I am currently asking myself similar questions to those Jen asks. Am I genuine? Are my actions based on my true feelings, or am I somehow in denial?
Those questions have plagued me throughout my life, for decades. Fortunately, my diligence in addressing these feelings (through journaling, therapy, and other means) seems to be paying off. I trust myself more now than I have in the past. Still, it's difficult. After all, if you're in denial, how would you know?
So, it was good to read Jen's piece because she described her feelings so well, and because I saw some parallels with my own situation.
After all, I'm not identifying myself as trans, at least not for the moment. I don't seem headed for life as a woman. But, at the same time, I've been challenged on my identity by two different people lately and I have ended up in some deep self reflection.
Part of this might be my own doing. After all, I've entitled my book, "a man wearing a dress,' which might imply to some people that it's just that simple. I'm just a man wearing clothes traditionally designed for women, who doesn't happen to want to pass as a woman (or as a drag queen - kind of a different category).
But within me, I know it's a lot more than the clothes. However, trying to describe what exactly is going on inside me has been difficult. That's one reason why I wrote the book (now in editing as I write this), to help tell my back story - how I got to where I am now, as I reach my mid 60s.
Another issue is one of language. The trouble is, our terms keep changing, and the definitions of those terms differ from person to person. Am I 'gender queer?' Or perhaps 'gender fluid?' I do use male pronouns, but part of the reason for that is that the whole pronoun thing seems so awkward. The word 'they' still seems plural to me, so it grates on my ears sometimes.
Also, I have kept my male body (I don't take hormones and am not planning any surgery). And yet, inside me seems to be a distinctly feminine side. I say that with some trepidation because, after all, what is 'feminine,' exactly? I don't think many people have really tried to define that in detail, of if they have, there are disagreements between what different people have come up with.
So, there again, I am left with a bunch of feelings and an assessment of my own nature that seems very difficult to define.
I do truly seem to sit somewhere on the 'gender spectrum' in terms of how I think of myself. Part of it seems to be my strong sense of empathy with both men and women. Perhaps I was a woman (biologically) in a past life. I'm still working on the past life concept, so I can't say a lot more than that.
I have found that I love so much about the clothes, the fashion, and what and how to wear things that help me look good and feel good about myself. But I know that this is partly because I get to understand some of the fun, inner joy, and self confidence in being well dressed, as well as the challenges, and sometimes even the pain, as well. I get to have conversations where I can share experiences with women, trade stories, and offer support for each other. Somehow, I just feel included in women's culture, as best as I can perceive it, more than I have felt included in men's culture. And being included in women's culture, as much as I have, leaves me with a feeling of warmth and happiness deep inside.
I think this is why I have never 'cross dressed' in private. It just never occurred to me. I wanted to bring out my feminine side and connect with the feminine in others. And yet, at the same time, I wanted to acknowledge my masculine side, rather than try to shove it or hide it away.
So, here's where I ended up. Showing both sides when I go out. The clothing, jewelry, nail polish, hats, etc., along with my bald head (no wig), trim beard, deep voice, and tall thin stature. I guess I don't need to necessarily buy into a particular label, such as gender queer, because we're all individuals. Gender queer might mean something very different to you from what it means to me. I guess I'd rather explain that I was born male and have discovered that I have a strong feminine side, perhaps stronger than most other men, and I want to live that, show that to others, and see where it leads me.