Last updated April 20, 2014.
- Bio: My name is Marilyn Roxie. I write about genderqueer and non-binary identities here on GQID and post about music at A Future in Noise. I founded the netlabel Vulpiano Records. I’ve interned with the Center for Sex and Culture and [SSEX BBOX]. In spring 2013, I graduated City College of San Francisco with an Associate of Arts in LGBT Studies and Library Technology. I recently completed San Francisco Sex Information’s sex educator training program and am working out university transfer options currently.
- Gender: genderqueer (and always questioning what “gender” and “queer” mean). My gender is fixed (has been consistent over time) rather than fluid.
- Sexuality and sex: gay male (FAAB)
- Status: no hormones / pre-operative (seeking top surgery and hysterectomy)
- Pronouns: they/them/their
- Presentation: androgynous with a strong tendency towards pretty-boy aesthetics
Longer version: The following is an account on how I came to identify as genderqueer. I am still discovering new things about my identity and orientation. The conclusions I may have drawn about myself from my life and experiences may not be the same at a later date to shape a more accurate self-description. Your own personal stories are most welcome! If you would like to submit one to GQID, please visit the submissions page.
When I was younger, I had heard of the word “queer” (both used to insult and reclaimed in empowerment) and was fairly well-acquainted with LGBT identities and culture, or so I thought…I hadn’t ever seen the term “genderqueer” until around 2009/2010! Perhaps I just wasn’t looking in the right places. When I finally did dig deeper, I was overcome by how strongly certain related concepts and identities resonated with me.
I’ve come to realize that understanding oneself is a life-long process. Certain aspects of your identity may be fluid or fixed, provoked by nature or by choice, influenced by loved ones and interests. Of course, the going can be a little less rough if you can uncover not only the concepts that help you, but people and even whole communities that share your sensibilities on your quest for self-discovery, little “aha!” moments along the way.
I had been terribly unsure about how to define my gender and orientation and experienced varying degrees of dysphoria over my physical sex since I was a teenager. When I was a child, questioning “gender roles” wasn’t a thought in my mind. I did note that most of my friends tended to be boys, but this could’ve been by chance. Besides, I liked both typically “masculine” and “feminine” activities fairly equally: I played video games, and I played with Barbies; I played dress-up, and I played with toy cars and trains. I saw no conflict of interest in these pursuits, and I did not feel like either a girly-girl or a tomboy.
Orientation-wise, I have had crushes on only on guys from the earliest age I can remember back to (age 4) on both celebrities and boys I was friends with. As far as the orientation of others, I don’t remember anything revelatory about finding out of the difference between heterosexual and homosexual, particularly as my parents had friends of both orientations, I just “knew”, though I think it is safe to say I have long felt a sort of connectivity to gay males.
In my later childhood years and early pre-teen years, I conceived of myself in a non-gendered or gender-blended (identifying with both boys and girls) way, in terms behaviors and appearance, when I would ponder the appearance and expression of others around me…without having the vocabulary to describe what I felt in gendered terms and without thinking about it too hard! These are two quite different identities - one being the identity of non-gender and the other being the identity of both man and woman simultaneously - and, not knowing any special words or identity possibilities at that time, it did not accord as much importance as such feelings have held for me later in my life. I felt that I was somehow “different” from my peers, girls as well as boys. Was I experiencing a non-gendered identity, or a blending of gender identities? At that time I wasn’t sure and my musings were fragmented then, not knowing any reference points for my thoughts or how to possibly bring it up and search for information, I put the notions aside and, again, they were nothing crisis-worthy. I remember having begun dreaming of myself as a boy from around this time period as well. Although I am describing what I was going through, in retrospect, words like “gender” weren’t even in my head. Notions like “I’m not really like girls are ‘supposed’ to be, or much like boys are ‘supposed’ to be either,” however? Yes. By this, I am not only talking about a lack of stereotypical gender-association with appearance and activities, but a fundamental lack of understanding how one identifies and expresses themselves as a boy or girl.
