María José, Rain Dove, and Kate Bornstein, three LGBTI people, spoke to Allure Magazine about the myths of gender norms and why it’s necessary to redefine ideas about gender.
‘I identify as a queer, gendernonconforming, transfeminine person,’ José says.
‘Transfeminine means that you have transcended the gender that was assigned to you at birth, whereas a trans woman is someone who wants, believes, is a woman,’ José explains.
‘I’m a nonbinary, transfeminine, BDSM diesel dyke tranny,’ says Bornstein, a well-known author, performance artist, and gender theorist.
‘I’ve determined I’m not transgender because gender doesn’t exist in my book. I’m not transsexual because I love the body I have. My state of being is just unique,’ Dove says.
Bornstein, who was assigned male at birth, goes on to talk about how back in the 1950s one could not be a ‘pretty boy.’
First experiences of gender
‘The first time I learned about girls and boys was in nursery school when I was about four and a half. They told us to line up, girls here, boys there,’ Bornstein recalls.
Bornstein decided to line up with the girls, only to get a ‘you’re terrible’ look from the teacher. So Bornstein moved to the boys line, and identified as male until her 30s.
‘I was a queer person since I was a baby, but I never had the freedom to say who I was,’ José says.
José recalls a story about a certain Halloween where they wanted to dress like a girl, but wasn’t allowed to. Yet, their brother was allowed to because he wanted to do it as a joke.
‘I think my mother could tell I had a genuine desire to wear her things, and that scared her,’ José says.
Before Dove’s first day at a new school in third grade, they contracted lice. Their mother had to shave their head. Their mother then put them in a red dress so that no one would think they were a boy.
‘I went by my middle name, which is Danielle. So everyone started calling me Tranny Danny. I didn’t know what that was at the time, I thought it was someone who was into trains,’ Dove says.
‘So I wore a conductor cap for the next two years. Whenever someone would call me Tranny Danny, I’d be like “choo-choo, all aboard!”’
It wasn’t until 7th grade that Dove realized the differences between sex and gender.
‘Gender is a state of being. Mannerisms, cultural teachings, what type of clothing you’re wearing, the way that you speak, the way that you hold yourself, the type of energy that you feel in your body,’ Dove explains.
Dove, who grew up in a rural farming community, soon saw that physical gender didn’t matter as much as how capable one was of doing heavy lifting.
‘You had to be this mix of someone who wore Aeropostale and American Eagle, but could split firewood,’ Dove says with a laugh.
José first came out on Facebook, which was a bold move for them.
‘Suddenly everyone in Puerto Rico knew,’ José said. ‘So I didn’t really experience the backlash myself, at least not physically in front of me.’
When José came back home for Christmas, their parents didn’t want them there.
Bornstein had both therapy and surgery for her body dysphoria, but soon realized that being a woman isn’t much different from being a man considering one still has to perform the gender role.
‘I had to watch women, see what they were doing, I pretended to do it, I practiced, I rehearsed,’ Bornstein explains. ‘But there was still tomboy about me. Over the next year, two or three, I slid into being neither.’
‘I don’t believe I’m a woman, I never really made it as one. But I like looking like one, that’s fun for me,’ Bornstein says with a smile.
Watch the full video below to learn more about José’s, Dove’s, and Bornstein’s experiences performing gender.