The next two posts I’m going to make are based on two questions my wife asked me when I told her I was thinking about my gender. They were “How long have you you been thinking about this?” and “Why did you tell me now?”. I’m going to address each one in a separate post, and they’re mostly the same answers I gave her then but more considered and hopefully better written than incoherent 2am brain-farts.
So the first questions was how long have I been thinking about my gender, and the answer is a bit complicated. At the time I said a few months, but in looking on the internet and reading other people’s stories I’ve realised there’s a lot of similar themes that go back much further.
One of my earliest memories is when I was 8 or 9. I had a cabin bed which had a desk under it and a wardrobe to the side. The way it was laid out meant that if you ducked under the desk and crawled round a little there was an area behind the wardrobe that was out of sight. I remember I had taken one of my younger sisters dresses from a pile of clothes that had been cleaned and needed ironing. It was light blue and made of some sort of lycra/polyester I think?
Anyway, I snuck back into the hidden space late at night once everyone else had gone to sleep and retrieved the dress from where I’d stashed it before pulling it on. I’m not really sure why, or what I was doing, and I don’t remember much else except taking it off and scampering back to be feeling guilty.
I’ve always loved games and there will be many posts in the future about them, but my main love in games has always been escapism. I particularly love fantasy games, something sword and sorcery with lots of magic being thrown around. A close second is a dramatic about-face; hard cyberpunk dystopia games. In both of them I love games with a story, something I can really get my teeth into, and something ideally with choices that matter.
I’ve always tended to pick the female characters. One of my best gaming memories is the time spend with Commander Sheppard, a strong, kind hearted, fiery woman with a soft spot for the colour blue. I had great fun running through all 3 Mass Effects, building up a character from my choices. I don’t know why I picked FemShep to start with other than she looked cool. This, as it unsurprisingly turns out, is something I’ve noticed now as a pattern.
I’ve always loved skyrim as well, I can’t even count how many hours I’ve sunk into it, and I am indeed one of “those people” who owns it on multiple platforms. Not always by choice (I’m almost certain I’ve got 2 copies on PC from Humble Bundles) but sometimes I’m a sucker for a re-release with something new (the VR version blew me away).
Again, in Skyrim, I was a girl. A short willowy wood-elf who was moulded into a deadly beast with a bow and a flailing idiot with a greatsword.
This pattern goes back for as many games as I can remember playing where gender was a choice. I’ve always leaned into the female character. I remember that I’ve often justified it to myself as wanting to tell a more interesting story than “the hero guy does his thing as usual”, especially as some of my favourite fiction does a lot of work with strong female characters that were missing through much of my childhood.
Looking back on it now it’s another tick in a box that suddenly makes a lot more sense in a different way. I did want strong female characters but not just for the narrative, I wanted a strong female character that I could be, who could be the avatar of my ideal self.
I’ve known I was bisexual for a long time now, it’s something that’s not really impacted my life in any particularly earth-shattering way, but it’s something I’ve known about.
I came out to my wife shortly after she came out to me, I was really grateful that she, as my girlfriend at that point (some 7 or 8 years ago?), trusted me to support her and to not go through the stages of bi-anxiety; “Does this mean you’ll start dating girls?”, “Do we need an open relationship now?” and the usual ending point “Can I have a threesome with your friends?”. I like to think at the time I did support her, though I can’t remember my reaction very well, it’s not something I really cared about. She liked me and was with me, I liked her, that was it.
She was much more on-the-ball about it, though. She knew she was bi from a much younger age than I did, I only figured out just after secondary school (16/17 for my overseas readers). I was browsing the internet (and I’m going to add a much more NSFW later around this) when I realised that hey; girls are awesome and guys are awesome too. This revolution for me was less concerning than the one I’m going through because I knew some gay people and I knew a bunch of straight people, and at that point I didn’t know there was a whole specific branch of bigotry associated with being bisexual, so I just got on with things.
I’ve never actually been with a man, romantically or physically, but it’s something I know that I could have done just as easily as be with a woman. Meeting my future-wife and falling utterly in love with her didn’t put a stop on me exploring and figuring things out because I never needed to explore, it just made me not care about “trying the water” because I’d already found the perfect person, regardless of their gender.
Realising I might have something complex going on with my identity as well bought up a lot of questions I encountered about bisexuality only after the fact I had figured myself out. “How do you know?”, “Aren’t you just going through a phase?”, “You’re just doing this for attention!”…. Those last two still hurt to write.
Looking at them now with a more mature eye, the knowledge of how vile people can be and how little it matters, it’s easier again to see a pattern with how I’ve felt and how I feel: I’ve been considering who I am for many years and I probably should have started thinking about it earlier, if I’d had the emotional intelligence back when I first tried on that dress as I do now.
So when my wife asked me “how long have you been thinking about this?” I Said a few months. Turns out that was true, and not so true. I’ve been consciously thinking about it for a few months, but it looks like I’ve been unconsciously thinking about it for years, and only now am I getting a chance to do something about it.