It’s odd that it took a Facebook update for me to find this one. I was scrolling through lists of the available options in the new “custom” gender box when I saw it. Gender Nonconforming. Well, what the heck is that, I thought? Once I went and looked it up, I realized that once again I had discovered a label for myself that I didn’t even know existed, yet which somehow fills a void.
A little background for those still learning about these terms, from my understanding of them: Sex is the biological and/or physical sex of a person. Genitalia and genetics are the determining factors here. Gender is more of a social construct, and encompasses how a person thinks of themselves and how they express themselves to others. A person can have one physical sex but feel they have a different gender, making them transgendered.
Facebook’s new gender options are much bigger than this, of course. They include terms like cisgendered, where a person’s internal gender matches their physical sex, intersex for those who feel in between or whose bodies are not clearly defined, androgynous and agender for those who feel their internal gender is not clearly defined, and many more. I’ve been hearing and learning about these terms for years, but I imagine the influx of options might be confusing to some.
Then there’s me. My sex is female, from my head to my toes. My gender is also female. I love being a woman, physically. I feel at home in my body, with all its luscious curves, and I revel in its sexuality and power. I have loved the ability to give birth and nurse my babies, and I wish I could do it more. There is no dysphoria here whatsoever.
Social expectations are another matter entirely. I have felt disjointed and disconnected from other women since I was a teenager, maybe longer. I see “American woman” as this thing that I just don’t understand or identify with. Major plot points in movies and books that revolve around typical female behavior are a source of frustration. I could offer some pretty superficial examples, such as not getting the concept of name-brand purses and matching shoes, not being interested in painful clothing and footwear for the sake of fashion (or, really, the whole concept of “fashionable”). It goes beyond that, though. It gets into the way I feel more comfortable around boys and men, in general, than I do around women. The way I would prefer to build visible muscles than try to sculpt away visible fat. The way I feel more comfortable in a frakking topless bar than I do at a Tupperware party. The way I am more likely to identify with butch and tomboy characters in film and literature than the femme ones. The way all-female groups tend to violently reject me, as though I am some kind of infectious virus in their midst.
I’ve toyed with the idea of identifying as butch in the past, but ultimately I don’t think that’s where I belong, either. I have too much swish. I love long hair and softness and long skirts. I may prefer using pockets to a purse, but I’m always thinking of ways to attach those pockets to a skirt instead of relying on jeans. I may prefer boots or sneakers to heels and ballet slippers, but I tend to pair them with skirts and tunics and ruffles. I’m more likely to be submissive than dominant in any given relationship (and boy does that make things interesting when I get paired up with another sub!).
Then along comes this new (to me) term: Nonconforming. That’s what I’m looking for! It’s like being handed the term bisexual was when I was 22 years old. There’s a name for that? Wow! It gives me a nice little bench to sit on, where I don’t have to be boxed in with anybody I don’t fully identify with. It gives me a little esteem boost, takes away some of that “I don’t belong anywhere” feeling. It neatly encapsulates the way I am a female, the way I feel comfortable physically as a woman, but I don’t always feel comfortable with other women. Nonconforming.