Photo of a wheelie bin/rubbish bin painted in blue, pink and yellow with a face with wide eyes and eyelashes.

Gendertrash by Pea McCafferty

Content warnings: descriptions of dysphoria, transphobia & homophobia

Jim Sterling described themself as “gendertrash” and that’s a description that resonates with me. I’m heaped up in the corner of a room that I can’t be bothered cleaning. A complete void in the place where cleanliness and order goes to die. A complete hoarder. I hoard pronouns too.

Maybe somebody is whispering to me that my trash is somebody else’s treasure, but it’s hard to hear that through all the cis men yelling at me from cars. Amazing how a bit of nail polish and a high ponytail tied with a scrunchie can bring out such incoherent rage. I’m not quite brave enough to wear skirts in public yet, but I’m clearly braver than the macho dickhead threatened by any hint of femininity that he feels the need to yell at it.

You can yell at the femme all you want, buddy, I’ll still be here, floating through the air like an ibis. Trashy, yes, but like all birds of flight, still somehow majestic.  

I remember a friend saying that they didn’t want to live with cis-het guys anymore because they’re just too messy. He said this, in my apartment, where I clearly hadn’t mopped the floors in months. Where I was sitting with a full beard and a skirt that he hadn’t commented on. I think this was the first time he’d seen me like this.

Side note: He did come round recently and said kind words about the new skirt I bought, so don’t judge him too harshly … God though, how much lower could I set the bar for cis people?

The shouting isn’t new though. This happened well before my enby garbage rose fully bloomed. I started growing out my hair at sixteen. I’d wanted to before that, but I’d discovered heavy metal a few months earlier and it gave me a perfect cover. I’d found the loophole and it was brutal riffs and mosh pits. Cause as we all know, no one who’s not a man could ever survive in a circle pit, right? 

But that didn’t really matter in a regional Queensland town. I was still a f*g and an emo according to people who thought owning a ute and liking Skitz Mix were solid personality traits.

Long hair has made me a pretty constant source of ridicule and even resentment. I still remember when two girls pulled hard on my ponytail when I was walking around a pub in my hometown. When I asked why they would do that, the answer came back as, “You’re a man.” As if that was an answer needing no more qualification or investigation. 

Very bold of you to assume so, Regina George. Guess we were both wrong on that one.

Them: “What do you use in your hair?”

Me: “Uh, I use shampoo and conditioner.”

Her: “That’s it?!”

Me: “… It’s organic?”

Her (exasperated): “… I hate you so much right now. God, why is good hair wasted on BOYS?

I’m standing at the front row of a mosh pit, windmilling my hair. A guy next to me when the song is over, “Fuck your hair smells nice.” And then a beat where he feels awkward. I’m genuinely trying not to blush and show any visible signs of happiness. Only time I’ve felt more validated is when a girl asked if she could braid my hair. 

“Sure, I don’t mind, you can braid it,” I said, quietly jumping for joy inside. 

God, just make me look like an elven princess with a beard. I wanna be both Arwen and Aragorn.

You look good with short hair. You look much more

The word 'handsome' designed with zalgo text, glitched and spooky looking.

Gee, thanks. I only cut it because the knots were so bad from being barely able to get out of bed for a couple of weeks and it would have taken hours of pain to tease them all out. But having heard ‘handsome’ about three dozen times since I opted for the cut, I think perhaps I made the wrong choice.

I hate being called handsome. Cute, yes, sexy, yes, pretty, yes. Those are all fine (if incredibly infrequently applied to this garbage shell of flesh I inhabit). But handsome is a word that’s never sat right with me. It makes my skin crawl. The most gorgeous femme in a bar could sidle up to me, sit in my lap, stroke my beard and say, “Hello handsome,” and I’d still want to run away, crawl up into a ball and just disappear forever. 

Please, if you think I’m handsome, just swipe left, for both our sakes.

Welcome to Totally Respectful Dating App For Trans & Gender Non-Conforming People™

Which feed do you want to appear in? The one for people looking for men, or the one for people looking for women? Don’t worry. We definitely respect everyone here. I mean, look at how many different gender options we have! Now choose one of the two options. You can’t appear in both. That would require like, what, three extra lines of code? You can switch feeds whenever you want though. Isn’t that thoughtful and considerate of us? We totally deserve a booth at Pride

… There really are a LOT of unicorn hunters on here. 

Never have I felt more like people view me as just something to enjoy for a short time and be discarded, than I have on Totally Respectful Dating App For Trans & Gender Non-Conforming People™. Just blindfold me, spin me in a circle a dozen times and put me in a room full of random people and I think I’d have better luck finding a more meaningful connection. 

Another person’s trash is someone’s treasure. That’s what they say right? So why do I have a hard time shaking the suspicion that when people treasure me, it’s because I’m trash? 

Why do I feel like I’m an ugly vinyl couch from the 60s, dragged home from curbside collection to a hipster’s home out of some sense of wanting to display their quirky sensibility? 

Not really treasured for who I am, but what I represent.

Am I viewed as a cheap knock off? 

As male-lite? 

As a comfortable entry point?

As a lavender totem of their curiosity? 

If you need me, I’ll be trying to figure this out from the comfort and safety of my wheelie bin. Just put me out on the curb on Wednesday night, thanks. 

Photo of a wheelie bin/rubbish bin painted in blue, pink and yellow with a face with wide eyes and eyelashes.

About the author

Pea McCafferty (she/they/he) is a non-binary writer from Meanjin, living on unceded land of the Jagera and Turrbal people. Pea can be found inside, usually spending far too much time on the internet looking at cute photos of animals and resisting the urge to adopt a cat. She would prefer if people would not follow her, as it tends to make them nervous. 

Photo by Alberto Frías on Unsplash.

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