And then…12. This is the age I started experiencing some bodily changes which really screwed with my mental conception of myself and of my physical form. Not knowing to use words like androgynous or neutral, or having even anything crucial understood yet about my identification with gay males, and even though I was aware these changes are supposed to happen to someone with a body like mine, here was something shocking about it. As if it wasn’t supposed to happen to me. Of course, there are many who experience the physical transition from childhood to adulthood wishing the changes would stop, that they could be in another body or their “former self” again, and so on but…for me, I never stopped being uncomfortable about what happened to my body, years into it. I would later recognize this as what is often called dysphoria. I think it’s no coincidence that I began self-harming around the same time, although I am still not entirely sure why I started. I didn’t realize that what I was doing wasn’t as simple as getting out boredom or frustration until someone asked me “what was the matter” with my arms. My particular form of self-harm is compulsive skin-picking (CSP), a kind of blend of self-harm and obsessive compulsions.
While I was grappling with becoming a “woman” - it still sounds wrong! - I discovered slash fanfiction (somewhere between the ages of 10 and 13). I found this through looking for general stories based on my favorite anime, manga, and video games, quickly coming to understand the term "yaoi" and enjoying what I read and saw. I knew that I liked the idea of male/male romances, and though it was difficult to find well-written stories amongst the largely amateur writing I was exploring, and most importantly, there was something in the relationships that reminded me of the way that I was attracted to boys. I found myself thinking of myself as a boy with the guys I had crushes on, getting far more enthused by that sort of fantasizing over thinking of being my girl-self with them. But I wasn’t sure why it appealed to me, at this time. I tried my hand at writing my own stories, mostly in private as I didn’t publish them on-line and when I showed them to friends they were either confused or amused by my m/m fiction pursuits. I ended up putting this sort of writing - and reading - largely aside for awhile. I remember saying things to my parents like “I think I would make a better-looking boy than a girl” but I don’t think they read much into it and frankly, neither did I, at the time. When I would bring up my interest in these works to my friends, they just looked and acted puzzled, so I learned to not discuss it at all.
I ended up becoming a fan of The Killers from watching a performance on a performance on Hard Rock Live - namely it was “Andy, You’re a Star” that got me interested. As you can see from the lyrics and hear if you have a listen, the song involves Brandon Flowers singing about a crush on a boy. The content of the song seemed…familiar to me. But I was just a girl who had crushes on boys, and boys who liked boys…right? I was endlessly fascinated in listening, also because Hot Fuss is simply a great album. I had joined The Killers Network message board and discovered loads of fantastic bands, so this interest had a profound effect on the direction my musical interests would take.
I found myself having thoughts like “as much as I might find a really cute guy attractive, there’s nothing better than two really cute guys together...”. I would wonder if I “ought to have been”, or merely wished that I was born a boy, but then I’d go back to how much I was attracted by males - I was genuinely unsure if I desired to be male because of my psychology or because of the aesthetic appeal and frequent companionship I found in boys. Looking back, I think both were important in shaping my identity.
As a high school freshman, I read Venus in Furs thanks to the free availability of it on Project Gutenberg. Initially I wanted to read it because of loving the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” and was curious if the work it was named after was as brilliant. I was also intrigued by the notion of an ‘erotic novel’, and hearkened back to my previous thoughts about slash fiction. I was pleasantly surprised about how much I liked the book, and my interest was piqued in the notion of dominance and submission.
Around this same time, I read Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, due to the name-checking of Dorian Grey in the Libertines’ “Narcissist”. This remains my favorite book of all-time and I’ve gone on to become an enormous fan of Wilde, even reading his collected letters. The subtext of homo-eroticism is evident throughout, it was the first of such a full-length book I had read containing those themes, and as with slash before, it appealed to me greatly, and magnified more so as the writing was beautiful.
British rock musicians were my aesthetic role models at the time. Throughout high school, I became progressively more ‘boyish’ in my fashion; skinny ties, jackets, denim, velvet. The suggestive dynamic of Carl Barat and Pete Doherty in the Libertines was quit the inspiration. Again, I tried out writing male/male romance and my terrible stories are still hidden away in a notebook somewhere.
Around 15 and 16, as I had increasing difficulty with netting crushes and getting anywhere relationship-wise, I finally attempted to confront the long-standing gender and orientation issues I had kept in the background. When I was trying to get entangled with people I liked, I felt like I was being somehow dishonest because I would think of myself as being a guy with them, but they would see me as female and, unless I told them, which I didn’t dare do, they would never know how I thought of myself. I still didn’t even fully understand what my mind, and my lusty drive, meant when I figured myself as male within romantic attraction - it just seemed right to me. So, I began to investigate.
