With an hourglass figure and a confident sensuality in my step that would make a pin up girl blush, I strode through the beginning years of high school confident with my body. As a competitive swimmer, I prided myself on my toned body, conditioned from hours of practice. I loved the power that my body had. I felt sensual and powerful all at once. In turn, I channeled that sense of power through high femme gender presentation, a killer strut, and some serious attitude.
As I mentioned in the last installment of Relearning Sexy, my presentation changed drastically when I entered into my first serious relationship at the start of my high school career. I hung up the hoodies and gym shorts and slid into the most form-fitting of dresses and the skinniest of jeans that I could get my hands on. In hindsight, I don’t know if entering my relationship with Nate+ caused this shift. I can imagine at the time, I might have felt pressures to be more feminine because I was in a (what others thought was) heterosexual relationship. Maybe this shift occurred because of the cataclysmic warning of my family friend to “grow up.” Maybe at that moment in my life, I was just redefining what comfortable meant to me.
There’s a lot of maybes in this story. At this point in my life, I can remember only few specifics. Telling a story about the person you used to be can be rife with inaccuracies. While it may be easy to point out “facts,” I think it’s more difficult to remember how you were feeling at any given moment. That feeling is so critical to how I remember and tell this story. So, I look to the facts and try to interpret what I may have been feeling at that moment. No story, especially those about ourselves or the people we used to be, can ever accurately capture how we may have felt in one particular moment.
But I distinctly remember how I felt on one day late in my junior year. It was an ordinary day in gym class. I was absolutely destroying my opponents in foursquare. Business as usual. Although my school had co-ed gym classes, the class seemed to segregate itself. Four square was a predominantly male-dominated corner of the gym that I gravitated towards. As I advanced quickly to the king’s square, I continued to strike people out.
One stray spike sent the ball flying across the gym. As I jogged to reach it, I noticed my body feeling heavier than usual. I was about 100 yards from the ball. For some reason, I started feeling exposed, like in that dream where you’re standing on a stage (or, you know, jogging through the middle of a crowded gymnasium) in nothing but your underwear. Suddenly, a thought shot forward into the front of my mind: “Wow, my chest is huge.” Standing in the middle of the gym’s paneled floor, my stride and my world came to a screeching halt.
Where the hell did that come from?
Every time I tell my coming out story, I struggle to find the origin of where I began to understand that I wasn’t a woman. I look into the arsenal of memories I have, from childhood up until the first night I purposefully dressed to look like a man. But this day in the gym stands out in my mind as the origin of this questioning. As I stood alone in the gym, long after my classmates had shuffled off to their next classes, I knew something wasn’t right. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
Next time on desexy, how does dehumanization impact perceptions of disabled sexuality?
+ Name has been changed.