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The Fairtytale of a Gender Non-Conforming Dyke Deconditioning Identity, and Claiming A Space Within It

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The word identity does not reach my ear without bringing its baggage. It nestles in for a long trip behind me. I can feel it breathing down my neck, waiting for me to acknowledge it.

 

Sometimes, identity is an unwanted guest.

 

Often, in spaces that I create and in social circles that I frequent, I find myself having to explain who I am. Considering the stares I receive or the slurs that have been hurled at me, it is evident that I am Black and of the LGBTQIA+ Community. What is not apparent, and seemingly never will be, is the identity in which I associate with. I will admit, since coming out, I’ve switched letters a few times.

 

It isn’t because I’m trying to confuse people, or even myself. I’ve been trying to find the right label in which to identify. When I came out as Lesbian, I knew nothing about a spectrum or nuance. The only thing considered was what society taught me.

 

A lesbian was a [cis]Womxn who liked [cis]Womxn and that was the end of that. I played this forced role very well. However, deep down inside, I knew this role wasn’t for me.

 

What was never considered were folks like me.

 

Folks who actively participated in this public shaming, who would later find they weren’t Lesbian at all.

 

Since childhood, I’ve been a more masculine being. It was natural at 16 to identify with the masculine of center Lesbians I saw in my neighborhoods in East Atlanta or on the internet (thank Gawd for MySpace).

 

“STUDS” they called us, usually Black or Brown.

 

We’d have our hair cut or sport cornrows or locs. We would wear Men’s* clothes and the freshest sneakers. We’d also have misogyny and judgment for those who didn’t identify the way we thought they should.

 

“No S4S,” (stud for stud) written all over the chatrooms. “Ew, you’re S4S?! Might as well just date a man!” We would say this as if the shame we caused could transport them to a place where we would never see them again. Sometimes, it did.

 

It was commonplace to make fun of people who expressed their Lesbianism differently than the heteronormative gender roles we thought were acceptable.

 

What was never considered were folks like me.

 

Folks who actively participated in this public shaming, who would later find they weren’t Lesbian at all.

 

I came out as Gender Non-Conforming in 2016. It was undoubtedly one of the most confusing times of my life. The most painful moments of that time were the instances where people would still read me as a Womxn or use SHE/HER pronouns.

 

“It’s not their fault,” I’d say. I made up excuses when someone would misgender me. In the coming months I realized that without binding my chest or beginning hormone therapy (and even then), I would still be socialized as female and labeled as my previous identity —Lesbian.

 

Consistently, I would be invited to Lesbian events. On dating websites, there weren’t many identifying options to pick from. Even in making new friends or looking for resources, I couldn’t find many that were catered towards Black, Gender Non-Conforming folks. I’m  sure in areas where LGBTQIA+ organizations and resources were less abundant, the pickings were more scarce. At the time, it seemed the only way I felt I could stay safe in public, active in the community, have a social life, or have romantic/sexual relationships was to continue identifying as Lesbian. I was feeling frustrated and alone, and I felt like I needed to separate myself. I didn’t want to, but I thought I had to.  

 

Like most people my age, I took to social media to find solace. Twitter was my favorite site. I remember a sub-section of Black Twitter emerging on my timeline: #DykeTwitter.  It was liberating seeing people who looked like me and shared similar social experiences from all over the country. I remember wondering why the word Dyke was being embraced, thinking to myself “Isn’t Dyke a slur?”

 

Quickly, I understood that people can reclaim what they want if it applies. And even though I knew I was no longer identifying as a Womxn, I was finding comfort in the ways Dyke Twitter was applying to me.

 

To me, being as Dyke  means more than just Identifying as a Womxn who loves Womxn. Being a Dyke is acknowledging my life experience and the way I’ll likely be socialized for the remainder of it. I don’t get to choose how people view me, and they’ll either understand or they won’t.

 

I am not interested in disassociating myself from my previous Lesbian identity, it helped make me who I am today. However, as far as identities go, I am GNC and I am also a Dyke. They are both woven into the complex fabric that is my being.

 

Identity is an ongoing journey. It changes as language does. It shifts when the wind gently moves you toward a path of liberation.

 

Now, I’d like to scream from the heavens about the self-fulfillment and real Joy I found after realizing I don’t have to choose anything but myself.

 

The Fairtytale of a Gender Non-Conforming Dyke Deconditioning Identity, and Claiming A Space Within It">
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