There was a boy who loved to dress up when he was young.
Any opportunity he got he would throw on some facepaint, a spacesuit or a pair of wings and run around like he owned the place.
Being so young, this kind of thing was completely acceptable. He could put on one of his mum’s dresses and run around the house with the garment flowing from shoulders to feet, tripping every couple of steps as they caught the dress.
The adults would laugh and applaud. The child was just being a child after all, and that is just adorable isn’t it, a little boy in a dress?
But then time passed and the boy stopped dressing up so much. Not because he was told not to, or even because he thought it would get him in trouble, but because as he grew up, it no longer felt normal.
I am losing faith in referring to this mysterious boy in the third person, so, surprise! The boy was me. Let’s move on.
On the rare occasions I did dress up during high school it would always be male and it would certainly always be straight male.
I would be Two-Face and not Poison Ivy.
I would be Edward Scissorhands and not The Corpse Bride.
I would be The Doctor and not Captain Jack Harkness.
At the time these weren’t even conscious decisions I was making. I was just choosing from the bank of characters available for me, or so I thought.
There wasn’t a fear in little teenager me that there would be ridicule if I turned up painted blue in a cheap charity shop wedding dress, but there wasn’t any other feeling because the thought simply never entered my head.
In the world I believed I was living in, males would be other fictional males and females… well, you get it.
For so long, I didn’t notice this and, further yet, didn’t have a name for it.
Skip a few years ahead and set the scene at young me in my second year of university, more educated and a lot more defiant.
Halloween was coming up and I was not in two minds about who I wanted to be on the big night. I was going to be lyrical genius, voice of a generation, and music royalty Sia.
But at this point it was a choice. I knew I was dressing up as a female artist, and I did so very consciously.
Where I was at this point in my ‘genderful-journey’, I wanted to make a statement by being a male human in a female human costume.
But even then there was still this notion of the choice, the choice of two, two binary options – this was the name I failed to have when I was younger.
Then the weeks went on and opportunities to embody life-changing musical icons became a rarity.
But this time I wasn’t down for sitting idly by until next Halloween or the next loosely themed gaff to throw on some fishnets and lippy (yes, I know, I’m the height of class).
The make-up that had been purchased for that one night in late November began making its way onto my face more and more frequently. This was not to dress up, this was not to make a statement, this was me doing it because quite simply I wanted to be wearing it that day.
Over time, I stopped feeling as if I was dressing as one binary or the other. I would rock-up to my 10am seminar in high waisted trousers and enough eye make-up to make Amy Winehouse blush, and the funny thing was I felt completely normal about it, and so did the people around me.
I feel like now is a good time to say I don’t believe dresses or make up or a worn pair of fishnets are strictly tied to female identities or any ‘masculine’ items are tied to that of males; yet, in our current society certain things continue to be associated with each of these. Disclaimer over.
These existing gender binaries no longer felt applicable, each day I would wake up not feeling more like one or the other; the notion of existing somewhere in between the two polar ends seemed to fit me so much more, seeing my gender identity as a fluid idea as opposed to the binary fact I had accepted until now.
It wasn’t even so much a case of dressing and presenting myself in items associated with both sides.
In fact, nothing I put over my face or my body mattered. I no longer felt like I internally represented the male label I had lived with all my life.
This didn’t mean I now felt more female; I had just come to the conclusion that the male-ness that was so attached to me for 20 years didn’t fit.
I’m not sure my personality or behaviors changed during this time, I suppose I just became more conscious of the performance of gender I had been putting on until this point, policing certain actions based on whether they fit the mould of what was expected of males.
So, with all this taken into consideration, my name is Stuart and I am gender-fluid. You can call me he, you can call me she, they, ze, it, whatever, really; the important thing is, nothing is going to stop me putting on the fishnets and dancing like no one is looking.
Looking back from this conclusion, however, I begin to wonder one small thing about the young me running around in the dress. Was I ever dressed up at all? Or, alternatively, whether it was a dress or army shorts I was wearing, was I perhaps dressed up the whole time?
If those last questions left you as confused as I was writing them, one song lyric that has become significant to me may help us find some sort of conclusion:
We’re all born naked and the rest is drag