A few months ago, a colleague showed me the then new and improved Genderbread Person v2.0 (See it here!). As I looked at it, I saw a visual aid for a word I thought I understood. The word “Genderqueer” jumped off the page, and took on a personal meaning for the first time in my life. Almost immediately, I saw the source of the insecurities and bitterness I’ve carried with me since a very young age. The following few months of soul-searching, self-exploration and questioning proved difficult to say the least. On July 10, a discussion with two friends and colleagues who are on similar paths of discovery, helped me come to fully accept that I am not the man I convinced myself I was.
I grew up in an evangelical home, where traditional gender roles were expected of everybody. There was nothing malicious about it, that’s just the way it was. In our world, sex and gender were synonymous, and the social roles and expectations that came with that defined a lot about you. We didn’t talk about Trans or gender variant people, and to be honest I’m pretty sure that’s because we didn’t really know they existed. I remember being drawn to a friend’s Barbie dolls when I was very young, and my parents teasing me about that. I remember breaking into tears when I was 11, over a conversation with my Mother about my favourite colour being pink. She was worried that this would bring ridicule and bullying from my peers, and convinced me to adopt a more masculine colour, like blue or green. The teasing over Barbie dolls was lighthearted, and my Mom was genuinely worried, but these things stuck with me. Everything about what a “man” was supposed to be, what a “woman” was supposed to be, and what my ‘male’ attributes said about me, had a huge impact on the person I would become. I put on a man-mask, and have spent the better part of 34 years desperately trying to be something I’m not.
My name is Josh Osborne, and I am Genderqueer … actually just Queer. I’m comfortable in the gender binary, but I’m right in the middle. I identify as both male AND female (and sometimes neither). My understanding of my own sexual orientation is obviously affected by this. I’ve always called myself a heterosexual male, but that no longer works. Who I’m attracted to hasn’t changed of course, orientation is a constant, but my understanding of it has changed a great deal. I’m most happy with the word ‘Queer’ in regard to both my gender identity and sexual orientation.
Unlike many Trans and gender variant people, I do not experience dysphoria – at least not with my physical sex. I’m comfortable in my body, comfortable being biologically male. The anxieties I have are related to gender expression, and are relieved by feminizing or neutralizing my appearance with things like hair removal, gender neutral clothing, and expressions of femininity that I’ve never been able to show. Who I have always been in my head and who I have always been to the world are two different people. The man-mask has never fit. It’s uncomfortable, full of anger, insecurity, and it’s too heavy. It’s taken me a long time to realize this, and it’s time for me to live free.
When I write and when I speak, I have always referred to myself as a “heterosexual cisgender male.” I’ve done this because I believe that in discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation, disclosure of my own is important. I am not a heterosexual cisgender male, but I must make certain that people know that I haven’t been lying about it. Forcing yourself into the gender norm is powerful, and when done over a long enough period of time it becomes normal. I’ve always known on some level, but I chalked those feelings up to all sorts of things. Being Queer wasn’t on my radar. How could it be when I had spent my entire life trying to prove otherwise? I’m from a ‘traditional’ family, and I spent five years at sea. By the time I went to university (at age 26) I had been trying to portray a hyper-masculine image for a long time. I toned that down a bit during university, and had indeed become less aggressive by the time Outspoken Ally was born, but I was nowhere near the self-realization that’s brought me to this point. Social pressure leading to self denial is a powerful thing.
I’m Queer, I’ve always been Queer, and it feels so good to finally say it! It feels good to write it! It feels good to start living it!
P.S. For anybody wondering, I still use “he” pronouns. I am also still a son, husband, and father. There aren’t any gender neutral terms that I connect with yet, so I’ll keep the male-centric ones for now.