I grew a mustache.

It’s not a thing I exactly chose to do, so much as it was easier than shaving all the time to be rid of it.

I grew to like it. With my long flowing hair, and the matching bit of goatee, I like to think I look like the Green Arrow in the right light.

It is not the first time I’ve let my hair grow. It is possibly the first time it’s been this pronounced though. For most of my life I’ve been unable to grow more than pathetic wisps, even well into adulthood. Like so many of the hallmarks of masculinity, it has largely eluded me.

But for just now, just this once, I have one thing I can point to besides the obvious and say “I am a man,” and no one can deny this.

The only trouble is, I’m not sure I want to be.

I’m not sure I want to be anything.

I’d rather be a starman.

My first real kiss was a boy.

Ben was the tall, handsome, senior god of the high school drama scene. Everyone loved him, everyone wanted to be him. “Everyone was gay for Ben,” to abuse the old cliche. Charming, funny, transgressive, somehow both very masculine and yet just a touch androgynous, as everyone cool seemed to be in the 90's.

Over the course of my life, I have probably kissed as many men as women, though this was not, I thought, out of any conscious choice so much as I simply had the most interminably awful luck with women.

Still do. I have never been able to place why, but there is just something about me that seems to make me a non-starter as a prospect. As if they know something about me I’ve not even realized myself, that makes them run away.

But I keep trying, over and over, one heartbreak after another, with a defiance that at times makes me question my sanity.

I just. Can’t. Give. Up.

Faded pride.

I didn’t make it to Pride this year.

I never do.

I have been a vocal supporter of gay rights since I was old enough to even know that was a thing, but … something always stops me. I don’t feel like I belong there somehow. The arrival of Pride month every year often does nothing so much as depress me terribly.

I have tried to explain in the past why Pride sets off such a reaction, but I couldn’t seem to adequately put it into words because until this year I don’t think I fully understood it myself.

The truth is, I am afraid.

Terrified even. This very piece has taken me weeks to build the courage to write.

I am homophobic, but only of one person: myself. I am afraid that if I look inside myself, truly have a conversation about who I truly am, I will have to accept something I was raised for so much of my young life to fear.

How can I truly take part in a parade called “Pride” with that hanging over me?

We will rock you.

I want a skirt.

It’s been a nagging want for me for a couple of years now.

When I was in high school, I often wore a skirt. A big, flowing, ankle length hippie skirt. It was a loaner from another boy I kissed.

I would never get away with leaving the house like that of course, so I would sneak away to the bathroom and change when I got to school, so my parents wouldn’t find out.

For my final performance one year in drama class, I put on a skin tight red-orange corduroy mini dress and gave a self-penned monologue about a boy writing a coming out letter to his parents.

I had a bottle of metallic purple nail polish I would wear too, a gift from a goth girl I had a terrible crush on.

One day during a quiet moment in class I was putting it on, and the redneck across from me at the table started an argument, the details of which are probably easily imagined. When he found himself backed into a corner at last, he retreated into a half hummed, half sung rendition of “We Will Rock You.”

I paused a moment and retorted, “It’s pretty funny when a sissy cross dresser writes a song about being a man.”

I thought it was terribly clever at the time. Years on, I think of it and cringe.

What a terribly strange retort for a boy in a dress to make.

Get it?

I am a firm believer in the idea that gender and sexuality are a spectrum.

Or at least, I say I am.

Somehow I do not seem to allow it to apply to myself. I occasionally pay lip service to it, mostly to confuse people in bar conversations, but I don’t live it. I don’t let myself be that spectrum.

I say I am “a little bit bi,” but I live on a binary. I am terrified to indulge the other side of me because I am afraid that once I do, I am marked, I am that forever, with everything that package includes.

Growing up a skinny boy with long hair, I’ve been called a “faggot” from before the time I even understood what that word meant. For years, I would be mistaken constantly for a woman in shops and public spaces. I’ve constantly been berated all my life as queer or unmanly. I have fought and clawed for all my life to be taken seriously as a straight cis male, and why?