Somehow through poking around, I had come across the term transgender. The Wikipedia definition, which is probably where I came across the term in an earlier version of the page, includes the following:
"Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender roles, but combines or moves between these."
"People who were assigned a sex, usually at birth and based on their genitals, but who feel that this is a false or incomplete description of themselves."
I kept coming across accounts of FAAB, but male-identified people who had felt like they had been “born in the wrong body”, which matched how I felt about myself at times. At that point, I had trouble finding, however, stories of people who didn’t have much experience of dysphoria in childhood, or who enjoyed both “masculine” and “feminine” activities when they were children, although I was somewhat reassured to see that the height of gender dysphoria tended to occur around the time of puberty. This is when it became physically and mentally difficult for me to leave the issue of my body and my self-conception aside. As I got older, I felt as though my soul was being squashed by some unseen force. Something was not right.
That feeling is what had led me to the research, but as I went on the similarities to my case and the transgender experiences I was reading about started to fade. I had trouble finding information on trans men who were homosexual (that is, attracted to males; the term in trans communities for male attraction, as I now know, can also be androphilic so as to not reflect back on assigned sex or gender of the person experiencing the attraction). Then, as I read further on, I came to read about the difference and relationship to transgenderism with transsexualism, and information about diagnosis of ”gender identity disorder” and sex reassignment surgery.
The more I read, the more I became apprehensive and confused about how I felt. Why was it not enough to just be okay with being female and a “girl” and attracted to men in a hetrosexual way? I had experienced significant discomfort about my physical form, but thinking about taking hormones or surgery seemed scary to me. Would I be somehow “less trans” if I didn’t want to take these steps? And, as much as I enjoyed boyish styles, I had begun to wear make-up in my later teenage years - which was actually largely due to observing how pretty guy musicians looked in eyeliner! - would allowing myself to be “feminine” contradict my male identity somehow? At this time, I could not find information on trans men who expressed femininity in their appearance aesthetics. I understood that one may have a desire to pass as a man, to be recognized for what one feels on the inside, but…I didn’t revisit any questions about gender until much later because trying to think too much about the meaning of all of that made me deeply upset. I don’t think I even went so far as to wonder about “both”, “neither”, or “something else altogether” possibilities back then.
It was a private struggle. I never felt like I had been purely “socialized” as a girl particularly, and luckily my parents had always been encouraging in my pursuits of talents and hobbies as well as whatever style of dress I had taken to, but…on the inside, something else was going on. I felt a maleness in there somewhere, I just couldn’t figure out what it really meant or what to do. I did contemplate surgeries for awhile, but I got terrified about it whenever I would look up information, thinking “Do I have to do that, to be finally okay in my body?” And SRS in particular seemed to be unsatisfactory for me, personally. Knowing that my notion of being born as a male in physical form from the get-go instead was an impossibility, I had vague notions of suicide. Never any particular plan, but I would sleep excessively during the day and keep myself awake at night with these ponderings about my gender and sexuality, not knowing how to even express what I truly felt in these areas to the outside world. I often would wish as hard as I could that I would go to sleep and wake up in the male body I had envisioned myself in, that I had dreamt about for years, and cry when I woke up and it still wasn’t real. Sometimes I would keep my eyes closed upon waking up, feeling like there was almost an aura of the kind of maleness I wanted around me, a phantom sensation, this “right” body somehow invisibly overlapping my “wrong” physical form.
After high school and failed relationship-seeking, I thoroughly absorbed myself in making electronic music and writing about music. I distracted myself from my gender and orientation-related struggles through pursuing these endeavors that I really enjoyed. I ended up teaching a piano workshop and making a variety of contacts in the music industry through my work on my music blog and my netlabel. I felt relatively happy in life, although unsatisfied in the way of romance. I went a few years without reading anything at all about transgender issues. I read no male/male relationship stories either - I thought I was better off just leaving it out of my mind, as I didn’t know how to solve the dilemma I perceived.
