Gender Expression and Presentation

Smiling person with sunglasses, sweater, mohawk, gender expression

Because of our society’s bias toward the gender binary, and the policing of gender norms, a lot of trans people, as well as non-binary, gender-expansive, gender-queer, people feel the need to limit their gender expression.

It’s important to point out that gender identity and gender expression are two separate things. You can choose to present as a gender that is different than your identity if you wish. You can take on individual aspects of a presentation that might be considered different than your gender identity. If you have a complex and/or fluid identity, you might choose to present in one way one day, week or year, and another a different time.

What makes it possible for people to feel more or less free to have more fluid gender presentation? First, of course, there are daily external realities. Some people live in small towns, or away from the cosmopolitan urban areas. Others need to make sure that work attire is appropriate. Another reality is if one is early in one’s transition process, presenting close to your chosen identity means that you are less likely to get misgendered, which is very important to some of us.

Our Internal Conditions

But what about the internal realities? What internally limits us in our gender presentation? I remember, years ago, before I transitioned, someone suggested that I should wear a kilt. I was already basically presenting as male, and wearing male clothes, and kilts are generally for men. At the time, though, there was no way I was going to do that, because to me, kilt = skirt. Before I transitioned, I never painted my nails, or wore anything that could remotely be connected to being a woman.

Now that I have transitioned, and feel so much more comfortable in my own skin and body, I’ve been admiring kilts, and I got my toenails painted once. It turns out, the toenail painting isn’t quite for me, but I was glad I tried it. In general, I do choose to present very male, but I don’t feel as constrained and constricted about it – I’m much more open to experimentation than I used to be.

It’s that ability to fully inhabit our identities, as well as cultivating self-love and self-compassion, that can allow us to more fully express however we wish, even when we might get pushback from others about it.

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