Because all those words didn’t matter as long as I didn’t accept them. Didn't live them. So long as I stayed on one side of that spectrum, all that hate and ugliness didn’t apply to me. It couldn’t hurt, so long as I could play straight.

So I don’t kiss boys anymore. I don’t wear dresses. I let that part of me shrink away, to be let out only in little moments where I can play it off as a joke or a bit of shocking fun.

After all, I still liked girls, it’s not like I was hiding anything.

It’s not a lie if it’s half-true, right?

AI is scary.

I have clinical depression.

I have likely suffered it since high school. One night I was lying in my bed and started seeing skulls in the textured ceiling. The ER doctor wanted to give me Prozac. I was just fucking scared, and the only person I knew who took Prozac was “crazy.”

It would be almost 15 years before I was finally diagnosed. I was in college by then, and everything in my life seemed to be going great, except I would still come home every day and and want to die. I would tear up watching the most random things on television. One time I started almost weeping watching Jeremy Clarkson drive a Ferrari.

I figured something had to be wrong. Big boys don’t cry after all, that’s what I was taught when I was a kid. Until the first time I broke down into tears in therapy, I could not remember the last time I had truly and properly wept openly. I didn’t even cry at my father’s funeral.

Being a man was killing me.

No further comment.

At this point in my life all my best friends are women. In mixed company, I will gravitate to the women in the group, and I often get terribly uncomfortable in men-only groups.

I just can’t keep it up anymore.

I’m tired of the performance of it. Of the concealment. Of never saying what you actually feel, never talking about anything that matters, constantly jockeying for position, always careful not to let show any weakness or vulnerability.

Modern masculinity is a performance art, in a role I never asked for. I can play it, but the words are rote and the acting without passion. It’s instinct for me only because I’ve been faking it so long.

I don’t really believe in so much that’s supposed to be “manly.”

I don’t believe in the violence, the sexism, the macho posturing, the gender archetypes. I don’t even like wearing pants.

I hated being married because every day I felt like I was being slotted into a pre-fixed stereotype straight out of a bad sitcom, and I hated every minute of it even as I tore myself up with guilt for not living up to it.

I read liberal writers talking about finding a new, healthier masculinity, and it all feels about as genuine as Christian heavy metal.

The parts of my personality I most recognize as “male” are the parts I most want to get over and move on from. The objectification, the need to always be right, the instinct to dominate a conversation. I don’t want a “kinder, gentler masculinity,” I want to be free of it.

I’ve spent my whole life fighting to be seen and finally accepted as “man enough,” and now I come to the near-middle of it and I don’t even know what I’ve been fighting for.

I don’t want to be a man, I just want to be a person.

Ask me why this movie made me cry.

My name is Alex, and I am non-binary.

And it is fucking terrifying me.

It felt so much easier then, when I was young. It gave me confidence, even, to walk the halls in my flowing skirts and bright purple nails. To flirt with girls and boys alike and wonder if I, do I dare, say yes when he says he’d go out with me …

But that was a long time ago, before life, before careers, before the desk job weight, before the terror in my homeland, before I knew what I know now about what LGBTQ people really go through every day. I have spent my life running from it, and every year it’s gotten harder to get back. Even now all manner of doubts and terrors flash through my head and I contemplate if it wouldn’t just be so much easier to just keep living the straight life. Chase girls. Wear pants. Hide my emotions. It would be ever so much easier to get by if I just kept locking it all away …

But then I think back to those moments in youth. To how free I felt. I wonder if I can feel that way again.

I’ve been running so long. I think I am finally just out of breath, and ready or not, it’s time to turn and face my heart and find out what I really am.

I am tired of fear. I am tired of masks. I am tired of pants.

I just want love.

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A.C. Danvers

A.C. Danvers

Weaver of word spells. Trans/enby, bi, demi, poly. Fae/faer. patreon: http://patreon.com/annarcana