Ever since I can remember, I have felt most at home in a more masculine expression. I played sports, loved to climb trees and play in the mud, and felt awkward in hyper feminine attire. Only until I went to college did I have the language for my sexuality, then my gender identity. When I first “tried on” masculine expression as young adult, I modeled the masculinities portrayed by the media and my father. It has taken me years and the love and care of my family (chosen and birth), my partner, and the Brown Boi Project to provide me the affirmation and tools to begin to regenerate a healthy masculine identity. As a masculine of center (MOC) gender nonconforming person in the academy (i.e. higher education), I am both privileged in my access to this system and isolated as one of very few brown masculine of center women. Last October I participated in the Brown Boi Project’s retreat and Cole and Erica taught me that my masculinity, if not lived out in healthy ways, often perpetuates injustices to my sisters, mother, partner, and other women in my communities. My partner is my biggest supporter, both serving as protector when others are challenged by my masculine expression and holding up my identity as something she admires and challenges with care.
I think of my gender nonconformity as gender euphoria. In my female form, I am at ease in dapper attire and “professional drag” fit for the academy, playing with the endless possibilities of female masculinity. I am often allowed to navigate spaces and not be held to the standards of purely feminine or masculine gender norms. I get to exist outside of both, carefully examining their existence and power in our daily lives. I love to be called pretty as well as handsome (especially by my mom), one of the ladies and one of the bois, she/her or they/them, and enjoy a fine craft beer in our very queer neighborhood in Minneapolis.