Just recently, I went into the local piercing studio on Main to get my septum pierced. It has been roughly two years with a piercing on the right side of my nostril, and I wanted it to be accompanied by a second piercing in my septum. Without really thinking about it, I realized I could be doing this to come off a little more masculine.
I did some research on gender-confirming piercings and saw a bunch of forums that started with “what kind of piercing should I get to pass as more masc/femme.” I had never really thought of piercings as a way to come off as a different gender, but after looking into it, it made more sense.
I saw a post by a non-binary person about their new septum piercing and below, the comments said things like “welcome to the non-binary club.” Shocked, I realized how many of my non-binary friends had nose piercings, and face piercings in general. When I went to get my septum, I went with my partner who was getting the same piercing. We may have subconsciously gotten the piercings to come off as more masculine.
This doesn’t put all people with nose piercings into a genderqueer box, but it does raise the question of why gender-questioning people see certain piercings as more masculine or feminine. There is a clear way that queer people tend to dress, cut their hair and get piercings. You can see it in many of the queer people on campus, but this doesn’t mean everyone does it the same. It is just a trend that seems to create a community, and it helps with feeling a sense of inclusivity.
I went on websites that provided conversations between transgender people, and someone commented that they took out all the cartilage piercings in their ears because they were scared of coming off more feminine. When someone has gender dysphoria, anything can push them over the edge. The slightest change in wardrobe or hairstyle can create anxiety about what the world is seeing in their appearance. If a certain piercing will encourage or discourage the way they identify, then people will create those changes in their appearance. They need to confirm that their identity is valid. When you don’t live in the binary, it can be hard to find that balance. While you may know it for yourself that you identify as genderqueer, it can be hard for you to exist in society because of the way that gender was socially constructed. Boy and girl are the preset genders, and if a piercing will get someone to think about what socially constructed gender I am, then it could help me feel more balanced.
I think that any way that can help people be seen as their identity makes it easier to exist in this world. Personally, I think that the reason I have been getting piercings for so long is to push against the idea of a traditional feminine body. It helps me from being seen as a femme person, and more of middle ground. Face modifications compared to ear modifications questions the idea of femininity.
That being said, transgender folks have piercings the same reason cisgender folks have piercings; because they like the way it looks. Nevertheless, this is a way that trans people can regain control over their own body. Getting haircuts, piercings and tattoos is a way to take it back. We deserve control over our lives and our bodies, and this is just one way to do so. Not everyone has the money, support and services to be confirmed in their own identity in other ways. This is simply the cheapest way to take control and to be happy with the way you look.
Being queer comes with a lot of stigmas, and as we pierce our bodies and make other changes, we are proving to society that we don’t care about the traditional and socially constructed way. We are confirming our own identities since the world around us won’t. Queer people deserve to be recognized, and if that isn’t going to happen, we are going to recognize ourselves instead.