In 2009, I became quite enthused about a band called the Manic Street Preachers. I had heard a couple albums of theirs some years prior, but the release of Journal For Plague Lovers got me interested again, as well as finally watching their music videos and live performances, a few of which feature a heavy dose of ho yay (see also: "Love’s Sweet Exile" and “You Love Us”). I found myself attracted to the idea of two men being flirty and suggestive, yet again letting myself explore these thoughts, and after a long period of not thinking about it at all, again remembered that I thought of myself as a male when being attracted to a guy. I realized this more acutely as I got into reading m/m romance stories again, written by both men and women, and finally finishing my own stories of this nature that I was satisfied with. I felt like reading and writing this kind of literature helped me to express this otherwise repressed, hidden area of myself.
Back to the Manics, it was Nicky Wire’s tendency to dress in skirts, dresses, thigh-highs, wear make-up, and indulge in other “girly” fashion elements that made me more profoundly aware that hey, one’s identity is not negated from incorporating so-called feminine aesthetics at all! I had already increasingly been wearing glittery make-up and skirts. Now I knew that what one wears doesn’t always have to do with gender and sex identities unless you choose to incorporate such symbolism for a reason (or others (mis)perceive these signifiers): presentation is what one makes it.
In 2010, a friend recommended that I read Poppy Z. Brite’s works. I ended up reading at that time on Poppy’s Wikipedia bio: “She self-identifies with gay males but makes no attempt to dress or appear male and does not expect to be referred to as “he”. Brite has written that, while gender theorists like Kate Bornstein would call her a “nonoperative transsexual”, Brite herself would not insist on a pedantic label, writing “I’m just me.” (beginning in 2011, Brite now goes by the name Billy Martin and has begun transition, preferring he/his/him pronouns). There is more on this in Enough Rope which is a short piece about Brite’s own gender-identification issues/experiences, including much which made immediate sense to me when I read it. I was astounded and related so closely with Brite’s identification with gay males and expression via literary work. I was determined to get to the bottom of what this all meant.
I typed in “a gay man trapped in a woman’s body” on Google one night and ended up at the Wiki article on girlfags and guydykes (which has since been deleted). The meaning of “girlfag” is “a biologically female individual who feels a strong romantic or erotic attraction towards gay or bisexual men, or their social environment. A girlfag might partly or wholly feel “like a gay man trapped in a woman’s body”. As girlfags feel a strong attraction to gay men/msm and to male-GBQ culture for its own sake, they have no interest in “turning gay men straight.” That certainly sounded like me. Then, I came to this bit: “most girlfags – by definition – neither feel completely male nor have a desire for sex reassignment therapy”. Hmm…how did I feel about that? I began to ponder. Reading through the girlfags Livejournal community, I found countless stories which were similar to my own, in terms of self-identification and attraction. What I was now questioning was - did I feel part male and part female? Am I so uncomfortable with my body that I still desire to change it, as I did when I was a teenager?
I think that the passage of time and the discovery of identities similar to my own, as well as finally discovering the term genderqueer (through the girlfags Livejournal user info page), allowed me to reevaluate how I felt about my gender, orientation, and physical form. Reading the stories of others, I realized that there is not necessarily going to be single, clear-cut identification in any of those areas; it’s a highly individualized process. I started searching for my definition of myself, while seeking commonalities in the stories of others and in the information on known identities.
Around my first discovery of further gender identities than I had previously been aware, I had taken to describing myself as 80% male-identified and 20% female-identified. What did this even mean?, I thought to myself, is it even psychologically possible to identify with two genders?
I found some ideas that helped me out in the definition of androgyne (again, relying on the Wikipedia before encountering more diverse resources): “Many androgynes identify as being mentally “between” woman and man, or as entirely genderless.” This certainly seems to match up with how I felt about myself as a child. And what about bigender?: “a tendency to move between feminine and masculine gender-typed behaviour depending on context, expressing a distinctly “en femme” persona and a distinctly “en homme” persona, feminine and masculine respectively…While an androgynous person retains the same gender-typed behaviour across situations, the bigendered person consciously or unconsciously changes their gender-role behaviour from primarily masculine to primarily feminine, or vice versa.” I definitely didn’t feel as though I was shifting my gender depending on the situation I found myself in, or if a different mood struck me, but androgyny seemed to hold some validity to me - “an androgyne in terms of gender identity, is a person who does not fit cleanly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles of their society”.
