Aren’t we all on the spectrum?

by Phil Hill

Spectrum is a word I’ve heard flying around a lot in recent years; almost always in connection with autism. It got me thinking. So many of us are happy to believe everyone is on the autistic spectrum (despite it being a disability), yet trying to convince people our gender is on a spectrum seems to be one of the hardest uphill battles for people of my generation.

A few months ago my counsellor asked me what gender I identified as. At the time I said I 100% identified as a woman but felt 90% masculine. I can appreciate that probably sounds like a bit of a contradiction, so I’ll elaborate…

When I was a child I was under the impression that there were only two genders and that sex and gender were the same thing. Seeing as I didn’t have anything dangling between my legs, I’ve always just accepted that I was female.

However, my life has always screamed masculinity – I spent my break times at school playing with the boys. Action Man was my chosen childhood toy, not Barbie. Growing up my hobbies included football and skateboarding. I was a Scout, not a Brownie.  Almost all my clothes come from the men’s department. I feel more comfortable in the company of men, specifically choosing to see a male counsellor and always hoping that whenever I have a doctors appointment it will be with a man (even if it involves him looking at my ‘lady parts’). In fact, I even changed my name to a ‘man’s’ name by deed poll back in 2014… 
Phil Hill Fortunately, I now know that sex and gender are in fact different from another. Sex refers to chromosomes, genitalia and anatomy, whereas gender is a social construct referring to how you feel, identify and express yourself. In Lehman’s terms; one is what’s going on underneath your pants, the other is what’s going on in your mind…

Since having that conversation with my counsellor three months ago, I don’t think a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about my gender and at some point, I came to a realisation; I don’t identify as female anymore.

Now I see myself as a person rather than a gender. I’m not trying to find a label for how I feel or put myself in a box; doing so feels limiting and unnecessary. To me, gender is a spectrum and life is ever changing –  why fixate on a finding a label when I could just go with the flow and be free? They’ll be some people who are happy to label themselves. Hell, I identified as a ‘straight woman’ for the first 25 years of my life! But what I’ve come to realise is that actually we don’t need to put a label on things like gender, the social pressure just tricks us into thinking we do.

Being the open book that I am, it was important for me to talk about my journey and help raise awareness. I didn’t want to wait until years down the line once I had it all figured out and then have to rely on my memory to describe to you what it felt like when it all began. I wanted to document it from the beginning.

So here we are. 12 weeks into me questioning a major part of my 26-year existence and identity. Luckily I don’t feel scared or confused, but instead excited and eager to explore! I’m enjoying the journey of finding out who I really am. And who is that exactly? Not a girl, that’s for sure!

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