Recently I can’t stop thinking about this theory proposed by people concerned with what gets called sex-based gender that there are certain experiences that confirm womanhood: amongst others periods and pregnancy.
I’ve been trying to find the best way to describe my confusion and frustration at this flimsy argument since the first time I was faced with being in a public toilet with a woman who is wondering if I’m in the right place on a day when I’d gone in to empty my moon cup.
I remember a time I was taken by surprise by my incredibly irregular cycle.
I was wearing an old pair of boxer shorts, really stretched out. I had toilet roll wrapped around the crotch the best I could, and the shorts rolled up so I could get the makeshift sanitary towel as close to my bleeding vagina as possible.
It was my first day on a new job when I asked the room of women I’d just meet if anyone had a spare tampon. They looked at each other, perplexed, and I inferred that they hadn’t previously thought I had periods. This experience did not make me feel part of a sisterhood.
A while ago I had a nonviable pregnancy, and it was decided it was better to abort than to wait for a miscarriage.
You can bleed a lot after an abortion and you’re not meant to put anything inside you so I set out to buy sanitary towel and appropriate underwear. This means going into the female section of the shop where I do not feel at ease and having to navigate a sizing system that I am no longer familiar with.
I felt incredibly uncomfortable standing in the lingerie department, looking around getting angry at what was on offer for me, angry at having to be in there, that I couldn’t wear the clothes I felt myself in. The same anger I feel when getting my breasts measured so I know what binder to buy and having to listen to the sales assistant trying to sell me products to exenterate the body parts I’m so eager to flatten.
How can these biological similarities be the binding force in deciding gender when they make me feel so unwelcome?
I now do have a viable pregnancy. I’ve had it for almost six months, and I am incredibly happy about it.
It does not make me feel more like a woman.
There are a few months of pregnancy before you start showing and a bit extra if the clothes you wear don’t show your body shape.
I’ve been scanned from head to foot by the underground staff when I requested my Baby on Board badge, been quizzed by security on the hospital door as to why I’m going to the maternity ward.
I don’t expect people to read me as a woman. I don’t feel much like a woman and none of my fashion choices are sold as women’s things. I’m not blaming people for confusion over my gender: I have had confusion over my gender for as long as I can remember. In fact, I find in confirming.
I know cis-gendered woman that dress as masculine as me.
I know its not the clothes and the hair cut that make me nonbinary.
But I do enjoy having my gender ambiguity reflected on the outside.
The last time someone called me sir was at 16 weeks, now I’m 23 weeks.
I’m a much more confusing image at the moment for some people, I can feel a shift in the type of looks I get.
I now have massive breasts, heavy things that get incredibly sweaty underneath. I’m not binding cos I’m invested in the milk ducts growing properly as I’m hoping to breastfeed.
I can see their use, be happy about it even, but bloody hell they’re doing my head in, just being there, huge on my body.
It took me until I was well into my 30s to really appreciate the binder, mainly because of internalised transphobia. I’ve never worn one every day, but I get a great self-assuring contentment from flattening my chest and this is something I am missing massively at the moment. I’ve never fantasised more about top surgery. I think when I do finally get it done, I’ll wear a string vest to trans pride, I might even get my first tattoo around the scars.
It hadn’t fully occurred to me whilst I was trying to get pregnant how much I would miss my passing privileges. I am so lucky that I have a friend who can cut hair because I don’t want to go to the barbers now I’m showing.
I’m pretty sure my barbers aren’t that bothered by the gender of a person who wants a standard clipper cut.
That’s not my worry exactly.
What the barbers is to me is a place where I am accepted as male, we don’t talk much in there and I don’t tell anyone my name is Lucy. I don’t say anything that alludes to me not being a man and I wear a binder. I watch the men get wet shaves, and I revel in being accepted into a masculine environment.
Of course trans men can get pregnant, but that’s not a conversation I want to have in the barber shop. I just want a place I can go where I can indulge my masculinity, fit in and not rock the boat just for a short while every few weeks.
I don’t know exactly what the men in the barbers think of me. I don’t know if they assume I was assigned male at birth, but I know I get treated like a man when I’m there.
I sometimes wonder if my insistence on keeping my wispy chin hairs makes people think I’ve just started taking testosterone, but then I don’t know how much the bloke cutting my hair knows about hormone replacement therapy anyway.
As well as underestimating how much I’d miss my usual ability to slide through different genders for different situations, I’ve also discovered my discomfort in most people’s first question: do I know the baby’s sex yet?
There were a few weeks at the beginning of the pregnancy when I started to think about gender in a very binary way.
After the long process of trying to get pregnant had finally paid off, I had an overwhelming feeling of it all being very real. Lots of questions about the sort of parent I will be and how I would cope with different situations flowed through my mind and things I had previously been able to consider calmly rattled through my brain at a hurtling speed.
I started worrying about having to choose clothes for a little girl. It crossed my mind that I would get to watch Marvel films with them if they were a boy.
This didn’t reflect the way I think about gender generally. So when this short phase passed, and I started to enjoy imagining welcoming a baby into the world that could grow into any kind of human, I didn’t want to do anything to bring back those thoughts. At that point, I made a firm decision not to be told a sex for the baby at my five-month scan.
I think the reason I momentarily got caught up with the importance of the baby’s gender is because it’s so important to the prevailing status quo.
I’ve been getting a loud and clear message that what people are most concerned with is what sex revealing body parts can be seen on a scan and what fundamental truths about the child’s nature we can assume from that.
Everyone seems to have their own theory on the difference between boys and girls, based on a sample size of the children in their own family.
But I thought we had moved on somewhat. I know there’s a lot of people having trouble dropping the concept of the gender binary but I at least thought we put less pressure on girls and boys to live up to old stereotypes.
The disparity between people’s preoccupation and my indifference to the perceived sex of the unborn child is making me feel very different from the mainly cis gender world I inhabit.
I suppose I have always known that people like to know a sex of the foetuses. I think what I’m coming to realise is how little I want to know.
Its making me mull over the effect that being assigned female at birth has had on my life.
Having the label of “girl” was frustrating for me as a child, it meant I had to argue and fight to do the things I wanted and living as a woman has never fit right with me.
It’s also making me consider that my gender ambiguity informs my understanding of gender and its fluidity to a greater extent than I had previously imagined and the page I’m on is in fact in a completely different book to many people I encounter daily.
I’m starting to think maybe it should have been obvious to me that cis gendered people care about the sex of an infant because they are happy to live with the sex they were assigned.
But this doesn’t fit right with me.
Because I feel cis gender people will mostly still have a gripe or two about the perceived ideas of their gender, and therefore themselves.
Things they don’t live up to.
I’m finding the whole thing very confusing and othering.
And I’m wondering if I will continue to be able to fully think of my child as someone that could grow up to be anything after I have seen their genitals.
The featured image is a still from Lucy Hutson’s animation in my back pocket.