Josh Baker, in their late twenties, is questioning their gender. Josh uses gender neutral pronouns, they/them, instead of he/him or she/her. Josh is having to rediscover themself completely. “You have to spend time to figure yourself out again. For me, that also ties into the fact that I quit my career, theater, and that's all I did for ten years of my life. I had no hobbies. Finding out what my hobbies are; finding out what my interests are; it's starting from, not scratch, but pretty fucking close to scratch. I'm inventing a whole new human.”
Josh is struggling with questions about future employment, and gets by on gig work. Gender questioning has added complications to the search. “It's part of the difficulties in finding a new job, but not all of it. Presentation is a big thing.” Unique gender presentations don’t fit with many work environments. Josh used to work in the theater department of a Catholic School, and probably wouldn’t have been able to work there while presenting in a femme manner. As time progresses, Josh is finding that presentation is becoming a bigger factor in job selection. “I got a job, a good paying job, and I quit after one day. Part of it was because I was there in boy, and I just couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it.”
Another factor in job selection is that Josh has mostly done work involving building, including the theater work which was largely set and prop construction. Now, Josh’s gender dysphoria is conflicting with their work experience. “I don't want to pursue my old career skillsets that much. One-off gigs is one thing, but as a job I don't want to pursue those…I'm finding that I don't want to do the traditionally masculine things right now like building.”
While other factors are discouraging Josh from theater work, Josh’s relationship with manual labor might be salvageable based on an experience of wearing makeup while working. “That was fun. I think putting on the lipstick made using the powertools okay. I have a lot of dissociation with those things, so doing it in femme might help reprogram me to use the one goddamn skillset I have.”
Josh’s gender conundrum started about six months before I interviewed them, when they, “got hit in the head with the frying pan of dysphoria.” Before that, Josh battled with general self worth issues, but gender dysphoria was not on their radar. It is only recognizable upon reflection. “I was a pretty masculine male. [But] I always had questions about masculinity, and would be in dresses and do gender queer things around my friends, mostly to make a big show of it. Hindsight, it's probably, 'oh this is a thing, I'm going to make it a big deal so that it's not a secret.'”
Josh says, “I had questioned if there was a chance I was trans for years, since I met my first trans male friend.” Josh dismissed the idea. “Oh no, I'm just asking that question because this guy is my friend, and this has nothing to do with me.” This pattern repeated, years later, when Josh started dating a transgender man. But Josh couldn’t stop questioning their own motives. “Am I just doing this for attention? Do I mean this? Is this real, or am I just going through a phase?” When all of the sudden, Josh felt they needed female genetalia. The dysphoria was so bad, that for a week, their genetalia felt numb. “[I] couldn't even feel it. I needed a vagina so bad.”
While dysphoria has opened the door to gender questioning, Josh’s gender identity is not the same as their body issues. “I actually am separating out my dysphoria from my presentation. I compartmentalize them.” Because, for Josh, wanting a vagina is about wanting to have a certain sexual experience, not about being recognized as a female by society. “I want that sex. I want to know what that feels like….And I can feel a shadow vagina sometimes.” If Josh had their ultimate wish, it would be to surgically have both genitals.
When it comes to external presentation, “I'm still working out the details. Currently, I am sitting in gender fluid, femme of center. I don't even know if I would say female, I would say femme.” Josh’s dress bounces between a more extreme, “punk rock princess,” to a more subtle, androgynous femme that is, “probably going to be read as a gay guy,” by others.
Dressing the way Josh wants doesn’t always communicate the way they feel. “There are times when I want she. I want the surgeries, I want the hormones, I want to be able to walk anywhere in public and not get sir-ed again.” But fully being a woman isn’t something Josh wants. There is fluxuation. “If it continues to switch, then it is both of those things.” However, communicating that to others isn’t simple. “Dealing with presentation for the world versus presentation needs for myself is the new thing I'm thinking about.”
Josh has chosen neutral pronouns even though, “Ideally I would like to be able to be called by whatever it is that I'm feeling that day without having to go through the explanation.” But Josh finds, “It's very confusing for a lot of my friends.” Neutral terms allow the pronouns to fit no matter how much the presentation bounces around.
For now, Josh is spending time to figure themself out. “I am creating a new person. I'm finding out a new person. I want to not hurt anymore, and I want to be happier. That's my life goal….It requires so many hard choices.”