I just filled out the census. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve had to really think about how to define my gender and sexuality. Generally I just sashay through life in a wonderful bubble of queer friends, who know better than to put you on the spot and demand answers. After a lot of thinking, the answers I eventually gave for gender identity and sexual orientation, were Gender Fluid & Pansexual. Here’s how I go there, incase it helps you work things out too:
First a disclaimer: This is how I feel at the moment, using words that make sense to me now, and how I personally understand them. Doubtlessly in time this post will age and probably look a bit naive. I’ll probably change how I feel, in fact that’s kinda theme of this whole post. This is a conversation that’s very live at the moment. Especially now when there’s a census, it’s worth thinking about how we all want to define ourselves.
Drag & Gender Fluid
As with a lot of people, gender and sexuality is often confusing to me. I present differently depending on who I’m talking with and what the situation is. For example in my day job, I present pretty much 100% as a boy. Although my team all know I also work in drag (I’ve even given staff makeup tutorials) and I never hide my queerness. I’m a proud queer.
My ‘real’ name is Robin, but to a huge chunk of my friends, I’m often Robyn and presenting female. My queer family use both male and female pronouns for me and that feels completely comfortable and right. I’ve thought about whether I’d want to transition to being Robyn, but don’t because I also love being boy Robin the jazzy suit wearing, skater boy too.
I call femme Robyn “a drag queen”, because that’s probably the easiest short cut way of describing it to the most people. But honestly that’s too simplistic, Robyn isn’t a performance, and I’m as likely to be presenting as Robyn whether I’m being paid as a Drag Queen or not. Realistically to me, it’s the female version of myself that I’m embodying. I don’t do over the top Trixie Mattel style drag, it’s much more about allowing my femme self to shine through. With the rise of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the very narrow version of drag that it often presents, ‘drag’ feels an ever more uncomfortable jacket to wear. Calling it drag, feels more like putting on a costume, but for me it feels more like taking one off.
My drag name is Robyn Withawhy as in Robyn With A ‘Y’. The ‘y’ can stand for several things. At simplest it’s just the replacement of the ‘i’ in my boy name to turn it female. But to me it also represents the y chromosome that I have in me. As in (female) Robyn with a (male) Y chromosome.
Like I said, its all quite complicated and confusing.
Too binary for non-binary?
I went for a walk the other day with my gorgeous friend Margo Marshall. They’re non-binary and talked through a load of this with me. Margo is an utter queer icon, and dances around the gender spectrum with panache. We both lamented about our frustrations with the straight jacket of ‘drag’, and our journey’s through gender.
For me, I’ve always felt the term non-binary didn’t really fit me, nor do They/Them pronouns. I feel, that to me, it implies landing in some sort of androgynous space along the gender spectrum. Whereas I think I bounce from one end to the other only occasionally stepping in the middle. On the gender spectrum, I’m more often nearer the male end, but when I’m female, I run right over to the other end. I never feel like a ‘guy in a wig’, if I’m Robyn, then I’m embodying all of my femininity. And it’s my personal femininity, not an impersonation of someone else.
I often giggle about the fact that when I see beautiful powerful women, I’m caught in the dilemma of “Do I want to snog her, or do I just want to be her”? I’m rarely sure, and I think that question often defines my relationship to sexuality and gender.
Margo suggested I try the term Gender Fluid for size. The dictionary describes Gender Fluid as “Denoting or relating to a person who does not identify themselves as having a fixed gender.“
I think I finally found something that felt comfortable. It’s something that matches the constant journey that I’m on. It’s an acceptance that it’s ok to be constantly on that journey and moving rather than settle on something solid.
What does Pansexual mean to me?
This was the easier bit of the census to fill out for me. But to be honest, it’s been a journey to get here too.
I’ve always been attracted to both women and men and everyone in between, and generally simplified that to calling myself queer. I was married to the amazing and beautiful Fanny Minka. Although we were often called a ‘straight couple’ by others, I don’t think either of us ever felt comfortable being labelled that way. It felt like a bit of a pigeon hole that people put us in, that we didn’t really feel represented us at all.
More recently I’ve settled on Pansexual as a way of explaining my sexuality. The dictionary defines that as “not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.”
To me, “bisexual” feels a bit too restrictive, as if you’re only allowed to be attracted to two options. Whereas I think as I’ve laid out above, gender is much more complicated than that to me. So it feels false to restrict myself to a binary choice when I think there’s a spectrum.
Fill out your census too…
So that’s how I ended up with Gender Fluid, Pansexual. It’s certainly a mouthful, and a lot more complicated to explain than most of the population experience. But that kind of bring this whole thing full circle. With a census to fill out, it’s a chance to show that the whole country isn’t so straight and cis as some would have us believe.
My lovely friend Asttina Mandella did a post the other day encouraging people to fill out the census. It feels incredibly formal, and perhaps even uncomfortable to type out in black and white how we think about ourselves. But the census helps set government budgets, council spending and policies on all sorts of things. So if you don’t feel you fit neatly into heteronormative spaces, then I’d encourage to you to say so. Speaking up could not only help you, but also all those who aren’t quite ready to speak up yet too.
P.S. If you’re nervous about giving your answers to the census in a household you share with others. Did you know that you can request your own private code, so that you don’t have to come out, or give sensitive information to other members of your household if you’re not ready yet. This means your parents, housemates or landlord won’t see your answers. Your individual answers will take priority over any information submitted about you in the household census.