I can’t take my eyes off of her. I’m five years old, at the Halloween store with my dad, and out on display is a Pink Power Ranger costume. I catch my reflection in the plastic casing of the costume, and for a moment I can’t tell the difference between myself and the Pink Ranger. It’s happening. I’m going to be the Pink Power Ranger for Halloween!
I point to her and say to my dad, “I want this costume.” He stops, looks around the store seeing if I pointed somewhere else, then looks back at me. My dad asks carefully, “Are you sure?” I don’t hear him the first time. I’m lost in a haze of nineties television and sci-fi feminism, where I take on the role of my hero and the Pink Ranger, Kimberly Hart. I see myself subduing Lord Zedd with my knee-high white boots, my pink skirt dancing as I summon my Pterodactyl Dinozord, the rest of the rangers laughing as I tell Alpha 5 to shut up. My dad tries to grab my attention one more time and asks again, “Stevie? Are you sure you want this costume?” I reply without hesitation, “Um yeah! I’m gonna look hot as shit!”
Okay, I didn’t say that last part, but I was thinking it.
At a young age, I was an unapologetic fem. Not because I was unafraid, but because I truly didn’t know differently. I didn’t understand the difference between masculine or feminine. I wanted to play and have fun like any child, and for me that was dressing up as the Pink Power Ranger.
I’ve never felt like a boy, and I don’t see myself as a woman. So where I am on the binary scale of gender? Man? Woman? Nowhere. I’m not on it. I’m genderqueer. Genderqueer, also known as gender non-conforming or gender non-binary, is a genderless identity for people that don’t see themselves as man or woman. They challenge gender norms, and redefine body empowerment.
A lack of gender doesn’t mean a lack of identity. Identifying as genderqueer isn’t an answer to the question, “Are you a boy or a girl?” It’s an answer in the form of another question asking, “What is a boy or girl?” more importantly, “What is gender?” Being genderqueer doesn’t put you in a box, but instead asks how you would dress up the box the world calls gender. Do you see yourself in a skirt? Or maybe a biker’s jacket? Why not both? Gender expression doesn’t need to end at man nor woman. You can cinch, extenuate, and tailor your identity to however you feel inside.
Genderqueer isn’t only defined by clothing you wear. As much as we’re asking what is gender’s role with clothing, it also gives us an opportunity to explore gender in relation to sex, intimacy, and love.
Before discovering my genderqueer identity, I didn’t love my body. Growing up, I would dig and pick at the acne on my shoulders. I thought I was ridding it from my body, but instead tiny white scars grew in its place. I’d cover up the patches of scars on my shoulders with shitty Abercrombie polos and itchy long sleeved shirts so nobody would notice them. Or rather, I’d hope they wouldn’t notice me.
My nipples especially freaked me out. They’re round, rosy, hairy, and would poke through everything I wore. I would later nair the hair off my nipples all the way down to my slender hairy legs, all because a boy I was dating at the time said he “preferred smooth boys.” I still cringe at the smell of Nair bottles. A lot of my teenage and college years were focused on what others wanted to see in my body, but not what I wanted to see in myself.
Truth is I loved myself the most when I was wearing that Pink Power Ranger costume. I felt invincible! I was strong and feminine, empowered! No one can tell you where you draw your strength from, that you have to discover on your own, but people can convince you how to hide it. I hid my feminine strength and hairy features growing up because I believed they weren’t good enough, that I wasn’t good enough. “Sexy” and “glamorous” were foreign mottos I saw on magazines and TV commercials. I knew them by definition, but not how they felt. It wasn’t till after college I reclaimed my love for my body.
Buying a dress for the first time was powerful. I gawked at it the same way I did the Pink Power Ranger costume. It was this sublime cotton sun dress with intricate geometric patterning in the front. Hues of neon yellow, blue, and pink weaved together at the top like power armor. The bottom of the dress went to the floor and would dance in the air as you moved. As I put on the dress, I saw my body clearly and without gender.
My acne scars weren’t things to hide, but unique marks that complimented the geometric design. My nipples didn’t distract me. They were quirky and fun to look at as they rested, erect against the fabric of the dress. I chuckled as I looked down. Below my waist, the dress had a slit that ran down to my feet, and in between were my hairy legs. Goddamn they looked good.
I didn’t feel like a boy or a girl, I felt like myself.
My gender-bending didn’t end with me trying on a dress. I had my ears pierced for the first time at a Claire’s store, where I cried so loud a little girl asked me if I wanted to hold her hand. I bought my first tube of lipstick, and stained the lips of a boy I fell in love with in New England. I wore jelly heels out in public because why the fuck not?!
By gender norms, this is day-to-day routine for most cis gender women. But for someone who identifies as genderqueer, this experimentation of clothing, makeup, sex, and love is a rebirth, a whole new coming out. A shedding of what was and asked to be held back. Piercing my ears, putting on lipstick and heels isn’t day-to-day routine for me, it’s power. It is uninhibited confidence. It is love for lost time.
Like Kimberly morphing into the Pink Ranger, my genderqueerness has transformed me into a strong warrior. I am without gender and propriety. And while I do have my days where I struggle to live in a violently heteronormative world, I find solace in the comfort of knowing there is strength in my gender ambiguity. For I am neither man nor woman, I’m a Pink Power Ranger.
Stevie King is a freelance writer and comedian with a mild obsession for burning down ice cream trucks. They've often been mistaken for Jack Antonoff, Jason Schwartzman, and your mom.