Though not feeling exceptionally masculine or feminine in terms of associated behaviors, I gravitated towards a male identification for myself particularly in terms of being attracted to men from a gay perspective and in feeling as though I would somehow be more “at home” in a body with a flat chest and a penis. It seems as though my male identity would not usurp a sort of androgynous identity until orientation came into question and/or I expressed discomfort over my physical form and felt like a female body was somehow “wrong” for me. The “girlfag” identity expressed my attraction the closest, as I was a FAAB person relating to gay males and attracted to male homosexuality…but just how okay was I with having a female body? I also found that when thinking of myself in gay male terms, I also tended to feminize my appearance, or feel more feminine overall, while at the same time feel male - what did this mean? I wasn’t sure. I went back to research on transgender identity.
Now that I was more determined, less distraught - even excited! - over figuring out my identity, I found more helpful resources in my quest. I found out that there is such an identity as being a feminine trans man (while “femme” can also have different connotations, see also femme_ftm). Although I felt androgynous in regards to my general self-conception, habits, relation to others and so on, in terms of sexuality or expressing myself through my appearance, I felt feminine while male-identified. I also found myself attracted to feminine men as well as of thinking of men in submissive roles sexually, while at the same time seeing myself as dominant. I was increasingly finding terms and communities that gelled with what I had already speculated about myself - I wasn’t alone! Around this time, the self-harm that I had begun in my early teen years had lessened dramatically. I can’t help but make a link between harming and identity frustration, and then the slowing down of harm working in tangent with healthy identity exploration and resolution.
My gender dysphoria has fluctuated so much since my teen years. Part of the help in the drop of these feelings has been in realizing that looking or feeling feminine aesthetically does not have to contradict having a male identity as it is not necessary to always group together the concepts masculine + male + man as an inseparable triad. Is it contradictory to think of myself as an androgynous-leaning-towards male person who questions gender and sex critically, and who is attracted to men in a gay male homosexual frame? I don’t think so.
When I had researched earlier on, I wasn’t sure my level of dysphoria over my body would lend itself at all to the notion of not having surgery, but as I understood myself better, I became more comfortable with myself too in understanding what I want. Although my anatomy frustrates me sometimes, I have found fewer contradictions with my body and my mind over time. I am interested in top surgery because I desire a flat chest for identification and aesthetic reasons and a hysterectomy for both identity and medical health reasons. I am not interested in taking testosterone because I am not able to pick and choose what aspects of it I would want and not want.
If I had been born with the parts I wanted, I think i would be more at ease with my body, but I am confident that I would probably act, dress, socialize, and er, sexualize, the same way as I do in this physical form. I describe myself to others I feel would be understanding and/or benefit from some way in knowing as “an genderqueer pretty boy who likes boys” which is really a much more simplified set of descriptors than I could’ve ever envisioned with all the struggling I went through in my own identity crisis and eventual transformation.
I finally didn’t feel boxed in when I uncovered more information about androgyny, transgender identities) and genderqueer identities and stories from other people of all varieties. I am not merely one identity, in any area of my life: there are a combination factors of what feels right to me. I feel like the communities and resources I’ve mentioned discovering at crucial times in my life have saved my life and shaped it for the better.
In 2010, I moved to San Francisco, as we have extended family here and a place for us opened up. There was not much left for us in our tiny town and I was out of work. I decided to go to City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and took an Intro to LGBT Studies class in my first semester, which I loved. I initially was planning to pursue a journalism degree, but much preferred the required library science class that was part of the program, so I switched my major to Library information Technology instead. In 2011, I took further LGBT Studies department classes to fulfill general education requirements and became aware of the proposal to create an LGBT Studies major at CCSF. My professors were kind, encouraging, and inspiring and I ended up pursuing both library science and LGBT studies as happily as a double major.
I easily saw connections between gender and sexuality and the library world. It is often necessary to research communities, words, and history and use tools to explore ourselves and one another to understand gender and sexuality better. The library at CCSF, particularly checking out PoMoSexuals and My Gender Workbook, and the San Francisco Public Library system were important portals for learning about myself and these topics. I used what I learned from classes about internet research and assignments for compiling annotated bibliographies to fuel the work on Genderqueer Identities when the site grew from a place to host my genderqueer flag design to a hub to store everything I was gathering about gender everyday. The backbone of many of the site’s pages is built off my genderqueer history and identities final project for an LGBT American History class in spring of 2011.
