IN RESPONSE to a post I shared recently from my blog archive, ‘I am what I am’ – A reflection on identity, Claire, a member of the Open Table ecumenical Christian worship community for LGBTQIA+ Christians in Liverpool, wrote this response which I am happy to share:
When I think about my identity, I often remember a dream I had when I was a teenager in which I was faced with the choice of which toilet to use: the men’s or the women’s. I found it really hard to choose but, in the end, I chose the men’s.
The reason why I remember this dream is that it is analogous with my life: When presented with the binary choice of man or woman, I find it really hard to choose. For 38 years of my life I chose to present as a man. Then, seeking a more comfortable wrapper, I chose to present as a woman. However, in truth, I’ve not felt entirely comfortable presenting as either, for both male and female wrappers disguise what’s inside. But I don’t exactly know what that is because it fluctuates. Some days I feel ‘butch’ and some days I feel I will simply go insane if I don’t embrace my ‘femme’ side! But never ever am I comfortable being identified as a woman or a man. I am something else. But what?
The term I embrace is ‘genderqueer’. In my instance, ‘genderqueer’ should be understood to mean ‘I don’t know and I’ve given up trying to work it out’. So becoming comfortable with my gender identity has meant becoming comfortable with being an unknown… especially to myself.
Yet, an unknown is not how I present myself. I present myself as a woman. The reason why is simply because, for decades, it has been ingrained in me that society does not like unknowns. It likes things it can identify and put a label on. So, acting out of fear of reprisal, for 364 days of the year – confronted with the understood, binary, choice and feeling more at odds with ‘man’ than ‘woman’ – I opt for ‘woman’.
However, there is one remaining day of the year on which I feel able to embrace the third choice: ‘None of the above’. That day is Pride, on which day I grasp the opportunity to explore what presenting as an ‘out’ genderqueer person means to me.
However, not even Pride has been devoid of fear. I was fearful of being seen by my neighbours as I left the house, fearful of the judgement and laughter that might greet me as I journeyed on the train into Liverpool, and fearful that my friends might reject me. None of it happened and yet I still go back ‘in the closet’ for the other 364 days of the year. It just leaves me wishing I had more courage than I do.
Not that I wish to wear my Pride costume all year round – the laundry alone would make it impractical! But being limited to one day a year means that I do not seek a more practical, everyday, solution. Yet I know in my heart that living such a limited life – in fear – does me no favours. That is why the song ‘I Am What I Am’, that Kieran mentions in his blog, gets to me. As the lyrics state,
‘Life’s not worth a damn til you can say “Hey world, I am what I am!”‘
Kieran ends his blog post with the question ‘Who does God say you are?’.
It got me pondering. Does God speak to me? Do I hear God’s voice saying I am one thing or another. Well, no. Not in the conventional sense of human speech. But, of course, God is not human. For me, God is the creator and essence of life. So, in identifying that voice, that is both my creator and my life essence, I have been able to answer Kieran’s question and, in that answer, find strength.
Not only do I recognise who I am but I also know this is the person I was created to be. Without wishing to sound like an egomaniac, I feel that God is not so much by my side, cheering me on but within me, pushing me forwards.