When the Dust Starts to Settle

agender, cissexism, coming out, dehumanization, dysphoria, gender fluid, genderqueer, misgendering, non-binary, transgender

TRIGGER WARNING: hopelessness around being trans (and hopefulness too), trying to make yourself be a gender you aren’t

I’m baaack! Last week I left my laptop charger in another state, so I didn’t have a computer on me. So so many blog post ideas have come and gone since then. I’m going to write tonight something very straightforward:

Hold on to hope. There will be a time, maybe more a moment, maybe an era, when you are settled in to who you are. There has been for me. Now I feel like it’s me that’s living in my body. I can look inside my ribcage and feel myself inside my heart, instead of walls imprisoning… what is it that had been inside? The shrunken, light-deprived prune of myself, kept locked and guarded from my mind. There will be a time, wild as it seems, when all of that self has grown and taken up nutrients and soil and it is full, in full bloom.

Yes, it is an uphill battle, many days, most days. Yes, there will be times it all feels like too much. But, as you settle into yourself, you will realize that you are living the life you never imagined possible. You are living life as yourself, even when you see so few others like you in your daily world. You are alive and surviving, sometimes thriving. No one said you could do that, not for the longest time, but here you are, living. I think, here I am, living my regular genderqueer life, and for a few minutes there, life felt normal. Life felt regular. We are told that we are so abnormal that this is never a possibility–but it is.

When I first started on this journey, I thought I’d never even fully hold myself, have my own full self in my heart and mind and body. It would flit in for a moment and feel like the sweetest settling in, the sweetest relaxation–then it would go. I can’t be that, I have to always force myself to be whatever they’ve said I am, whatever I’ve said I am, for so long. With the whole world whipping harsh wind on my real true self, it is easy to forget what was like, when I was hiding my gender from myself. But that is what I was for so long–a shadow. This is why I am carving a ledge for myself each day: this way, I am me.

Coming out is such a tumultuous time that it feels like life will never be regular again. But after that earthquake, grass begins to grow up from the broken earth. My world and shifted surroundings start to make sense. And this time, I find my feet in a way that I never did before–I am wearing boots that fit me now.

This is possible. This is real. Many days are hard for me. Many days are days when I can’t imagine my life being bearable for the afternoon, let alone next week or next year. But the days when life feels normal, life feels calm–those are gifts. They are gifts that, in my fear when first realizing who I was, I thought I would never have again. Hear this, please–yes, life is fucking hard, in general, let alone when you’re trans. But there can be days like this. There will be days like this. Some days you’ll be able to look around you and see your life as normal again.

I know that not everyone’s coming out story is the same, and that others’ oppressions affect this in different ways. This may not be true for everyone. But I can say that if you stay true to the course your gender lays out for you, it will eventually get smoother. Being yourself is often worth the struggle.

Hold onto those days, even if they haven’t yet come. Hold them close to your heart as you break down the walls that have held your true self in for so many years. Hold it close in your cells as you nurture them with the you that you have deprived them of for so long. They are honey in the bitter black coffee of the world.

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Letter to Former Therapist #1

ableism, activism, agender, ally, cissexism, coming out, dehumanization, disability, dysphoria, gatekeeper model, gender fluid, genderqueer, mental health system, mental illness, misgendering, non-binary, privilege, saneism, suicidal ideation, therapy, trans narrative, transgender, transition, transphobia

TRIGGER WARNING: Cissexism/transphobia in therapy, saneism, suicidal ideation

This letter is pretty self-explanatory, but I want to give a brief introduction. I had been seeing this therapist on and off for six years, and it was only after we stopped seeing each other, mostly for reasons unrelated to the content of this letter, that I realized the full extent of what had happened in that office in terms of my gender. This is something that is still very painful for me to process, but I am sharing this (slightly edited) letter with you all because I hope that sharing my story will help other people in similar situations, or other people who are considering therapy. If any providers are reading this post, take this post to heart and consider if any of it applies to you. If it does, make changes to your practice now.

Written: 5/1/14

Sent: 5/17/14

Dear [Former Therapist #1],

I have realized in the past few weeks that there is something more I need to say to you. Feeling both anger and loss, caring about and valuing much of our therapeutic time together while realizing how you hurt and utterly failed me in this way–it isn’t an easy combination of feelings. When someone has both given so much and also deprived me of something so important, the emotions are not easy to navigate. I know that you have always had good intentions for me, but good intentions and positive effects are, as you must know, not the same, often. I am going to give you some feedback here that I hope you will take to heart, so that you can have a positive impact and a practice where all clients are treated equally. Although I am angry about this, and I wanted to show you that impact in this letter, I also wish you the best in implementing these changes. Please get in touch with me if you need further input, or if you otherwise want to respond.

