I’ve always been big on identities.
Many of us have nicknames, or “handles”, names that we use on message boards or for our characters in video games, or even just our twitter or instagram names.
For those of us who are more into worlds of fantasy (or science fiction in my case), nicknames and characters come easily to us. We live mostly in the real world, but it’s fun to pretend, even as adults.
Usually we choose our alter-identities. Sometimes we need them for safety reasons. This is actually how a significant portion of my life began. More on that shortly.
Another thing to highlight — the difference between a label, and an identity. Lots of people don’t like labels, even though they serve a purpose. The thing is, a label is given to you (in some cases, in an undesirable way). An identity is chosen, owned.
The first major identity I remember taking for myself was Atheist. Of my own volition, I rejected god and organized religion. This was around the age of 17, which coincidentally was the age at which I started my journey as a musician.
I adopted a nickname to create my music under, because I wasn’t exactly fond of my birth surname (which I’ve never used as an adult when I haven’t had to), and it turned out to be a good thing. Once I had graduated from college and was looking for a job, I was applying for admin work and got asked in one interview “how do we know you won’t just up and quit this job if a better creative opportunity came up?”. I was rattled by this question because I never expected it, and I was unsettled to think that my main hobby which I really enjoyed was being weaponized against my ability to support myself.
From that moment I decided very intentionally to be diligent about going incognito creatively. I settled on a pseudonym for my creative output, and years later, my pseudonym had more of a digital footprint and rap sheet than my legal name did.
So I am no stranger to inventing an identity and then embodying it and living it to it’s fullest.
When I realized that I wanted and needed an outlet to explore being feminine (I didn’t feel comfortable doing so under my identity at that time), in order to give myself true freedom of expression, I needed to create something entirely new. I felt like there was too much history and expectation (and baggage) attached to the identity I was known as, so I picked up a new drawing board and started fresh.
I originally chose more of a gender neutral name — Jocelyn (when in French Canada is a unisex name)— because I had originally identified as more gender-neutral non-binary and was considering adopting a partial name change anyway. Jocelyn felt to me sufficiently half and half, but still had a softness and uniqueness to it. I chose it initially but then a couple of days later, when I felt like I wanted to really push the femmevelope, I decided that I wanted to create an identity with a distinctly feminine name so I wouldn’t feel any kind of real or imagined barrier to exploring as far as I wanted.
And that’s where Lacey came in. (Oct 2017 update: I originally chose the name Lacey for myself, but as of this month have changed to Artemis and will be sticking with that)
I liked lots of feminine names, but many of my friends already have them, and I didn’t want to duplicate/cause confusion. The one small downside of Lacey is that people misheard me a lot and called me Casey, Lucy, or Gracie. I’m honestly OK with all of those names, but Lacey was the chosen moniker.
(Thankfully Artemis doesn’t get misheard so much)
Since adopting this new identity, there’s been a lot of fluctuation. At first I really embraced finally being able to be as femme as I wanted (though this was almost exclusively online), and really connected into the trans community. But then I started to feel a bit out of place, because I knew that I didn’t feel distinctly “like I was meant to be born with a vagina/uterus” as many trans women do. I’ve since learned that you don’t have to have a binary gender or experience genital dysphoria to qualify under the trans umbrella.
I felt like identifying as non-binary would get me squeezed out of the trans community, so I felt pressure to identify as a woman (which I do more often than not).
I knew I didn’t identify as a man, but it’s not the most ideal thing to define yourself by what you aren’t rather than what you are. But that is the foundation I can always come back to. I don’t identify as a man anymore. If I’m not sure of much, I can be sure of that. And if I’m not a man then I could be a woman, or something else.
Ultimately (for now) I feel gender fluid/flux, but I already know that in large part how I feel is tied to my hair. The longer it naturally gets, the more I feel closer to being how I want to be, and feeling more comfortable/able to present and exist as a “woman” or feminine person when I feel that way (which is more often than not).
I know how I want to look, and I know what I want to be, but struggle with feeling like it’s consistently valid yet. I feel invalid as well because I’m not yet living it every day as many do, but it’s about comfort, and I know a lot of people rightfully say “do what makes you comfortable”. I don’t have to wear a dress every day to be a valid femme person or identify as a woman. However you identify is what matters, not how you present.
I recently read an article that had one particular paragraph that really spoke to me unlike many other things have:
“Gender dysphoria is the phenomenon experienced by some transgender and non-binary people in which they feel they were born with the wrong body. But as Sam Dylan Finch points out at Everyday Feminism, not all trans people experience dysphoria, and not all non-binary people do, either. Saying that people must be cisgender unless they feel they were born in the wrong body serves to police how people identify and implies that gender is just about bodies, when it’s really about the traits we as a society ascribe to them.”
As I said, I have been struggling with feeling invalid because I don’t live it day to day as many do, I feel like I‘m taking up space that I shouldn’t. My struggle may be a little different, but it’s still there.
The above quote however helps me realize that I do deserve some space.
In case you haven’t heard it before, the phrase “representation is important” comes into play here. The only example I was aware of that fit into the realm of how I felt, was an agender transwoman I’d seen on OkCupid. She had gone onto hormones and changed her appearance to present more traditionally feminine, but identified as agender.
I know there are many trans women who never have “bottom surgery” as well, either by choice, or due to financial limitations. So that OKC user further showed me that your physicality doesn’t necessarily have to match your identity perfectly to still be valid. She obviously felt her appearance was meant to be a certain way, and her aesthetics matched that, but her gender identity didn’t.
When I told my mom about my double life, about 3.5 months into living as Lacey part time, that really threw me for a loop as well and made my dysphoria and doubt worse (I wrote a bit more about that in my “Transition Timeline” post).
But amongst friends, people who I trust and I know support me, I know how I feel and can comfortably and confidently be me, with or without my wig, whether or not I’m dressed in overtly “femme” clothes. Because I know they respect my identity. I know the general public largely doesn’t.
I recognize that identities can change, and just because you identify as something at one point doesn’t mean you will, or have to be that thing forever. I’ve remained an Atheist since coming to identify as one, but I have changed on other identities/stances.
Right now it feels safest and most accurate to identify as non-binary, gender fluid, and transfeminine.
Non binary because I recognize that there is no binary (and over the course of the last 14 ish months have really felt a lot of different variations for myself, including agender). Gender fluid/flux because that’s largely how I’ve been feeling (especially when not with trusted friends). Transfeminine because when I’m at my best/happiest that’s basically what I am/how I feel.
Thank you for reading, and hopefully this gave you some insight or was just enjoyable to read. I can be reached with questions, comments, or corrections (where applicable) at email@example.com.
If you want to check out my other various work and projects you can find them at www.artemiscreates.com.