I’m too old for labels. That said, here are some that apply to me: gay, queer, genderqueer, non-binary. Anyone that knows me at all, knows that I am married to a woman and that we have two kids. In other words being gay is obvious (unless you are that one co-worker that just realized it three weeks ago, stopped another co-worker and said, “did you know that she is gay?” Really?). I’ve never really put labels to how I identify with regard to gender. I’ve written about my thoughts on gender and labels a few times. I’ve talked about how my kids refer to me. I’ve shared my idealistic view of living in a world where labels aren’t necessary and where people can just be who they are and love who they love (or not, shout out, aces).
But, I’ve come to a realization about the importance of me, specifically me, defining myself to others. So, here’s the sitch. I am non-binary (I like the term genderqueer best) and what that means to me is that I am not a woman, but I am also not a man. I exist somewhere in between and that’s okay. It is sometimes a weird and lonely place to be. I mean, how many people do you know that are neither man nor woman? Because of that I’ve recently started seeking out more inclusive media and experiences. I started listening to a couple podcasts that focus on trans/non-binary content. I’ve read a lot of gender inclusive material (books, graphic novels, articles, etc.). I’ve started to have conversations with people about gender and more specifically about my gender and here is what I’ve learned: People are generally uneducated and/or don’t understand non-binary (or similar) identities.
So, let’s start at the beginning… Non-binary literally means “not relating to, composed of, or involving just two things.” It is not so much what a person is as it is what a person is not. They are not male or female. They could be in between, some combination of the two, neither, both, fluid, or something else. It seems that there are a few common misconceptions that non-binary people are:
- trying to figure themselves out
- trying to get attention
- mentally unstable.
Which is precisely why it is important that I speak up. I am boring. I’m a full grown adult (as much as I would like to pretend that I am not). I am successful (insert rant about how to define success) at my full-time, ‘adulting’ job. I’ve been in a stable long term relationship for over 10 years. I gave birth to and am parenting (with my wife) our two children. I don’t have a drug or alcohol problem (in fact other than a beer once and a while and a couple ibuprofen for menstrual cramps, I drink/take none). I am the antithesis of the arguments against the validity of non-binary identities. And yet, here I am.
It has been and would be easy for me to not define myself. People typically make assumptions about who I am and how I identify based on my appearance, my marital status, and until recently my name. Because I am indifferent about pronouns, I could have just continued to exist as a binary-passing non-binary person. But, if one of the major barriers to non-binary identities becoming recognized and validated is a lack of visibility or credibility (due to society’s preconceived notions and prejudices), then the least I could do it speak up. Of course, I have no delusions about the ease at which our society will incorporate non-binary folks. Currently there are just a couple states that allow a third option for gender on state documents and IDs and a couple considering it. Most bathrooms are intended for either women or men (not both or neither or someone in between). But, I can change the narrative, maybe not for the world but at least for my family, my friends, my co-workers, and perhaps even more.