The young woman profiled in this story is named “Rocko.” I can’t help but wonder if that was her given name at birth.

Julie Scelfo of the New York Times reports.

A University Recognizes a Third Gender: Neutral

Rocko Gieselman looked like any other undergraduate at the University of Vermont but perhaps a little prettier, with pale freckles dancing across porcelain skin and bright blue eyes amplifying a broad smile. Black bra straps poked out from a faded black tank top emblazoned with the logo of the indie band Rubblebucket; a silver necklace with an anchor dangled over ample décolletage.

Gieselman, a 21-year-old senior majoring in gender studies, was chatting cheerfully from a futon, legs tucked sideways, knees forward. In the tidy, poster-filled apartment that Gieselman shares with a roommate near campus, we were discussing the dating landscape. Gieselman, who came out in seventh grade, blushed and smiled shyly: “My partner was born female, feels female. The partners I’m attracted to are usually feminine people.”

Gieselman, too, was born female, has a gentle disposition, and certainly appears feminine (save for a K. D. Lang cut). But Gieselman self-identifies not as a gay woman but as transgender. Unlike men and women who experience a mismatch between their bodies and their gender identities and take steps to align them, Gieselman accepts having a womanly body, and uses the term — along with “genderqueer” — to mean something else: a distinct third gender.

While a freshman at Burlington High School, Gieselman began feeling that the label “girl,” even “lesbian,” didn’t fit. “Every time someone used ‘she’ or ‘her’ to refer to me, it made this little tick in my head. Kind of nails-on-a-chalkboard is another way you can describe it. It just felt wrong. It was like, ‘Who are you talking to?’”