It’s Friday night and I’m at a coffee shop waiting for a local alt-country band to go onstage in an attempt to be more social. So far the social part isn’t working; I’m still the awkward wallflower sitting alone at a table, just like I was in my 20s. The only difference is now I’m trying to look more like the girl in the band than the four male members.
The guys in the band all have stereotypical hipster beards, glasses, and tattoos. Except for the tats, I used to look the same back when I was trying to make myself believe I was one of the boys. Masculinity was like a pair of shoes that didn’t quite fit, but I wore them despite all the blisters because I didn’t know there were other options. It wasn’t until I was 30 that I discovered there was a word that described how I always felt: genderqueer. Since then it’s been a process of trying on different clothes, hairstyles, pronouns, and makeup that were way more comfortable than my beard and men’s department jeans. Yet now as I look back and forth between the boys in the band and the sole female member, that old feeling of discomfort whacks me upside the head with a baseball. I can’t help but look at the woman the whole time. It’s not that I want to be with her; more like I want to be her.
The band goes on stage and launches into their set: it’s a mixture of the Old 97’s, Whiskeytown, and Uncle Tupelo with a touch of Jack White sprinkled in. The music is great, but I can’t enjoy it. All I think is, “I’ll never be who I want to be.”
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