Two years ago, I discovered the label “genderfluid” and had an epiphany. It was the word for which I’d had a vague definition for a while, but now I had a real term I could point at and say, “That’s me.” It was a really powerful moment for me.
Last year, I wrote a blog post where I deconstructed a few labels that share similarities with genderfluid. Those being cross-dressing, drag, kink, and transgenderism. I wasn’t just defining them for my audience, but for myself.
I’d like to revisit those definitions and expand on them after another year of growth and understanding. Please keep in mind, this is how I define these labels as they pertain to me.
This is how I first came to express my genderfluidity. Being DMAB (designated male at birth), dressing in clothing sold on the girls’ side of the store was always taboo and risky. But it often felt more normal and appropriate. I think I recognized this even as a little kid playing dress-up with my best girl friend because I’d hate to stop wearing one of her mom’s slips as a dress and put my boy clothes back on when it was time to go home. I see cross-dressing now as my gateway to understanding myself. It started here, with the clothing that makes me appear female, but it doesn’t end here.
With wearing clothes designated for females comes an inevitable question of how far I’m going to take it or how much I’m going to wear. I see drag as a much bigger step than I want to take. Right now, for me, I don’t feel the need to wear bras and fill the cups with silicone breast forms, nor do I feel I should tuck away anything between my legs to hide any evidence. I might “pass” for a woman, but it’s not necessarily my goal. And while not all people who dress in drag are trying to “pass,” they do seem to me to have one very big thing in common: performance. Big personalities and a spotlight so they can be seen. That’s not me. I’m trying to express myself, but I don’t want that much attention. While I don’t mind if someone sees my cross-dressing expression of genderfluidity and calls it drag, I don’t call it that.
Wearing lingerie feels sexy and I know I express that feeling when I’m wearing it. My husband likes to play a guessing game sometimes about what I underclothes I’m wearing at any given time, and he’s hardly ever wrong. (He sometimes guesses panties when it’s really a jock, which, for me, is equally sexy for the same reasons on different days.) But that’s the extent of the kinkiness associated with what I wear. What I know about the kink of men wearing lingerie seems to circle around humiliation. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m not, but I definitely don’t put these clothes on, apply makeup, or do my hair so I can feel worse about myself. Doing these things makes me feel better. If there’s a kink at all, it’s in being desired for how I look.
Last year, I gave serious thought to whether I suffered any gender dysphoria as a way to determine if I was interested in transitioning. I figured that, if I felt wrong in my body, then that would be the big tip-off. But there’s nothing that exercise or a good pair of heels won’t let me fix about my body. I don’t feel I would be better, more comfortable in my skin, if I didn’t have a penis or did have breasts. This body is the one I want to have. I understand and accept that some people, especially trans identifying people, will want to know if I’m sure. They’ve said themselves that they’d be happy to help me figure myself out. I think that’s awesome, but transitioning is not for me. I can say that, after a couple years of getting more and more comfortable expressing myself through outward appearance, that I find more comfort and solidarity with trans people than any other group. All kinds of men have issues with me, and I even know some effeminate gay men who say “I take things too far” and make us all look bad. How I present myself isn’t a statement about my sexuality; it’s one about my gender.
The label genderfluid covers those who feel like both or neither binary gender (male or female). As an umbrella term, it seems really open to interpretation by anyone who wants to define it. Like sexuality, think of gender as being on a sliding scale. Some people stay in the center and some flow from one side to the other. It could be because of more conscious choices like when doing an activity or far more unconscious and for no discernable reason. For me, and in the last few months, I’ve found myself living more androgynously. There have been very few times when I’ve felt myself near the ends of the scale. My clothing might be jeans and a t-shirt, but I wear some makeup and heels. Or a dress and no makeup. I’m sure it’s confusing for people who don’t know me, but I’m getting more comfortable with just being me and not worrying about the opinions of strangers. I will say that I’m no clearer on how to label my gender and my sexuality together. Wading into that always leaves me scratching my head and giving up. Right now, genderfluid for me seems to hover near gender-neutral or maybe a third gender of both male and female. And I’m married to a man who’s bisexual. So are we a straight couple when I’m wearing a dress, but a gay one when I’m in jeans? Or are we gay only if you notice my adam’s apple? The last time someone asked me if I was gay after I helped them learn about genderfluidity, I shrugged, pointed at my husband, and said, “I’m with him.” It’s just simpler that way. But I still don’t feel any need to pile on labels until it makes sense to everyone. I’m grateful for the ones I can claim, so thrilled people are making an effort to learn about them at all, and I’m perfectly willing to let myself and the words evolve as new ideas form in the years to come.
About Thorny Sterling
In 2010, with the encouragement of his blog followers, Thorny Sterling wrote his email address on the back of a receipt and gave it to a returning customer who’d caught his eye. One email and a four-hour phone call later, their fates were sealed. Thorny and his husband Jazz have been together ever since. On his blog, Thorny writes about daily life as a twenty-something gay genderfluid who attends college in Ohio. In his free time, Thorny paints both digitally and in acrylics and writes gay (M/M) romantic fiction. In the summer of 2014, Thorny published his first novel while also taking steps to sell his artwork online. He often donates a portion of his profits from art sales to various LGBT equality and military support charities. Someday soon, Thorny hopes to become a teacher and legally marry his husband.
Visit Thorny Online
Waking up in a strange place isn’t a first for model and actor Allan Seville, but discovering himself alone and bound to a rough plank in the middle of an open Texas range certainly is. With no memory of who did this to him or why, panic sets in, until rescue comes riding up on a big, brown horse. There’s more to Duke Walters than a handsome face and sexy drawl. In the arms of this rugged cowboy, Al discovers a peace and safety he never knew he needed, and now doesn’t want to be without. But someone wants Al out of the way and drugging him during a movie junket in Houston is only the beginning. A world of differences may separate this cowboy and diva, but when danger strikes again, Duke might be the only one who can get them out alive.