by Lily Pudlo
Imagine you’re going out for ice cream. When you arrive at your favorite shop, the once with cows painted on the walls and where the scent of dairy and a blast of AC hits you as soon as you walk through the door, there are dozens of flavors to choose from. You may know Butter Pecan is your favorite, but the new Caramel Chocolate Swirl looks too good to resist. Which do you choose? You can’t possibly stomach both in one sitting, so you must decide.
Gender presentation feels a lot like ordering an ice cream cone.
Whichever flavor you pick will probably satisfy you, but there will always be a tickle in the back of your mind wishing you had picked the other option.
Most of the time, I like my Butter Pecan: a soft butch woman. I know I always feel good in that identity, but what if I want to dress sexier for a night out with friends? Or more formal for an interview? What if I’m just in the mood for something different? Which flavor of gender do I pick?
As a genderqueer person (that is, a person who doesn’t feel they’re represented by a binary idea of gender), no one gender presentation will ultimately satisfy my perception of gender in the same way no one ice cream flavor will satisfy my sweet tooth. Sometimes I want to appear fruity and fem. Other days I feel plain and androgynous. Occasionally, I don’t want to be perceived as a woman at all. I need multiple options to feel like I’m getting everything that I want, and I know that I can’t get everything that I want in a single serving. So, I pick and choose every day, always trying to satisfy that tickle in the back of my mind that wishes I’d gotten Cookie Dough after I order Strawberry.
Oh, well. There’s always tomorrow.
Lily Pudlo is a third year MFA Nonfiction Candidate at the University of New Hampshire specializing in essays on sexuality and gender identity. She was the Nonfiction Genre Editor for UNH's graduate literary journal Barnstorm and has published a number of multimedia projects and essays including her children's book "When Lucy Came to London" (Lulu Press Inc., 2019). Aside from writing, Lily loves playing rugby and Dungeons & Dragons with her friends in her hometown of Dover, NH.