When I was growing up and trying to talk to people about how I didn’t feel female, their first impulse was to say something “reassuring” about how all the masculine traits I was describing didn’t make me not female, just a different kind. I got exactly zero comfort from those conversations, and they helped me realize that my problem wasn’t feeling unfeminine and wanting to be female, but feeling fundamentally uncomfortable with being female. In general I didn’t get anything else out of conversations of this type, with one exception. I was talking with a lesbian friend, who said that she thought I had a very strong femininity to me, not in the sense that I was very feminine, but in the sense that a lot of my inner traits that gave me strength were feminine. At the time that was a novel thought for me. I wasn’t used to people talking about feminine traits as strong ones; that is not how American culture presents them. As I thought about it though, I realized that she was right. Transitioning didn’t change that, in fact it actually makes it easier for me to accept it.
I’m not a girly man. I wear cargo shorts, T-shirts and boxer shorts. I avoid pink and purple for the most part. My interests are generally either gender neutral or masculine. I can drive a stick shift. Externally, I’m a pretty standard masculine-but-not-macho man. Internally, however, a lot of the traits that I consider most important to my identity the sort that are culturally considered feminine.
I’m creative. I love to write and imagine. I enjoy looking at other people’s artwork. I have an appreciation for the beautiful things in life.
I’m sensitive. I cry in real life. I sometimes cry at movies. More often, I’ll become absorbed by the characters’ lives and think about them for days afterwards (Brokeback Mountain is a good example). I get sad thinking about historical figures who lived through some personal tragedy. I empathize easily with other people. Understanding the emotions of other people and connecting with them is important to me.
I have both rational and emotional aspects to how I think, but I’m more likely to follow my heart than my head. I trust my emotions.
I have a nurturing side. I love babysitting and taking care of animals. If a friend of mine is upset or in trouble, I like being the one to comfort them.
In conflict, I prefer a passive approach to an aggressive one. Thats not to say I’m not stubborn or competitive, but I save my aggressive side for when I’m being playful; when I’m bantering or playing games. In real conflicts, I prefer to either reach a compromise, or find a way to remove myself from the situation.
Strength is about whether you are willing to make sacrifices and work towards what you value. The traits I’ve described above influence what I want and what tactics I prefer to use to achieve it. Being emotional gives me the motivation to fight for what I value. Being artistic and nurturing affects what I want to fight for. Preferring passive tactics means I’ve developed resilience and patience. Whatever the culture might say, all those traits are part of my expression of strength. Thats true for many other men and women as well.
There are many feminine things that I avoid because they don’t mesh well with my identity. I genuinely have no interest in wearing eyeliner, or watching the latest chick flick. That is not to say that nothing considered feminine can fit into my idea of who I am. I’ve yet to meet a man or woman, cis or trans, who doesn’t have at least one masculine trait and at least one feminine trait. Being trans male isn’t about being the Perfect Western Ideal of Masculinity, or about crushing the gender binary through external performance. Its about being me.