I talked with you in one of our sessions a few months ago about my doubts and worries about us working together again. I told you that you had shot me down years ago when I had first brought up questioning my gender to you. What I didn’t do then is remind you what you had said to me.

I don’t remember every detail of those conversations we had when I was 18, but I do remember the traumatizing parts. I remember that, back in what must have been our first or second session, you asked if I wanted a penis. Uncomfortable, and confused as to whether this was the only measure of trans* ness, I said that I didn’t think so. Shortly afterwards, I think you must have concluded that I wasn’t trans*, or I must have concluded that I didn’t want to repeat that uncomfortable conversation, because we stopped talking about it for a while.

Later, maybe months or a year later, I worked up my courage and brought it up to you again. You said that you thought I had penis envy or wanted a grab at male privilege. (At the time, I was too clueless about feminism to know what you meant, so I mentally shrugged.) You said that I wasn’t trans*. “But you’re so feminine!” you said. (This was especially hurtful, given my current gender identity. I don’t identify with the word “feminine,” but me having some characteristics that get categorized that way doesn’t mean that I am a woman.)

I didn’t talk with you about it again until five years later, this current year, when my internalized transphobia and gender dysphoria (among other things) was making me suicidal. (Partly, I had buried it for some time, but I found a journal entry that showed that even in the midst of that fog, I was aware of my dysphoria. Besides, a lot of why I’d buried it was because I hadn’t been met with affirmation from you at all.) When I brought up my gender identity as one of my concerns about working with you again, you showed that you had evolved in some ways. You told me that you had been naive then, and that you were sorry. (But I don’t think you remember what you said! At least, I hope you didn’t, with that response.) You said that one of a therapist’s most important jobs is to eliminate their prejudices, and now you have no personal investment in your clients’ genders. You said that you understand that for people who don’t fit into the binary, trying to fit them into the opposite-gender box can be just as damaging. (Here, given that I hadn’t talked about my gender with you in five years, I felt you were subtly gendering me again.) Then you said, “Given all the evidence, I think it’s time for a reevaluation.”

This final sentence shows how much further you need to go. You do not get to evaluate my gender. You do not get to tell me who I am. Not any more than you get to tell your cis clients who they are and what genders they should be. Not only had you led me away from my true self for an extra six years, invalidated my gender identity, and used pathetic tropes to degrade who I am (trans men don’t just transition for a grab at male privilege! And the words “penis envy” should never be uttered with any kind of seriousness in a gender therapist’s office)–not to mention that you seemed to think inquiring about my thoughts on my genitalia was a good way to both break the ice and determine my gender–you now were judging yourself professionally fit to make those calls again! Instead of realizing the significant damage you had wrought on me (and probably many other trans* clients), instead of working tirelessly to correct that damage, you simply said that I might be able to convince you, the ultimate authority on my gender, that I am trans*–this time around.

As a first-year in college, I specifically sought out gender specialists so I could start exploring my gender identity. I naively thought that it was a safe space to do so, and foolishly bought into the idea that I could trust my therapist over myself. While I know that your statements don’t hold complete power over me, and, of course, they don’t determine my gender, your authority played a large role in squelching my shy early feelings of my true self, feelings I’d been conscious of as trans* since high school, but had been waiting for a place to show. It is true, also, that especially in the early stages of gender formation, we tend to listen to others over ourselves. You have a huge responsibility!

Had I received nurturing and competent care when I was 18, I might be in a very different place today. Many of my mental health issues would at least be different, if not lessened or resolved. I might have been exposed to less or different trauma. I might even be a few inches taller, if I’d decided that testosterone was the way to go! I’d already be myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have gone to the point of considering suicide to get here.

I think that you still don’t understand the gravity of what you did five years ago. You still don’t understand the danger of labeling yourself an expert on others’ genders, or the absolute destructiveness of the gatekeeper model of trans* care. In many ways, you taught me how to advocate for myself in therapy, and how to break down the barriers of authority between therapist and client. Yet you still cling to authority in this way. I shouldn’t have to convince you of who I am. I am certain that you don’t ask your cisgender clients to do so. I should be able to simply be, in therapy of all places. I should be supported in all ways to become more myself!

