Ladylike

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I am not a Lady.

If it weren’t for the rest of the world, I never would have thought about my gender at all. I don’t mind. I like to try on labels for myself. I collect them like stamps—INFJ, Pisces, Year of the Dog, Introvert, Asexual, Queer, Neurodivergent, Vegetarian, Dog Enthusiast.

I like being a woman, but it feels less like who I am and more like an outfit I can put on, something people recognize me in. Something I understand the rules for. Comfortable and familiar.

But it feels unimportant. I probably could have been anything. I don’t really feel like anything. Pronouns are all the same to me.

I feel like a She the way I imagine a ship does—it’s a pretty thought, poetic, it feels good to say aloud: (She was a masterpiece of a vessel, She could ride any storm, She’s out in the garden, She’s begging you to read this book she loves.) Utterly arbitrary. 

Some feminine words feel more me than others. I like being a sister. I prefer Partner over Girlfriend, but I like it when you call me your Girl when you talk about me to your coworkers. The idea of being a Mother or a Wife makes me sick, but I wouldn’t mind being a Dad if I had to. I feel closer to Bro than to Sis. I’m Dude and Guy and Baby and Rach.

Lady is sticky and heavy on me; I think this is Dysphoria. When someone calls me a Lady I feel like they’re saying I’m a mathematician, or a basketball player. I’m sure the word is accurate for a lot of people, but tacked onto me it’s a lie. I’m not a Lady. I’m not a Gentleman, either. 

I barely feel like a Person.

I’m a Mind with a body I use to interact with a world that I didn’t ask to be a part of. I’m a Mind with hands that I love because they help me make things and collect rocks and scratch behind my dog’s ears. I’m a Mind with feet that allow me to experience soft clover and hot sand and sharp stones under a creek bed. With a mouth that lets me sing and taste good food and whisper endless questions when you’re trying to sleep. I’m a Mind with a body that’s strong and healthy, that feels comfortable and safe on me, but that puts me in danger because of the way it’s shaped. 

I love feminine things. I love masculine things, too. I love clothes and flowers and spiders and snakes, and taking bathroom selfies when the lighting is right, and daydreaming about being a witch that lives in a cabin and buying a kiln and getting into boxing. I love painting my nails and cutting my hair and collecting Ryobi power tools and filling my tires and building benches, and Lord of the Rings and Anne with an E. I love feeling small and delicate and strong and sturdy. I’m fragile and powerful and Petal and Stone and Hurricane. 

If I could decide how people see me, it would be this:

I’m the words that spring from my fingers. I’m the paint that takes shape with my brush. I’m the strokes of a pen on my arm when I have a good idea but no paper to capture it. If I could pick a gender it would be Writer or it would be Artist. It would be Dandelion. It would be the Crow in the neighbor’s tree that makes fun of me when I laugh at my dogs. It would be the sound of my keyboard, and the smell of paint and lavender, and the feeling of moss against your cheek, and the taste of a hot matcha latte with oat milk on a chilly spring morning out in the garden.

Call me She if you want to. Call me by any pronoun, it’s all the same to me. But I am not a Lady.