I'm Not a Girl
Photographed by Joelle Beauchamp of Jack Turpen
By Jack Turpen
I have always been applauded for having the balls to be myself when everyone else gets a free pass to do so their entire lives. When I do it I am labeled as brave. I am not brave, I am just trying to be happy. I am not a girl, though I am no longer viewed as a boy. I am not transgender, but I have thought I was for such a long time now. I am finally confident in my identity. My pronouns are he/him/his, I have thought about it and I have been confused. I wish I never had to be, ideally I would be born into a world that allows for a life led by confidence. But, I have been dealt what I have been dealt, and now I begrudgingly face the people surrounding me, suffocating. You should really start thinking about the things you are saying.
I would never sit here, slouched at my computer, and shit on the women who have been there for me throughout my life. They have shown me a kindness that I assumed would never be possible. The men in my life were all gone, for reasons only they know. Pushing them away was really easy, I just let the insecurities handle them. But the women always made me feel safe. I was welcomed, coddled, led and listened to. They had a place in their hearts for me, but never in a way of pity. Allies have been consistent in their roles, sometimes in a way that made me want to vomit.
Being so close to those women in my life made the transition from normal to gay so easy. I was unbearable, the stereotype of a bitchy gay piece of shit. I was happy to fulfill that role, as long as no one had to see how truly lost I was. I was one of the girls. Being gay meant that I was considered one of the women. Not only were there no more men in my life, but I was no longer even considered one. The women viewed me as one of them, and I alienated myself from the men due to fear of judgment. It made too much sense to me, I no longer viewed myself as a man. Which is fine, of course it is. I just thought I was a woman. Spoiler alert, I am not a woman.
This is what I am talking about ladies. The things said to me is really sending me down a spiral here. I do not care whether your intentions were to do so or not, I am sure they were not. These words affect me, they make me second guess myself. Why else would I alienate myself from the rest of the male population? I would never fit in with them, I am one of the girls. But, I am not a woman.
This was never something I considered as a child. I, as everyone else, was born into a world that molded me. A world that housed a civilization filled with standards, many of which are not agreed upon today. My femininity was apparent from a very early age. I was attracted to the pinks in the world. Though my anxiety developed very early on, I was filled with an energy, purely driven by joy, seeing the world through rose tinted glasses. I would like to blame someone, but my Dad is an amazing father so that makes it difficult to blame anyone. He was never concerned with what was built for a boy, he was guided by my passions. I was never limited in my father’s presence. The things I enjoyed were the things I enjoyed, so they weren’t super gay. I mean they really were gay, but it never mattered to him. I could keep talking about him but I am really grossed out by how sweet this is. The point is, I felt so safe in the spaces my parents created, that the second I stepped outside of them, I freaked out. I was quickly engulfed with questions like “why do you like pink, that’s a girl color” or “why do you sound like a girl”? So, I did what any rational person would do; I believed them.
I was certain of one thing, I am a girl. I had to be, why else would I sound like this or like these things? I swallowed it, I didn’t feel as though this would be something easy to be. I mean did I really want to deal with so many more questions? My masculinity presented itself in small doses, but I still had many guy friends. I was still somehow surrounded with all of these super genuine kids. They may have had an idea of what gay was, or why I was like this, but they never had any reason to care. It was never going to change the fact that I was a person they enjoyed. So when that all changed with an addition of an identity, I was again confused.
I came out the summer after my freshman year of high school. These questions were the sole reason I even considered coming out. A girl in my debate class asked me what my sexuality was. She had no idea what she was doing but she asked the perfect question. It was the first time I was ever prompted with a “what” instead of an “are you gay”. I had no idea what it was. In response to her question, I identified myself as asexual, as I was not attracted to anyone. Upon later reflection, I knew there was something more. I came out to my parents as gay at a time in which I was not attracted to men. I simply assumed this would be the way I would end up feeling. I was just hoping it would help answer everyone’s questions.
So I’m gay, no big deal right, business as usual, I can go back to school now. Which, not to be boring, did kind of happen. The people who were close to me became closer and I gained self-confidence. My personality blossomed, my fashion sense advanced and my popularity rose. My judgement was clouded, but I strived to be everyone's “gay best friend”. If you are unaware, the gay best friend is an archetype that has been popularized by the media, presenting gay men as accessories. It was something I was fine being, I still felt desired. But, it was quite damaging. I lead my life as a featured character, taking a back seat to my own story. Again, I was fine with it until I gained an ounce of self-respect.
The women around me were excited by my presence, but they never viewed me in the way they should have. The men in my life were all gone because of my own doings. The women were all I had, but I was so glad to have it. I felt so comfortable around them, and I still do. The only issue was the fact that I was no longer a man. I was one of the girls. I was happy to be one of them, I felt so safe and accepted. I mean my life is not a pity party I was just having an amazing time being one of the girls. My masculinity disappeared as soon as the boys left. I thought they left me but I of course was in charge of that too.
I no longer felt safe around the men in my life. My anxiety painted the impression that they would always view me in a different light. There was no way they could possibly feel the same about me, they would think I was so obsessed with them in the gayest way possible. But, they never cared at all. My insecurities made me a meaner person. I pushed the men out of my life and in doing so, I thought my anxiety would leave with them. The women only amplified the anxiety as they continued their average, boy obsessed, lifestyles as they flaunted their normalcy using their heterosexuality. They were gorgeous women, born into it, straight, experiencing a heteronormative life. It meant I would never truly belong with them either. I was never a girl, even if I thought I was. Besides, I only ever thought I was because of what everyone and everything ever told me. I was a girl who liked pink. I was a girl for being around girls. I was a girl because my girlfriends identified me as one and continued to view me as a female. I was only not ok with it because I had lost myself and I never had the time to actually consider the damages done.
The purpose of this is not to sit here and shit on woman for treating their gay friends in a particular way. But the purpose of which is to pitch you all a question: what was I supposed to do? Why have I been subject to a world in which I am not masculine enough for manhood so I am viewed as a woman, yet never “truly” a woman? I will never comprehend the strange, gray, middle ground of the hell that I have been shoved into. The problem is that I want to be a man without having any preconceived notions of what that would entail for me. that identity. I know that I am not a woman.
The women who are currently in my life hold me so close. Close in a way that they can see me for who I am and what I’m proud of. I am a gay man, feminine AND masculine. I do not second guess this because I know it will only ever count for one person. I am the one I am trying to satisfy in my decision making throughout life. Bold to say, and somewhat shocking, but I am solid in my standing, I am definitely a dude. I have people in my life, not just men and not just women. The women know not just who but what I am and the men are just happy to be here. My guy friends are not concerned with the femininity I present, even though I am still mean to them. The non-binary people in my life are legends of course. Girls should know what they are doing. They shouldn’t be applying such pressure in the ways they view queer people. There will never be a single way to be queer, so to uphold an ideology surrounding that persons gender is toxic. You know what, I will still be one of the girls, that is fine. However, you should know what you are doing. Also stop saying slay, it is so tired.