There are a lot of terms you read about trans-related stuff. Especially if you're foolish enough, like me, to routinely read psychology or sociology papers about trans issues.
These terms change over time. Some fall out of fashion - reading books printed even 10 ten years you see 'transsexual' used a lot. These days, dropping the suffix and not delineating or judging is what is preferred. We just use 'trans'.
Most of these terms, however, don't bother me. Even some of the older ones. I recognise the reason for jettisoning them, and even agree, but the terms rarely actually bother me unless their usage is intended to be malicious.
One phrase, however, is a personal bugbear of mine: gender presentation.
It's a perfectly reasonable thing to discuss and I do not feel the term should be flat-out excised, but what bothers me is the subtext here - that by using the term 'presentation', you imply that it's intentional. That we are acting.
I did engage in a lot of gender performance. I really did. For most of my life. I was performing 'male'. Or, more accurately, I was performing what media and Australian culture told me 'male' was. Depending on my level of insecurity at the time, this varied from moderate to flat-out toxic and sexist in a desperate desire to fit in and not be 'noticed'.
Being trans and being stuck with people treating you as the wrong gender was, for me, about living in a constant fear of being 'found out'.
Now, I behave how I am comfortable. I am not 'performing'. I act a certain way, and I am told I seem feminine.
Thing is, though, I've begun to notice this varies quite a bit, and there're a few patterns as to when. Mostly? It's when am presenting particularly femme. Which, increasingly, is frequent.
I love dresses, now they fit me. For me, they're more interesting to play with, and feel more comfortable on my body.
But I still sometimes wear pants or have a daggy-arse day at home.
And when that happens, I have noticed I seem a little more 'flat'.
Some part of me feels myself in a dress, is aware of what I look like, and for whatever subconscious reason my behaviour slips into a more 'feminine' form... and the thing is this is how I am most comfortable.
It's changing a bit, but I have begun to realise that my love of wearing dresses and makeup doesn't just come from it as a style thing that appeals to me, but also because it helps me feel more comfortable with myself.
When I am comfortable with myself, I can behave more like myself.
Yet sometimes I find a more gender-neutral, dominant, 'masculine' way of speaking and interacting is of benefit to me. I slip into these tones when in situations like... when I'm working.
This says a lot about the internalised sexism we face. Despite all the conscious effort I've gone to do disassemble gender and avoid doing things 'because it's feminine' or 'because it's not masculine', I still find myself plagued by certain toxic ideas, like that by behaving in a more masculine way I will be 'stronger'.
Despite that I feel weaker and less real when I do it.
It's something I need to move past.
But for now? I feel like I am often what I wear, and the idea that our clothes and style empower and change the way we behave is not something unique to trans people.
How do you feel when you wear different things?