Queer it Up! Labels and Gender Identities

By Kopyrh S

My name is Kopyrh, it’s pronounced like the metal, Copper. I am a queer New Yorker in Beijing, and I am married to a handsome, intelligent, caring, queer ally.

What’s in an identity anyway?

Queer is a blanket term for a huge group of people that don’t fit into traditional labels of sexual or romantic attraction, and/or gender roles. So naturally, as a large and diverse group of beautiful people, we need a shit-ton of labels to accurately define ourselves. Some people like them, some don’t; I think the most important part is that we all get to be honest and make decisions for ourselves.

I personally like having some labels, to make it easier to explain to others. But I wouldn’t let a label get in the way of how I feel. Labels are tools. Not everyone knows every label, but that’s why it helps to know how you feel, so you can describe it. So when I say that I’m gender fluid, some people may have never heard of it, and I’ll say “Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, my gender identity changes frequently; sometimes its more masculine, other times its more feminine, sometimes neither, or somewhere in between.

“Understand this if you understand nothing: it is a powerful thing to be seen”
― Akwaeke Emezi, Freshwater

The masculine and the feminine are called the binary because they are the two options presented to us by a heavily gender-role-centric global culture. But more people than you may realize live outside or in flux between the two.

My pronouns are a funny subject: I’m most comfortable with he/him or they/them. But my masochistic self never actually tells anyone that fact, and instead lets everyone use she/her pronouns because it’s less confusing for them. But to be honest that doesn’t bother me.

The most bothersome thing for me is when people call me a woman or a girl. “I’m not a woman” is something I am not afraid to say to friends or strangers who make this mistake, usually met with silence and followed by absolutely no explanation. People are welcome to ask for an explanation, but perhaps surprisingly, most don’t.

Imposter syndrome: How do you know?

“The world in my head has been far more real than the one outside—maybe that’s the exact definition of madness, come to think of it.”
― Akwaeke Emezi, Freshwater

I think most genderqueer people experience some amount of imposter syndrome – that little (or annoyingly large) voice at the back of your head that says “How do you know you’re not making it all up for attention?” Then add the fact that society heavily genders everything, from colors to shampoo to socks, and ignores the possibility of alternatives. I have spent more time thinking about my gender identity than I could ever calculate. And although I didn’t realize what it was, I’ve always been this way, I have always been incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of being “female”.

I remember ogling breasts as a child, and then vehemently objecting when anyone would suggest that one day I might grow a pair of my own. After I got my first period, I was in denial. I managed two months before I finally admitted to my mother that I had gotten my period and needed pads.

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At times when I look in the mirror, all I can see is a man’s face clumsily pasted on the neck and body of a stranger. Sure, many people struggle with their body image, and there are plenty of days when I enjoy showing off my figure. But after the makeup comes off, and the hair comes down, there he is. Staring from the other side of the mirror, an unavoidable truth that something is missing, hiding inside, waiting patiently for their turn.

I try to live my life by the principle that if I know who I am, the perception of others shouldn’t matter to me. It’s a difficult one. And I can’t say that I always succeed in not caring. In a way, we are all guilty of caring too much. Hoping to be seen a certain way, perhaps hoping to be seen as our most authentic selves, and for some of us we might still be figuring out who exactly we are. And while that’s fine, it’s important to me that I am certain I know more about myself and who I am than any other person does. Even my husband, as close and loving and communicative as we are, does not know my feelings better than I do. In the same way, I could never honestly walk a day in his shoes.

People can doubt something about you, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. You should not define yourself by how others see you.

How do people see my relationship?

“The first step to seeing is seeing that there are things you do not see.”
― Akwaeke Emezi, Pet

It’s super easy to look at people or situations and make assumptions. Sometimes your assumptions will even be right. But my father told me “When you assume, you make an ass out of ‘u’ and me.”

We look like your average heteronormative couple. He doesn’t just see my body, he sees the inside and understands who I actually am, rather than the persona put on for appearances. He’s told me at times that he can see my male face. He doesn’t always see the female version of me, and he loves all of me. Having him say that to me, and knowing that it’s true, that’s the most important thing to me. That’s one of the reasons I know we’re perfect for each other. We see beyond the outer shells. It’s something deeper than personality, it’s respect and trust and care.

My mind is my own. My body wasn’t one I picked, but one that I’ve tried my best to take care of. My relationship is deeper than labels. And I refuse to let other people’s uninformed opinions affect my thoughts and choices.

Photos: Unsplash

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