I do not identify as a transgender person at present, or a non-binary or gender non-conforming presenting person, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel a tremendous amount of respect and compassion for this diverse, fascinating and courageous community within the LGBTQI+ community.
As the Content Creator for Anova Health Institute, I create content across multiple platforms including Health4Men, We The Brave and Young Heroes. This is my comfort zone because I identify as a man who has sex with men (MSM), which is the demographic for these projects. However, being tasked with managing and curating the platforms and content for Health4Trans, last year, I knew I had so much to learn, even though I would not be writing any of the content myself, just collecting it.
There is still an ocean of information and revelations I have yet to gain about the trans and non-binary community, but as a “cis” gay man, I would like to appeal to other “cis” gay men who may be reading this, to take these LGBTQI+ siblings of ours, further into your consideration.
I have noticed a lack of support, apathy and even quite a lot of transphobia, ignorance and discrimination from within the gay community towards trans persons, and this kind of bigotry is unacceptable and short-sighted for several reasons.
Firstly, we owe our liberty, as gay men (and women), to the original “Pride”, activism and courage demonstrated by trans people in the frontlines of the 70s Stonewall riots. There were little to no muscle-marys with machetes or twinks with torpedoes fighting upfront for us. It was mostly trans people that inspired the original concept of Pride and took on the police and all manner of enemies to secure our fragile current emancipation. A freedom that can very easily be taken away, if you look towards the atrocities in Chechnya or the current struggle of black lesbians or trans persons in our very own townships. So many of our trans siblings are still being attacked, murdered and discriminated against around the world, and most of the rest of us are turning a blind eye or claiming powerlessness.
As gay people, most of us know what it feels like to be ridiculed and treated like second-class citizens. How can we then go on to treat other people from our greater community in the same way? We (gay men) enjoy many privileges that society does not afford our trans siblings, and I believe that it is our duty to not only support but also to celebrate these brave and often stigmatised members of our “family”.
We may be cisgender, but my brothers, there is no need for us to be “sies”- gender, by discriminating against, judging, or just not giving a shit about those who helped us find our freedom. We need to be there for them like they were for us.
THAT, would the most fabulous thing we can do!
Bruce J. Little is a contributing writer for Anova Health Institute. These are his views, which may or may not represent those of Anova and its affiliates.