I also interviewed Carol Queen (editor of the aforementioned PoMoSexuals) at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco for another assignment in that same LGBT American History class. The Center for Sex and Culture had just moved into its new space and I was intrigued by it, only being aware of Queen’s writings and knowing nothing about the space.
That summer, after I had participated in a Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative workshop I was determined to find internship or work opportunities. I remembered the Center again and looked at their website for internship opportunities. I noticed that they had a library and archive and contacted their librarian immediately with an interest in helping out. She sent back a reply and noted that the library was in the process of being unpacked and that help would very much be appreciated. I started right away, working with shelving the books and posting on CSC’s social networks. It was absolutely wonderful to be working with gender and sexuality materials and posting about events and topics of interest in the Bay Area. I felt like I was, at last, in a real-world space, other than my recent academics, where I could express my identity and feel at home. I worked on creating the Center’s Goodreads profile and populating it with thousands of books and managed several different social media platforms. Later that year, I also interned with the documentary project [SSEX BBBOX] - which I also found out about through CSC - to assist with social media and grant-writing.
I moved on to the positions of library tech and webmaster at Center for Sex and Culture in 2012 and in spring 2013 trained several interns to fill my social media posting and webmaster roles after stepping down my activity to focus on graduating from City College. Currently, I continue to curate material for the CSC Tumblr and monitor the social media accounts as Media Director, on the Board of Directors of the Center for Sex and Culture as of spring 2014. I currently work for Modern Times Bookstore Collective part-time and hope to transfer to a university in the fall to continue working on gender and sexuality studies.
Finally, I must add a few words to romance and sex experienced as a genderqueer person. I met my first boyfriend, Brian, in 2010, just as I had been starting college, through OkCupid. A friend had created a joke account and thought it would be funny if I did too. I started an account…then I decided to make it a serious one. Since I understood myself more, I felt better equipped to seek out partners. I ended up spending 3 1/2 years with one of the first people to contact me on OKC. We bonded through a mutual interest in a favorite video game, Final Fantasy VIII. He was curious, but respectful about my identity - which I detailed in my profile - and ended up coming to see himself as heteroflexible as time went on, because of his repeated pattern of attraction to androgynous and non-binary people. There are more details about our relationship here.
My relationship with Brian ended in February of 2014. I had recently opened our relationship, not at all out of dissatisfaction with him, but because I longed to share affection and sexual experiences with gay and bisexual men and other genderqueer people. I also had recently realized I was attracted to some women and was curious to explore that. Brian was very understanding about all this, although it was distressing for him at times as well, not so much because of my own surprising successes in this area, but because of other events in his life that were dissatisfactory and stressful that he needed to devote attention to. It began to seem more and more clear that we were not ideally compatible in terms of sexuality even if we were very compatible as friends, so we decided to break off our relationship. It came as a big surprise to everyone who knew us, as well as to ourselves, but it was the right thing to do. Some people may blame the open relationship situation for ruining our relationship, but I say that it would be better to find out about our incompatibility now rather than many, many years down the road, and still retain our friendship instead of everything we’ve built and becoming bitter. As of January 2014, I am in a long-distance open relationship with a gay androgynous boy who I love very much.
Understanding oneself isn’t a process that really ‘ends’ and requires searching within oneself and making links with similarities in the stories of others and in other ideas. I had long gravitated towards male/male relationships in literature, music, and in thinking of myself in that dynamic. No one medium ‘turned’ me to thinking that way - it just made it easier for me to reach in and grab, so to speak, a possibility that, for whatever, reason, felt right to me. I surely still have further discoveries yet to make. My personal work in trying to figure out how to describe myself has lead me to pursue queer studies academically and build this site, Genderqueer Identities.
You have your own unique combination of factors shaping your own unique identity: you may feel that you’re all sorted out, or you may still have some exploring to do, both are okay. I hope that the resources here at Genderqueer and Non-Binary Identities will be of help to you.