Who needs gender when you’re in woods?

Torrens University

Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) is a tabletop roleplaying game. It is also very gay. I am currently advocating to add a few more letters to well-known acronym LGBTQIA+DnD. It is a wonderful avenue for people to create stories together, build worlds and explore identity. As well as cast cool spells and stuff.

Something inside me clicked when I looked at this piece of art. It was a digital illustration of a Fir Bolg, this big grey, earthen creature who was sitting on the floor, flowers and twigs in their hair. Behind the Fir Bold was the Agender Flag – a flag representing those without gender, or as gender neutral. The artist captioned their work with ‘who needs gender when ur in the woods.

Lockdown for me felt a lot like being in the woods. There was a simplicity about living day to day in my Melbourne bubble – see the same things, having the same conversations, feeling a little lost. Questioning, always questioning.

As a kid, I didn’t really question my gender and what it meant that I was born female. Instinctively, those born female at birth know what it means. It means that we have to prove everything, justify everything. I didn’t realise that when I was young, I was constantly trying to convince the boys that I wasn’t a ‘girly girl’ – as if that was a curse.

Admittedly, I did have a true distaste for dresses and anything classed as feminine. At my friends 7th birthday party where the theme was ‘fairy garden’ there was a hired performer who would paint butterflies, flowers and sparkles on all the little girls faces. I asked them to write EVIL in red on my forehead and then, playing the part, wouldn’t allow anyone on the trampoline #Just doing my job.

I should have seen the signs.

I grew up sporty. I had to prove that I didn’t run like a girl, hit like a girl, kick like a girl.

Those phrases have different connotations now. It is said with a sense of pride.

I played football when I was younger. There was no AFLW back then, not even a discussion that someday in the future, football wouldn’t be exclusive to males.

I played with the boys, and I had to fight to show them that I belonged. My own team. I won runner up best and fairest two years in a row, so take that Mark G.

When talking about those football boys being nasty to me, I would hear, ‘They are doing it because they’re jealous’ or ‘they feel threatened.’ Seems pretty harmless when you’re little.

It’s not so harmless when you are a trans adult and you begin seeing all the statistics of violence against transgender people. Especially minorities

It was around the time I turned 12 or 13, when I became more aware of my body that I no longer felt proud of how tough I was. I felt strange and wrong. I stopped playing football after that and started hiding behind oversized clothes.

In the queer community, there is a lot of talk about queer awakenings; a moment you reflect back on when you were younger, when you were obsessed with a particular character on TV, or your grade two teacher Miss S and realised it was the beginning of your queerness peeking through. A moment that you saw yourself reflecting back at you while watching a video.

For me, it was my crush on Lord of the RingsoTR character Frodo Baggins played by Elijah Wood. I encourage you all to take a moment now and google Frodo Baggins and tell me they are not the spitting image of a Brunswick Lesbian.

I should have seen the signs.

Frodo Baggins - Who needs gender when you're in the woods?

But no, it was in my bedroom, looking at a picture of a mythical creature when it really hit me. A non-human, imaginary creature informed me of my trans identity. Who would have thought.

Maybe my aversion to being called a ‘lady’, ‘woman’ ‘girl’ wasn’t because I hated those terms (except for lady, which I can only abide my big chunky dog being called). Maybe it was the fact that those terms didn’t suit me. They didn’t fit.

“I don’t care about what you are – I just see people as people”

The second you start thinking that way is the moment you erase people’s individuality, it is the moment you erase the experience of culture, history and identity. Read the room y’all. Just because it looks like we have the same covers, doesn’t mean we are the same book.

And my story is just one story. From one perspective. One experience. There are so many other experiences out there. Like in India, where Sushmita Sen: The non-trans star playing a trans icon is a huge opportunity for trans stories to enter the mainstream, but at what cost?

There are television series that explore what it would be like to have a gender-free classroom.

Things are changing. Transgender voices are being heard, and celebrated. Laverne Cox is now a Barbie. Let that sink in. Imagine if you were honoured to have a Barbie made in your image. My work on earth would be done.

Laverne Cox is a Barbie - Who needs gender when you're in the woods?

I think a good place to start for Transgender Awareness Week is to assume you are wrong about everything. And then give yourself a big hug and have a cup of tea because we are not used to being okay with getting things wrong. Start from there and continue on with kindness and curiosity, for yourself and for others.

I think it’s helpful to not see transgender as the ‘third gender’. For me, it is more a case of being neither. And finding that subscribing to assigned gender was more damaging than letting go completely.

So, who needs gender when you’re in the woods? Some of us do, and some of us don’t. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all get a little lost together.


Laverne Cox is now a Barbie

Sushmita Sen: The non-trans star playing a trans icon

No More Boys and Girls – Can our kids go gender free? – Episode 1

No More Boys and Girls – Can our kids go gender free? Episode 2

Disclosure: a documentary that chronicles over 100 years of trans representation on screen

2021 is now the deadliest year on record for transgender people

/Public Release. View in full here.