"The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else." - e e cummings
I've written so many versions of this post. Short and long, happy and angry, personal and impersonal. I'm still not sure where to start when talking about this, honestly.
Last year I came out as queer, and that was awesome. Everyone was supportive, and some friends even responded with, “Yeah, we've been waiting for you to figure that out.” It was a great experience, and given the awesome people in my life, it was no big deal.
Last year, I also read this interview with Cyan Banister on National Coming Out Day. It struck a chord with me. And I started to ask myself some fundamental questions about my own gender identity.
Let me tell you this: it was really fucking scary for me. It's scary to ask yourself those questions and not have an answer. It’s scary to wonder “what if…” It's scary to wonder how people you care about will react. It's scary to be uncertain about something so monumental.
But it's also liberating in a way I can't adequately articulate. And this is not everyone's experience, but so much more about me and my experiences with gender my entire life make sense now. I feel more relief and less shame in my everyday life about who I am, how I present, and how I'm read by the world. It's pretty amazing, actually.
Here's the thing: while I was assigned female at birth, I'm not a woman. But I'm also not a man. While I can identify with parts of masculinity and femininity, and sometimes I feel or present more feminine or masculine, those aren't my gender. The best way to describe my gender right now? I’m non-binary.
Of course, the joy of discovering this about myself is tempered by the current political climate. I worry about healthcare. I worry about bathrooms. I worry about traveling. I worry about discrimination. I've dealt with it before, and I'm worried about dealing with more of it now. I worry that I'm painting a target on my back. I know my partner worries about that, too.
But, for me, visibility matters so much. Not just for other LGBTQ+ folks, but for myself, too. Being recognized as my true self is so important -- especially in the face of bigotry. Coming out at work and switching to they/them pronouns really solidified that for me. Even when people get it wrong, it matters so much when they get it right.
And really, truly, for a lot of people figuring out their identity, visibility matters. Seeing echoes of my experience in the stories of others was so important for me. Knowing it didn't have to be so binary, and that questioning was not only okay, but that it didn't have to mean anything in the end, was super important to me. And that's why even though I've always been this person, it's taken me this long to recognize myself -- I didn't have the framework, and I didn't have the language. And I'd like to help other folks find those things by being out and by being open about this part of myself.
I could probably write a lot more, and maybe I'll share more in the future, but I guess I'll leave it at that for now. Here's some practical information:
- You can keep calling me [redacted] or [redacted], though I might prefer [redacted]. It's something I'm still figuring out, honestly
- My pronouns are they/them/their
- Don't use gendered language for me - I'm not a woman, I'm not a man, I'm a non-binary person
You will probably fuck up and use the wrong pronouns or language for me. It's going to happen. The best thing you can do? Correct yourself and move on. Don't make a big deal out of it. The same applies to correcting other people.
If you have questions about all of this, I've included a bunch of links below to awesome resources that you should check out. Even if you don't have questions, I recommend checking them out to broaden your understanding of the human experience in general, because the resources and the people who made them are all really amazing.
So, yeah, I guess that’s it. Happy National Coming Out Day!
- Pronoun Island: How to Use They/Them
- The World in Words: Introducing myself as 'they/them/their' at my workplace
- All Your Questions About Gender-Neutral Pronouns Answered
- All About PRONOUNS! by Ash Hardell
- What is Non-Binary Gender
- Too Queer for Your Binary: Everything You Need to Know and More About Non-Binary Identities
- 9 Things Not to Say to a Non-Binary Person
- 10 Myths About Non-Binary People It’s Time to Unlearn
- Andrea Gibson's Latest Spoken Word Poem Will Change The Way You Think About Gender
- What is a nonbinary gender? by Riley J. Dennis
- Non-Binary Identities by Chase Ross
- Gender Resources Playlist by Ashley Wylde
- The ABC’s of LGBT+ by Ash Hardell
- Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
- Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation edited by Kate Bornstein & S. Bear Bergman
- The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman
- Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan E. Coyote
- Gender Failure by Rae Spoon & Ivan E. Coyote