It’s just a phase.

Sometimes, it really is just a phase. A long, complicated, emotionally moving, all-consuming phase.

For some years I thought I was ace and genderless. I don’t know how or why it happened, but it did. It was just something I had to go through, I guess; I was learning, I knew I wasn’t cis, and I overexposed myself at a vulnerable time in my life. There was to much information. I was on medications that so easily manipulated my thoughts. I drowned in all of it.

I did a lot of writing about being on the asexual spectrum, about not understanding how dating and sex worked. Looking back, these are classic signs of dysphoria that a not insignificant number of trans people experience – an inexplicable sex drive, a discomfort with or disinterest in masturbation, unrewarding sex with otherwise rewarding partners, a jarring disconnect in how narratives of sex and dating say you ought to act as opposed to how we understand we want to act.

It never occurred to me that I needed to be having sex as a man until a few months ago. The thought never once crossed my mind. Or, well, it did, in the form of the occasional dream that scared the crap out of me, but the idea was verboten to my waking thoughts. I had internalized the message of misandry, you see. I was terrified of my own masculine confidence, my own masculine strength and power. It was a Rubicon not to be crossed – even wondering about it was thoughtcrime. So I cowed myself, made my body as small and inconsequential as possible to both those around me and to myself. It made it easier to ignore. In that way, macrophilia might’ve been my child-brain’s very first method of coping with the then-wordless felt sense of dysphoria. The gut feeling, like walking into the room when your parents are angry at each other but they’re trying to hide it from you, that something is off.

When the lightbulb went off, I knew it was different this time. Claiming nonbinaryism felt like a political declaration to me; something hollow but well-meaning enough to be based on a subconscious nugget of truth. Hearing myself try and assert neutral pronouns was like nails on a chalkboard, but I figured that it was just the social pressure to be binary, so I doubled down. I came out to my mom, my husband, my friends. But it was still hollow. I tried writing stories about nonbinary people, but there was that nagging feeling that I wasn’t “writing what I know”. I tried drawing nonbinary people; this too was uninteresting and felt like I was dancing circles around some deeper, scarier truth that I wasn’t ready to confront yet. After a while I figured that I’d never be ready to confront it. With my tail between my legs I let people start calling me “she” and “wife” and “daughter” again. At least it was the devil I knew.

What struck me about realizing I was a man was the sudden change in my dreams. Over the years I’ve come to trust my dreams to tell me the truth about my subconscious – they’re very good at telling me what my fears and desires are, from the banal to the existential. When messages are conveyed, they are clear enough to my waking mind for me to act on them. When my lightbulb went off, I was suddenly male in my dreams. I had a complete and gendered body, not some vague placeholder with disembodied hands like I was playing a video game. I was an embodied person of consequence to my own subconscious for the first time in my life. I felt real.

None of this happened when I identified as nonbinary.

That’s because being nonbinary was a phase. It was a stepping stone that allowed me to learn things about myself that were both true and untrue – it gave me the mental space to figure out that gender is nothing like what I was raised to believe. And though it would be some years yet, it gave me the tools to start deconstructing my experiences with men and masculinity. I guess, in a way, that those notions needed to be torn down before I could build them back up again with better awareness, understanding, and patience.

The fact of the matter is that I would never have gotten to where I am now if I hadn’t gone through the gullible, SJW-fueled phase of thinking that gender is nothing but a construct, that men are nothing but pigs, and that I wouldn’t be caught dead identifying at something so antiquated as binary. (How’s that for “voting” with your gender?) It was something I had to go through.

I read stories about detransitioners – the the redheaded step-children trans people don’t like to talk about – and I see a little of myself in their stories. Even though I was never cis, the sense of having made a “mistake” by thinking you were another gender than you really are hits home. I just count myself lucky that I never made any permanent changes while I was in that headspace.

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