Your discouragement took away six years of my life as myself. It likely took away many others’. Please look deeply into yourself and your practice to see what amends you might be able to make with other people you have harmed through your prejudice. You have a responsibility to your current and former clients to do so. If you fail to do this, you continue to fail the trans* community. Reach out to former clients and apologize, and ask if there is anything you could possibly do to connect them to resources or help now. Check in with current clients to be sure they feel affirmed. Never “evaluate” anyone’s gender again. Ask for accountability and feedback from the trans* community and other gender specialists (maybe them, but having met many of them, a lot of them seem as or more messed up). Please look deeply into yourself and your practice, in these ways and/or others (it is ultimately your responsibility to figure this part out) to make changes now for affirming, egalitarian care. You know the stats–lives are on the line

One more thing. I am telling you all these things, taking this time and energy, because I have seen you walk the walk of eliminating prejudice before. I hope that my trust that I have placed in you is not ill-spent. I have faith that you will take this feedback seriously and do your best to right these wrongs.

Your former client,

Still fucking known as,

[Birth name]*

*Since this letter was written, I have started trying [current name] and using they/them pronouns.

Haters are Raisins (Can’t Touch This)

agender, ally, cissexism, coming out, dehumanization, gender fluid, genderqueer, non-binary, privilege, suicidal ideation, transgender

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of suicidal ideation, transphobia

 

 

Today I had an epiphany, for a moment anyway. I realized that I am so happy to be alive in this world, and to be myself. I am so proud that I have gotten to this point and SURVIVED, and that I get up daily and work to carve out the space in the world that I need to be who I am. I am proud of my fashion and proud of taking care of myself and proud of daily speaking up or sitting down or walking around and just–being. Life is good. I am good. I am amazing for being here.

I thought, this is so much better than being dead. All this bullshit they throw at me, even that–it’s so much better than being dead.

When I realized that even the oppression I’m facing, right now–it’s so much better to be myself and to be facing this oppression than to be dead–suddenly so much of the power they were holding over me disappeared, replaced with a calm, happy sense of humor about all their bigotry.

I have gone through so much to be here, just as I am right now, and I desperately want other people to see that struggle and understand. Don’t you know what it’s like to be so ashamed of who you are that you want to die? To see no examples of your gender in the world around you, nobody saying you exist, and then to go out in the world anyway? Don’t you see that it takes so much for me just to say who I am to you, and ask you to respect it? A few months ago I couldn’t even utter those words–I am trans–to myself.

I want other people to understand that this is a matter of life and death for me. I also want them to understand what a journey it is for me to be here. Some people understand, or at least know how little they can know of an experience like this. But the people whose words usually hurt the most are the people who are stuck in themselves, the people who, it’s true, just don’t get it. They may or may not have good intentions, but they say the shittiest things. I want them to put aside all their prejudice and just realize–Don’t you get it? I’m here. I am here. That is so much huger than you can know. Show some respect, I want to say. Show some respect, I ask in my friendly, cis-person-proof body language, tone, smile. I’m being extra nice.

All of that is true. But I realized today that sometimes that line of thought and feeling is just poison. It’s poison because I persevorate on other people’s feelings and actions, wanting them to be different. And no matter how just my understanding, it doesn’t change their actions and feelings. They still are just as clueless as when I started. Willingly clueless, maybe. But clueless all the same. These haters, their hearts are raisins. Maybe at some point their lives and feelings were full and juicy, and they could fill themselves up with compassion and care for others. But now they’re shriveled up. Now they can’t let anything in, they’re so dry. And that’s just a sad spot for them to be. To refrain from applauding, celebrating, respecting someone who battles death and denial to become their full, true selves–that takes a shriveled raisin heart.

And I’m not going to preoccupy myself with shriveled raisin hearts anymore. That can be someone else’s work. Allies, that’s your work. I’m going to instead give myself the love and care I am looking for from others. I am amazing for being here and for being who I am, every day. I am amazing for asking for what I need and taking up my rightful space in the world, every day. It isn’t always easy. Others’ words and actions do get to me, they do affect me. That’s OK. I’m not saying it’s wrong or bad if these things affect me or anyone, or make life super hard sometimes.

