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Don't Believe The Type: On Self-Expression

Guest columnist Scholastica Tanyi on gender roles


Sometimes it feels like I jumped out of one box into another. Coming out  first as bisexual (because it seemed to be an easier pill for my Bible Belt family to swallow), and then again as a lesbian, I felt a sense of freedom to finally be who I am entirely. That is, until I found myself in the LGBTQIA box within a box, within another box. Don’t get me wrong, I have massive support from groups like LQ, a Shanghai lesbian community and ground spots like lesbian bar Roxie, but sometimes I find that I get the third degree, mostly from people within my own community. It all began with a very cute English girl that I thought I was just fond of.


One day, in the middle of a laowai bar I had my first Katy Perry moment: I kissed a girl, and I liked it. After that, I dabbled but did not take myself seriously until I fell head over heels for a co-worker. This was when I came out to myself and started to navigate a whole new world with a whole new set of labels. 


I generally come off as feminine. I love a good low shirt to show off the twins, long stiletto nails, a perfect face of make-up and wigs to switch up my look. I’m pretty much a drag queen in a biological woman’s body. I loved to climb trees and roll around in the mud as most southern gals do, and beyond that, I embrace my more dominant side. But under all that glitz and glam, I always considered myself a tomboy and have long embraced my more dominant side. I like to call myself a “gentlewoman”— courteous and attentive toward any woman I’m dating or otherwise. 


Despite how I felt on the inside, because of my outward appearance, I found that more masculine women were generally attracted to me. I went with it because I thought it was the “right” thing to do and that it looked “natural.” Of course, now I understand that thought process was just social conditioning, and I probably wasn’t as progressive as I thought I was. It wasn’t until my first girlfriend, who dresses feminine sometimes and more masculine at others, that I began to tackle those problematic beliefs. 


Because of her line of work she wore very masculine clothing, like sweatpants and sneakers. We would only really hang out after work so I only ever saw her in that element but on our first date, I went to her apartment to pick her up and she was in a sparkly, flesh-toned dress with heels. It threw me for a total loop. She was beautiful. But, oddly enough, I was a bit turned off.


My heart always feels masculine, but I don’t feel I have to always express it in my outward appearance. After the initial shock, the night went on and I was still totally head over heels, despite the fact that she was wearing heels. From time to time, she would wear sportswear and at times she’d wear lace and frills. She told me that sometimes she felt masculine and at other times she felt feminine. I did not absorb what she meant entirely until a few years later when I realized I felt the same.


After telling the girl I’m currently dating that I need more masculine clothes, she said that I would be too “T” or tomboy. I was shocked seeing as how when we first met, I presented myself in that way. However, once she got to know my feminine side, she liked that more, which is nice, but I am not willing to change myself for anyone. This “type” stuff is all hype. 
If you have the pleasure to find someone that treats you like a magical unicorn and thinks the world of you and has your best interests at heart, how they choose to present themselves shouldn’t matter.  


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