I need to begin by saying Mum, if you’re reading this, I want you to try and stick with it until the end. I know that some of this will make you uncomfortable and there are parts, which you’d rather I didn’t mention but it will get better. I promise.
As far back as I can remember I’ve always identified as being genderless. Now this isn’t to say as a young child I understood the concepts of gender, I just knew I did not want to be any of the things my mother so desperately wanted me to be. I was not interested in wearing a dress, putting on makeup, sitting quietly and politely. I wanted to climb trees, play with my brothers and give a big ‘fuck you!’ to the boys at school that thought I couldn’t play with them because I was a ‘girl’.
My childhood was filled with endless amounts of confusion. Confusion, that my rejection of certain things, would make my mother respond with such violence, anger and embarrassment. It made no sense to me when I was in no way trying to be disobedient or misbehave but be what I thought was my authentic self.
It wasn’t until my late teens that I really began to understand the complexities of gender. My eldest brother showed me a quote from a subject he had been studying at University which read ‘One is not born but rather becomes a woman’. We spoke about it for hours and we discussed all the damaging stereotypes society puts on gender. I later revisited the same quote at University, while studying the Philosophy of Freedom, it was then that I really understood that gender was non physical. That no one could tell you your gender but you.
At the same time, I was studying the Philosophy of Language, which made me realise the importance of the words that I used. I knew from then on, I would not shy away when speaking about gender. I see the way in which society teaches people to think about gender and all the misconceptions people have. I see the way in which I am received by the world and I want to try and clear up some of the misconceptions I receive on a day-to-day basis.
First, when I tell someone that I am genderless, I’m usually questioned with ‘What, you want to be a boy?’ To which I respond that gender is non-binary. It is an endless spectrum. People do not fall under one or the other. I’m then questioned with ‘What’s wrong with being a girl?’ To which I respond nothing, I am just not one. Try to imagine that you are a male and you identify as being a boy. But everyone you know and the world constantly calls you a girl, even if you tell them you’re not. There would be the biggest part of you that would want to scream ‘I am not a fucken girl!’ And it isn’t because there’s anything wrong with being a girl, it’s just because you are not one.
I find one of the biggest misconceptions is that people connect sex, sexuality and gender as being one of the same. People will often ask if I wish I was born a male, which I have to explain that sex and gender are two different things. Sometimes they both align and sometimes they don’t. For me I am genderless but I am completely in love with my female body. It’s the same for sexuality and gender, they are two separate things. Some people assume because most of the the time I appear to be ‘boyish’ that I must be attracted to women. To which I will say I am very much attracted to men, in particular one very hairy, small, spanish man who can play the guitar like a king and has a heart as big as the universe.
The final comment I often receive is that I talk about gender too much and that its really not a huge deal. To me it seems nonsensical for someone who is genderless to think about gender so much but in a world where from the moment you are born you are told how you should be you are forced to think about it. This issue is part of a bigger issue. The way in which society is so caught up in telling people how they should be in the world.
Now to the part where I thank my mother. My mother has taught me two of the most important lessons in my life. The first lesson is how to find strength in authenticity. In a backwards kind of a way, she taught me to always be authentic. She taught me very early on to question everything and not allow anyone to tell me who I was, not even her. I would find myself, as a 10 year old kid, playing a game of chicken in the school yard. The aim was to stand your ground as a bunch of young boys came charging at you. As a mean, energy filled boy smashed into me, determined to knock me down I stood still. He fell backwards, shocked and although my body felt like it was breaking I didn’t move. I remember feeling like a super hero. I understood the strength of my body and I thought to myself if I have to go in to battle everyday with my mother, then anyone else or anything else I had to face was nothing.
The second and most important lesson she taught me was the ability for people to change. I remember the day that I met my mother. I knew her from birth but I remember the day I truly met her, when I realised she was not just my mother but this individual person that was going through life the same way I was. I was 16 years old, asleep on the couch outside her bedroom and I heard her crying on the phone. The person on the other end is not worth mentioning but I remember hearing the struggle and the sadness in my mothers voice. I suddenly began to see her, the way that she was raised, the things that society had taught her. The restrictions and the expectations that she was told that she had to live up to. Although they were different from the expectations she put on me they were her own struggles.
It was from the moment on that I saw her begin to change and grow. I saw this weight of anger and unhappiness, which was present most of my childhood, lift from her shoulders. She began to live in a way in which she wanted, she became extremely wise and she would giggle all the time. We became friends and we were able to discuss everything together. Although we are completely different people and she doesn’t always understand or agree with what I do, I can now see that under it all is love. That she is living her authentic self. I feel an overwhelming sense of pride for my mother and I now feel it wrong to introduce her as such. That its this completely selfish way of me presenting her to the world. I should be saying that this is a women who is strong, a women who is wise, a women who loves and has greatness and a women who I am lucky enough to call her my mother.
From the age of 18 I’ve been covering myself in tattoos. I have 5 portraits of my heroes and the people who inspire me the most. The one of my mother is by far the most important. If I told my younger self that one day I would have a tattoo of my mother on me I would not have believed it. But to my younger self I want to say this. There will be a day when you will understand your mother and she will understand you. She will love you deeply and you will feel it and will give you strength in everything you do.
So finally I want to say to my mother, my teacher, thank you.