But I am my own fab, wonderful self, and only I can give myself that. I used to think that that was a paltry gift, compared to the shit I face in the world for being me. But it is such a beautiful gift. Here I am, living and breathing and laughing. Sure, other people take that for granted. But I am here and I am me, and that is good. Other people’s bullshit shriveled selves–they have nothing on me and my gender. I am myself, disco dancing in my own glitter spotlight, can’t touch this, singing and humming and buzzing inside, because I am me and I am here and nobody can keep me from that. I exude myself, and I am so glad to be here.

Dreaming While Sick, Crazy, and Trans

ableism, agender, chronic illness, dehumanization, disability, dysphoria, gender fluid, genderqueer, mental illness, misgendering, non-binary, pronouns, PTSD, saneism, suicidal ideation, transgender

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of suicidal ideation & statistics, also discussion of general oppression of sick, crazy, and trans people

 

We all have hopes, goals, dreams. We all want that shit to happen real bad. I think part of why it’s so hard to look forward in life as a sick, crazy, trans person, even for me, who has a fuckton of advantages, is that it seems like this shit is going to stop us in our tracks. We aren’t supposed to be “useful” or have goals or be able to interact with “society,” whatever that is. We aren’t supposed to be able to make an impact on those around us, at least not a positive one. We aren’t supposed to have futures.

And, too often, many of us don’t have futures. Many of us don’t see a future for ourselves. We fear that others will cut short our lives and our dreams or just our daily getting by. Many of us worry that no one will see us as worthwhile, for any of the above reasons. And it’s killing us. I know that, if you add up the attempted suicide rates for all the different diagnoses I have, plus my trans identity, it’s pretty fucking high. PTSD: 27%. Depression: 20%. Secondary care for IBS: 16%. Non-binary trans: 43%.

That’s a pretty fucking scary list. I have never taken statistics, and those are some scary statistics. I think sometimes about how suicidal ideation probably wouldn’t even be as present for me, though, if there wasn’t the shame compounding this stuff. Yes, I still might be a little crazy. Yes, I’d still be in pain sometimes from IBS. Yes, I’d still be trans and I’d experience physical dysphoria (not that all trans people do–but in this utopia, social dysphoria would be mitigated almost instantly). But in some utopian world where people accept you where you are, where people envision futures for all people coming from everywhere, where people don’t assume genders and affirm everyone, in this utopian world, I would feel like my dreams are more possible. I would feel like my life is more possible.

We don’t live in that world, though, and I know that you, like me, probably need some encouragement to get where you need to go. You need the encouragement to keep on getting out of bed (if you can) every day, maybe, to eat some food, maybe, to talk to people around you, even, or not, if you need to. You need encouragement to live your daily life, sometimes. I know I do, when I’m sick, crazy, and trans. Which is all the time. Sometimes just the sheer logistics of negotiating your life are too much. I want to say that that struggle is enough. It is good. It is important and noble. Thank you for doing it. Thank you for continuing to exist and live and love and care, and, yes–

dream. Thank you for holding onto those dreams even when everything seems to be falling about your ears.

They are possible. They are beautiful. They can happen. Existing is enough, and, yes, there is a future, and it is not only about a daily struggle, the daily struggle to actually do the dishes or floss your teeth or to get through the pain or for people to use your right pronouns or to be seen as a fucking whole human being. This is all life is, and it is not all life is. You can and do have a future as a trans person, as a sick person, as a crazy person, as someone with a disability. Remember that you deserve this shit just as much as anybody else. You have a right to be here. You have a right to be valued, to be heard. You have a right to be your own fabulous gendered self. You have a right to your mind and your feelings and for holding them, or not, however you need. You have a right to be sick in bed all day. And you have a right to take the space and place in the world that you have longed for.

Many people will say that you do not have a right to these things. But I see you, here, still living each day. I see you holding onto your dreams. I can’t say all your dreams are going to come true, or that shit is easy, because it’s not. But why not have dreams? They are wings on our heart. We all can use some wings sometimes.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

–Langston Hughes

Also, some resources:

If you’re feeling suicidal, please ask yourself these questions. Is there anyone you can call to be with you right now, even if they aren’t someone who’s 100% affirming? What things can calm you down or make you feel better? Consider making a madness map: http://www.theicarusproject.net/article/mad-maps-building-trails-to-where-we-want-to-be-input-needed. What kinds of things do you want to do to yourself? Are you thinking of hurting yourself or someone else? If so, PLEASE call any or all of these numbers (I unfortunately don’t have numbers that are outside the US:

The Fenway GLBT Helpline: 1-888-340-4520

GLBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

Q Hotline: 866-539-2727

If you’re 24 or under, Trevor Helpline: 866-488-7386

Check out this website (TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of suicidal ideation).

