gender by default

In trans/nonbinary/LGBT/etc circles, sometimes you see the concept of “cis by default”, where someone considers themselves cisgender because they don’t experience gender dysphoria and haven’t had the chance (or the desire) to explore a different gender identity. You can see this kind of outlook when you ask someone “if you were to wake up tomorrow as a cis woman/cis man, how would you feel?” If an ostensibly cis person responds with something like “i’d probably be fine with it”, they’re probably “cis by default” instead of “strongly cis”.

I like this concept because i feel like it described my life for the first 22-ish years. Even for a while after it, i didn’t do much because i wasn’t sure that i was “trans enough” to warrant going through the process of transition. (Also because i was living in my home town at the time, and i was really uncertain about the resources or level of support i would have from my communities. I’m thankful that a lot of the people from my “old life” have turned out to be supportive.)

(Also also, “i’m not trans enough to transition” was admittedly a bad excuse; anyone else who considers themselves in a similar position right now should try to dive into what is really causing them to hesitate - for me it was a reaction to seeing a poor picture of what trans bodies in transition look and act like, and once i had met more trans people online i was much more willing to go through the process myself.)

Even now, when i’ve almost fully changed my gender expression and try to present at least somewhat femme full-time, i’m not sure i feel all that much differently about it. To be sure, i’m happy to have been able to transition, and i do believe i would have liked the ability to do it even earlier in life. It just hasn’t been a transformative experience for me the same way that other trans people say it is for them. The reason is that the “cis by default” mentality is similar to the experience of being agender, which i feel is a term that describes my experience more often than not.

I’ve spent the last few years trying to modify my gender expression, using the model of being “a trans woman” to try and guide that journey. Over time, though, especially after i’ve been on HRT and changed my wardrobe and the like, i’ve found that even when being femme enough to pass, i don’t feel 100% “at home” in my chosen gender expression, or in my assigned one. Don’t take this to mean i regret transitioning! There are still things i like about being a woman, and specifically a trans woman. But if i were to pick a more accurate gender term for myself, it would be some combination of “trans agender” or “nonbinary trans woman” or (if you’re familiar with the term) “demigirl”. (Or, if you’re familiar with the meme, “none gender with left girl”.)

But since that degree of specificity isn’t really that helpful in common conversation, i can stick with portraying myself as a trans woman and leaving the more precise semantics for blog posts like this.

Anyway, that’s why my pronouns are listed as “she/they”. I like to say that i tend to use “they” for myself and prefer “she” from others. I think i might take the “they” off at some point in the future, but for now i have it there as a signal of the stuff i talked about in this post.