Androgyny After Middle Age?

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CN: mentions of sex and genitals,

I wish someone had written a book  about coming out in your 50s. I could use a damn roadmap right about now. I’ve managed an okayish facsimile of a normal gender role identity – whatever the hell normal is – but the image is close to shattering and I have no template by which to put the pieces back together.

I’ve always known there was something amiss, the way girliness eluded me, the way I only felt myself in jeans and tee shirts with my hair buzzed off in some unconventional style. Most of my friends were male, as I couldn’t relate to other women – not straight ones, at least.

I felt more man than woman on the inside, although I had no desire to actually be a man. My body seemed to agree. As I moved through adolescence and into young adulthood I knew my approach to sex was off. I could tell by the reactions of my partners. Foreplay was, and continues to be repugnant to me. Bang the essential bits together to produce an explosion then carry on with the day. How easily those explosions happened. I found it difficult to relate to those stories of women who couldn’t orgasm.

The signs were there at the gym in my twenties and thirties. I loved training with weights, especially the freeweights in the back rooms with sweating, grunting men. I never felt at ease exercising with women. I didn’t glisten or glow. I sweat copiously, so much so that an aerobics class awarded me a teeshirt for sweating the most during a class. I was mortified. That voice that told me I wasn’t like other women got louder. I never attended a women only fitness class again.

Eight years of martial arts training did nothing to lessen my confusion. I loved the power of the movements. I loved how bloody strong I was. I loved sparring for the adrenaline rush but cried when I would strike my opponent. I kiai’d loudest during drills. I sweat until my gi chafed.  And in that class of oddballs and misfits, I still didn’t fit.

At my fittest, I could walk down the hall at work and male coworkers would come to their doors to watch me walk by. I understood what it meant to be objectified and I felt dirty.

When I left the gym and the dojo behind, weary of trying to fit in and failing miserably, I discovered that by gaining weight I could render myself invisible. No longer did I look like a masculine woman. In fact, the weight rendered me sexless, genderless. I became a non-threat to those around me. It was safe. I was finally safe.

I would have stayed in that fatty bubble of denial had it not been for a young longtime friend coming out as gay. What followed were some deeply personal conversations in which I was honoured to participate, and which made me start to question what was going on with me for most of my life. Deciding that I needed to become literate in gender terminology I stumbled across a reference to the Bem Gender Role classification, which I promptly hunted down.

Androgynous.

Now I had a label. I admit, I was torn between sadness and joy. I was also a bit frightened by the black and white proof that I Was Not Normal. Quickly changing Not Normal to Non Binary took some of the sting out of the knowledge that I would never pass for a girly girl (I’m 52, but hope springs eternal) and gave me the encouragement to seek out resources.

Asexual.

Truth is, it was and likely always will be that I am not drawn to anyone sexually, although I love to flirt and, as I already mentioned, things work really well Down There.

I have little idea how to move forward with this new knowledge of myself. I admit I feel more whole, less broken and awkward than I did Pre-Bem. But I am a nearly post middle age woman without a handle on aging gracefully, let alone living peacefully with my gender preferences. I feel as guilty as hell about this confusion because what I am going through is so minor compared to a young man coming out as gay to his family.

For now I will move quietly into who I have been all along, allowing my inner self to whisper to me all the things I wasn’t willing to hear before. I will allow myself to feel blessed by the beauty of self revelation. And I will allow myself to shop in the men’s department.

Words by Crystal M

Crystal M is approaching her fifties with an open mind and a small zoo that includes her husband and daughter.

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3 Comments

  1. That is as insightful a piece of writing on non-binary self-recognition I have read to date.

    Crystal – you have a book to write.

  2. Thank you Crystal for sharing. I’m only a couple of years younger and for so long I suffered in silence with respect to my identity. From earliest childhood I knew I was different. In my twenties I occasionally dressed androgynously in private or would travel away from my home city and go to a club wearing some female items. Still though, I was confused as to exactly how I didn’t fit in. I always felt a stronger affiliation with my feminine traits but as a biological male it’s always more difficult to be able to express them in public. I never felt as if I was gay. My desire to wear female clothing led me to question whether I was trans but this never felt right either. I’ve never felt as if I was a woman or wanted to be, at least not in terms of being 100% female. Only in my thirties did I come to recognise that I was neither male or female but rather somewhere in between. I had no label for it and at the time I didn’t feel the need for one. It was enough that I felt as if I knew who I was and especially that I was becoming increasingly comfortable with it, at least internally. Yet this only opened up new difficulties since it was hard to find others who even accepted, let alone understood, how I felt. I was careful who I told and I was right to be cautious because when I did open myself up I lost many friends and several relationships with women who couldn’t come to terms with it. I would tell new people in my life, and suddenly their interest in me would evaporate and I would never hear from them again. It’s far easier for someone who looks female to get away with wearing more masculine clothes than it is for someone like me, male on the outside, who would like to look androgynous / closer to female most of the time. As the years have ticked by, this has remained an ongoing issue for me despite the fact that in the last few years I’ve come to embrace the term ‘non-binary’ as a valid reflection of my identity. It’s given me a simpler way of expressing my ID, sometimes making for a less complicated explanation when I first meet someone. However, most people still don’t know what it is and run a mile once they find out. I’m pleased Crystal that you have a loving family who embrace the real you – that’s something to be cherished since it’s not easy to come by.

  3. Wow, that was an amazing piece of text, and one that was so needed… thank you. As a 20smthng coming to grasp with nonbinary and asexual identities, it feels amazing hearing the same sort ideas n feelings from someone in a completely different part of life. It just makes it all feel more real. It’s easy to think that all of these labels and identities really are just made up and im really just a failed gir but still not a guy. So knowing that someone so far away n from a completely different context still feels the same… is just awesome. So thank you, really 🙂

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