Also, check out this awesome link and recording of it, if you’re needing a little hope.

Hold on there!

Coming Out–Resources for Friends and Family

agender, ally, coming out, gender fluid, genderqueer, non-binary, privilege, pronouns, transgender

TRIGGER WARNING: coming out to and educating family, people asking shitty ignorant questions that are all objectifying and stuff

 

 

So, when I first wrote coming-out letters to my parents, I was entirely upset at the idea of including resources for them, or a list of do’s and don’t’s. It was saying, OK, I’m trans, here’s how to treat me like a person. It felt degrading and undignified and I felt like my whole body screamed against it, like it was a betrayal of myself. A friend told me, “I totally get that. Also, don’t be afraid to give people the resources they need to treat you right.” As I nodded, my insides were all, “Ahhhhhhh nooooooo!” (After being more out in the wider world, though, I get what he means: not everyone is an ally-in-waiting, and there also usually no allies in waiting to correct people or come to your defense when people start talking about trans people’s genitals. My feelings and his feelings, as all feelings are, were both so legit and real.)

I was also afraid to tell them that I was angry that they assigned me female at birth without so much as asking me about it, and to tell them different things they’d done to gender me or express prejudice made my life harder. I was worried that it would mean they wouldn’t be able to hear what I was saying. But I was aching to tell them this as much as I was aching for them to understand transness on their own.

In the end, I told them all of it: I told them about my anger and I gave them resources. In the end, even though I very much support rainbowgenderpunk’s idea that just coming out–no, just existing–is enough, I spent a long time handwriting letters and decorating the envelope with glittery drawings and stickers (it’s now hanging on their wall) and making a piece of art that said, “Celebrate with me!” and had a lists of do’s and don’t’s underneath. I eased my worry about telling them about my anger by concluding with a paragraph on the reason why I was telling them all of this, including talking about my anger, was because I love them and want them close to me. Ending with love helped me a lot, because it was true and I needed that reminder.

Well, I am happy to say that as soon as they got the letter, they called me to tell me that they love me, and I bawled. There is definitely still more journeying to be had, and some of it will come as they start to digest these resources. Yesterday, I came out to a lot of my extended family, and I organized this long, disorganized list of links into something more user-friendly. (The part of me that shrank at giving resources to people a month ago is cringing a lot now that I’m making them more user-friendly. :P) I know a lot of people already have lists like these they give family and friends, but I had trouble finding anything comprehensive as I was collecting resources. So I’m sharing this with you all in the hope that it will help make someone else’s coming-out process easier. When I first did that foraging for the right sites for me, I was so grumpy that I was looking for resources for them at all. Hopefully this will save somebody else that time and effort. Of course, you don’t need to share resources at all–this stuff is so Google-able. For myself, I decided I’d rather be the one exposing them to the resources I chose.

Without further ado, here they are:

Resources & Reading–Please check it out at your leisure! I’m putting in bold the ones that I recommend reading most, or starting out with. Read this article if you don’t have the chance to read anything else. It talks about ways to be a trans ally: http://thismongrelland.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/this-is-what-support-looks-like/
 
Basic information on the trans community:

Information on being genderqueer:

Ways to support trans people–these resources are really informative and helpful:

Resources focused on significant others, family, friends, and allies:

Pronoun use:

My favorite readings and websites for my own process:

A Name and Pronoun Game for All Your Introductory Needs!

agender, gender fluid, genderqueer, group activities, misgendering, non-binary, pronouns, teaching, transgender

I’ve been wanting to post this week, but I have been away and haven’t had the time… until now!

As someone who works in an elementary school, I have learned a great many ways to greet others in songs, chants, and dances. This is one of my favorites. I have adapted it as a way to practice names and pronouns with a new group of youngsters…. or oldsters, if they are so inclined! A lot of people might think it’s cheesy at first, but once they get started, there is a distinct possibility that they’ll like it. Sometimes people just need to take off their cool shirts, as an old boss of mine used to tell me.

