by Riley Iles

I stopped being a girl when I was 12. That’s not quite true – I was never a girl, but it was during secondary school when that became a conscious fact to me. I picked out a boy’s name, changed my pronouns, and told my closest friends during a sleepover. Then I went to Starbucks the next day, told the barista my new, cool boys name, and got a dirty and confused look in response. I quickly went back to being a girl after that.

Working out that I’m transgender wasn’t as simple as I could have hoped. In total, it took about four years for me to accept the transness, and a further 3 years for me to accept that I’m nonbinary; I reject gender, refuse to participate, and just wish to live my life as far away from the patriarchy, pink, and anything remotely girly as possible.

A lot of transgender people I’ve met and spoken to who were also socialised as girls, rather than boys, relate to this experience – a hard push against everything you’ve ever been taught about what is expected of you, ranging from what you should wear, like, say and do seems like a fairly valid response to the epiphany that your sex assigned at birth doesn’t match what your mind is telling you.

Some people call that internalised misogyny. Until more recently when I am admittedly comfortable to confess, I rejected the idea that how was feeling was anywhere near that. But, on reflection, a big part of my transition as a nonbinary person needed to be addressing that misogyny, and rebuilding an internal relationship with femininity, and what it means, in my life, to be a feminine nonbinary person. But how the hell can you reconnect with womanhood when you’re not a woman?

Even better, how can you digest the concept of womanhood given its history? A history of colonialism, of the implementation of Western gender binaries against a pre-existing gender fluidity, of gorgeous spirituality, culture, and hope being crushed and manipulated.

The patriarchy isn’t some independent system of oppression that has been here since the dawn of civilisation; it intersects heavily with other social oppressors, and to not recognise that is to do our history, ourselves, and most importantly others in our community a disservice.

I suppose that knowledge and recognition is a huge part of reconnecting with womanhood – being more aware, and knowing that misogyny isn’t the only issue, is key.

Despite its history, there is a beautiful power in femininity and womanhood that, over the past year or so of my life, I have been trying to explore and embrace. It isn’t always easy.

It challenges my gender euphoria, makes my parents think they were right about me going through a phase, and quite frankly isn’t as easy as a life of internalised misogyny, and pushing against a huge part of who I am in the name of my transness. I am, in no way, shape, or form a woman, but discrimination doesn’t discriminate – if I am to be the target of a violent hate crime, it will be as a woman.

If I am to be denied the right to bodily autonomy, whether it be through lack of abortion laws or the way my doctor talks down to me whenever I have a hospital appointment, it will be as a woman. If I am to die and be buried, it will be under my dead name, and the female gender marker on my birth certificate because this government refuses to function outside of the oppressive gender binary – it will be as a woman.

So when I speak out about woman’s rights, it is with the knowledge of my place in society as a feminine person, and my lack of safety and security as a result. When I ‘March for All,’ or educate people on this so-called internalised misogyny, it is from the same perspective.

I may not be a woman, but I am treated like one, and that is an incredibly sad and powerful fact of my life. My femininity and connection to womanhood is both a blessing and a curse – I’ve made peace with that now.

I feel it important to add that these experiences aren’t specific to my identity and biology. Loads of women go through similar things, and a lot of transgender men too, and it isn’t spoken about enough.

No one dares touch it with a six feet long pole for fear of being questioned about the validity of their transness; incredibly valid, but a problem, and one that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so we may as well start talking.

Take some time to appreciate the beauty, power, and sexuality of femininity this International Women’s Day. Go vocally support transgender women. Drown out the hate of this world with self-aware positivity. I know I will.

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