I was assigned female at birth, and to my dismay, I was consequently expected to fit into everything of the feminine stereotype.
Even from a young age, I dreaded the neatly but strictly defined expectations of what it means to be a girl. The more I was fed with “girly girl” propaganda, the more I hated anything remotely girlish, and I defiantly leaned towards the masculine.
It’s troubling and confusing for my family, of course, the tomboy phase they thought I’d grow out of has persisted in my adulthood with no sign of recourse.
While internalising much of the binary gender norms, I’ve also come to view myself as an outlier whose presence fills others with unease.
And so, even when I continued with my masculine-presenting self, I did it with shame and guilt.
I never liked to correct people when they address me with either of the conventional gender pronouns, I simply let them decipher on their terms.
I was ashamed to have confused and offended them, I couldn’t bear to take up space.
Yet as I’m growing older and coming to terms with my gender identity, my awareness of my self-doubt stemming from the unrelenting status quo is bubbling and causing me to be miserable.
These gendered pronouns invite assumptions that are centred on my biological sex, all of which I don’t welcome.
The bi-gendered culture forces me to be either fully feminine or masculine, so that others may have an easier time identifying and categorising me according to their own narrow worldview.
In fact, it leaves me feeling more isolated in its trail.
The gender binary limits my self-expression, it makes me feel like an imposter because I know I don’t and can never fully fit into either model of the traditional gender norms in Singapore.
I’ve come to learn that my self-expression, whether “masculine” or “feminine”, means nothing to me in gendered terms. These socially constructed cages that gatekeeps “girl things” and “boy things” are so absurd that they no longer hold any significance.
Now I see that I’m simply trying to live my truth and gendered pronouns are incapable of encompassing the fluidity of my identity.
I realise the importance of language in constructing my identity, to acknowledge and articulate my own standards for existing is to be heard and seen as authentically as possible.
It means to be understood and respected for the person that I am.
For me, gender-neutral pronouns have become a great place to rediscover myself.
They/them pronouns help me to be more present in my body, to know that I’m beautiful despite the pressures of gender stereotypes and it stops me from pretending to be something I’m not.
Instead, I can settle into myself a bit more comfortably, and it finally feels just right.
As the great Captain Holt of Brooklyn Nine-Nine once said, “every time someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place.”
Your self-expression, comfort, and happiness are worth every struggle and confusion within and without, because you deserve respect, and you always deserve to be loved as you are.