I am trying to figure out ways to make it accessible to more people. I know that I could make modifications on the spot doing this game, because accessibility for everyone at all times is difficult with so many conflicting needs, but if anyone has suggestions, I’d love them too.

Feel free to use this with family, friends, classes, camp, work–anywhere, really!

___________________________________________________________________________


The Pronouning Jam

Make a circle in which everyone is facing each other. Before beginning, if the group is unfamiliar with the concept of asking for people’s pronouns, make sure that you preteach this concept. Ask why we ask for people’s pronouns, what can happen if we don’t, and why we think that a lot of people don’t do this yet. Talk about what we can do to make that happen more. Brainstorm a number of pronouns that people use. 

The person who begins the greeting says their first name and pronouns, people say/act out the greeting for that person as they are able, and then the group moves to the next person in the circle. The words in brackets will vary for each person in the circle.

Person being greeted: My name is [first name] and my pronouns are [pronouns]!

Whole group:
Hey there, [first name]–
[pronoun] is/are a real cool cat.
[Pronoun] got a little of this
and a little of that.
So don’t be afraid
of the pronouning jam.
Just speak up and pronoun
as fast as you can!

At this point, the group, depending on ability to stand/needs of the group to let out energy, should be standing. For the [pronoun pronoun, pronoun pronoun] sections, group members should point their arms in the direction mentioned, with their palms facing, and then make circular motions with their palms.

Whole group:
[Pronoun] north!
[Pronoun, pronoun]
[Pronoun] south!
[Pronoun, pronoun]
[Pronoun] east!
[Pronoun, pronoun]
[Pronoun] west!
[Pronoun, pronoun]

The group then moves on to the next person.

I get all these fill-in-the-blanks might be a little confusing. For a real-life example I’ll plug in my own self:

Me: My name is Capt. Glittertoes and I use they/them/their pronouns.

Whole group:
Hey there, Capt. Glittertoes—
they’re a real cool cat.
They got a little of this
and a little of that.
So don’t be afraid
of the pronouning jam.
Just speak up and pronoun
as fast as you can!

They/them/their north!
They/them/their, they/them/their
They/them/their south!
They/them/their, they/them/their
They/them/their east!
They/them/their, they/them/their
They/them/their west!
They/them/their, they/them/their

___________________________________________________________________________


I want to note that this would not have been possible without the teacher I worked with a year ago teaching such catchy greetings! It is essentially a rewritten form of that greeting. Similar versions are Google-able. Here’s one: http://teachersites.schoolworld.com/webpages/kdenman/index.cfm?subpage=993540

Well, whaddaya think? Can this catch on outside of second grade? Even if it doesn’t, we need pronoun greetings in ultra-gender-imposing elementary school! I hope this one is adequate… we’ll find out next year, I hope!

Non-binary People, the Trans Narrative, and “Passing” Privilege

"passing", agender, cissexism, gender fluid, genderqueer, misgendering, non-binary, privilege, trans narrative, transgender

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of misgendering, invalidation of trans identities

 

NOTE: I want to use this post to start a conversation. I know that there’s plenty of trans experiences I don’t have–so if I’m missing something, please don’t be afraid to let me know! 

So, this flashy word people throw around, “trans narrative,” when they say it, they’re talking about the normative idea of what it is to be trans, what it involves. Knowing you were trans before you could barely speak and asserting that clearly to your family, expressing your true gender in normative ways, wanting to medically transition in all ways possible. Not really “counting” as trans until medical transition starts. This is the normative trans narrative that so many people decry in their vlogs and blogs and all sorts of places.

This trans narrative does not have room for non-binary people.

There are normative pressures in the non-binary world, too, possibly that you’re AFAB and that you express more on a masculine spectrum/androgynously. But the dominant trans narrative, cultivated by so many years of warped guidelines for therapists (and warped therapists) and our own trans community, does not even leave space for our existence. It also doesn’t leave space for many binary trans people. Anybody who doesn’t check all of those boxes can deal with some invalidation because of not fitting into this narrative. 

Much of the dominant culture and conversation about what it is to be trans is constructed for and focused on binary trans people. It’s important to note that this isn’t the only point of focus: dominant conversations about transness revolve around white, able-bodied, thin-privileged, class-privileged citizens of the United States (at least in the US). All of this intersects in different ways. Right now I’m going to focus on non-binary identity because I’m not versed in all of these intersections–I need to work on that. If I create any glaring holes, I apologize. If you feel comfortable, please let me know and I will do my best to correct it.

I will give you one example of how this plays out. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about “passing” privilege that non-binary people can sometimes have. I want to front-load this conversation by saying that “passing” can be a complicated topic for many people, and not everyone’s goal is to “pass.” The word itself is cissexist and sucky. But I’m going to use it here because people do talk a lot about “passing” privilege. If folks have an idea about a better word, I’d love to know about it!

Inside the trans community, there are two types of “passing.” One is to “pass” as cisgender. The other is to “pass” as our true genders. For binary trans people, even if it is hard or impossible to “pass” as either of these things, “passing” as one’s true gender can often mean “passing” as cisgender. (This is still true, but more complicated, with binary people who have non-normative gender expressions. There are also many binary trans people that do not want to “pass” as cisgender.)

As diverse as the binary trans community is, it’s harder to talk about non-binary people because we are even more diverse. However, for many non-binary people, it is nearly impossible to pass as our true gender(s) (or lack of gender). Very rarely does it cross people’s minds that “non-binary” could be an option when they’re projecting their gender assumptions onto people. Some non-binary people are (sometimes, often, or always) comfortable presenting as a binary gender. Some non-binary people CAN’T be read as cisgender because of their gender expression or medical transition. (I think that part of this assumption about non-binary “passing” privilege is based on the wrong idea that none of us transition medically.) Some wish they weren’t read as cisgender or binary trans, but due to any number of limitations, that’s what they are read as. When trying to be read as our full selves, sometimes the best we can hope for is confusing people. Many binary trans people can hope for being seen as their true genders. In order for non-binary people to be seen as our true genders (or lack thereof), we first need to educate people not only on what it means to be trans, but on the existence of our gender(s) (or lack of gender).

Then, while we’re doing that educating, we are also working against a dominant trans narrative, and many binary trans people, that also say that we don’t exist. Or that if we do, we are doing this for political reasons or something, or just to threaten binary people’s genders, or some other hogwash. So, yes, some non-binary people have the “passing” privilege of appearing cisgender–as do some binary trans people. Very few to no non-binary people have the “passing” privilege of being read as our true genders (or lack of gender). This is also true for some binary trans people. The difference is that binary trans people’s true genders at least exist as a pre-formulated possibility in people’s minds, even if they refuse to recognize a binary trans person, even if “that person might be trans” doesn’t occur to them when projecting gender onto someone. Non-binary people do not exist as a possibility in most people’s minds.

This is why we need binary trans people to have our backs. Many of us across the trans community are challenging this dominant trans narrative, but it is pervasive. It contains a lot of binary prejudice. There are many other ways that we talk about binary trans experience as if it’s the experience of everyone who isn’t cisgender. It’s not just in conversations about “passing” privilege, it’s everywhere. I hear a lot of non-binary people apologizing for their “passing” privilege, and I think it’s important for any and everyone to own what privileges they do have. Some non-binary people do have a variety of privileges. But I also want to recognize that the whole dynamic is skewed, is set up from a binary trans perspective. What would it look like if we had a narrative that held everyone equally? It might be a lot messier and longer and take some more words, but then everyone would be seen. 

Non-binary love

agender, dehumanization, gender fluid, genderqueer, misgendering, non-binary, transgender

TRIGGER WARNING: Invalidation of non-binary genders

 

So I was just reading a post in which a binary trans man was trashing non-binary people. And I responded to what I could even process, because a lot of what he was saying hurt a lot. I’m planning on discussing the content of the entire post and comments, or at least talking about the odds the non-binary community faces. But before I even go there, I want to send out some love and pride to all of us who fall under the non-binary umbrella, and others who may not identify as non-binary, too, who may not have a gender or who fit into this world in so many myriad ways.

When I type in “genderqueer is” into Google, the first five out of seven potential fill-ins I get are: “bullshit, not real, ridiculous, a fad, isn’t real.” The other two are a blank after “is,” and the other is “issues.” In a world where we are regularly ignored, and where our genders (or lack thereof) are seen as unreal, I am here to say the following.

I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE for being myself.

I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE for my community.

I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE for all the beautiful variety we encompass.

I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE for the way we hold each other. It is sometimes imperfect, that holding, but it is what makes us who we are.

WE ARE NON-BINARY. WE ARE REAL. WE DESERVE RESPECT, JOY, AND LOVE.