Non-Binary Social Transition

"passing", activism, agender, cissexism, coming out, dehumanization, dysphoria, gender fluid, genderfluid, genderqueer, misgendering, non-binary, pronouns, transgender, transphobia

TW: transphobia, binarism, coming out

You all, being out is exhausting some days. It is a hard, long, heartbreaking slog. I remember when I was first finding words for my gender and reading about how rainbowgenderpunk wore name and pronoun tags everywhere, insisting that people respect their gender identity.

I was completely impressed and astonished at how rainbowgenderpunk went out into the world every day, insisting on being recognized for themself. Some trans people do not have this choice–some trans people simply do not pass as a cis person of either binary gender. They can’t revoke their own passing privilege with a nametag–they just live it, every day.

I pass as a gender-non-conforming cis woman, most of the time. It’s a wrong assumption, but it’s what people see when they see me: a queer woman. Just typing that makes me feel dysphoric. Coming out has meant dismantling that assumption whenever I am able/comfortable. And, the longer I am out, the more I clarify my gender in a larger amount of places and with more people. The longer I am out, the more I have the courage and confidence to insist on my right pronouns with people who already know them.

Now that I have been out publicly for a whole… hm, 3 or 4 months, I have to say that the excitement has worn off. The glow, if there was any, is gone. The apprehension and anxiety of “Will they accept me?” has changed to the apprehension and anxiety of “Should I be the ‘good trans person’ or the ‘angry trans person’ today?” The question is never, “Will my voice be heard and respected today?” This has become my real life, and it’s hard to swallow.

A friend of mine asked me this weekend, “Do you want to fight?” I said “no” with the core of my being. No, I do not want to fight. I do not want to fight for a space in this world where I can be myself. I do not want to fight, but I have no choice. I must fight, in almost every space I am, every minute of every day. I have some havens, unlike many trans people. I have friends who are totally affirming–I’ve ditched the ones that aren’t. But outside of that small circle, the world erases my existence over and over, and I am pushing so hard to keep myself intact.

I wish I could choose when to turn on my fight, at least, but that is not an option. I wish I could find a job where I was physically and mentally safe. Maybe that will happen. Settling into non-binary social transition means apprehensive faces on the people that have heard about you, but don’t know what to do with you. It means faces that have turned from friendly warmth, from asking how you are doing and how your job is going, to an “Um, hi.” Coming out means being seen as angry when you ask for people to call you by the right words. Coming out means no matter how good a worker you are, how fancy your resume, you will be unemployable.

Because coming out as non-binary means coming out as a revolutionary. There is no other option. I am radical, and I care about our movement, but I want to take off the cloak once in a while. I want to just be me.

Here, though, we are revolutionaries, day in and day out. We are revolutionaries when we insist on respect, over, and over, and over. We insist daily on what others have for granted. We are revolutionaries, too, when we simply keep on breathing. We are revolutionaries by being here in this world, this world that has erased us over and over into dust, still stuck in rubbery threads to the page. We are revolutionaries when we stay stuck to that page no matter how they try to brush us off. When we slowly, slowly, piece ourselves together from the indentations that were left by those that came before.

We are, too, revolutionaries if we never come out. Coming out–and then being out–is the hardest shit, sometimes, a lot of the time. Being yourself and alive inside of your skin–no one even knowing–that is a radical act. Because once you are out, you can never stop fighting.

Who are you when you transition to “neither” or to “both”? What are the social expectations for non-binary people? We talk about transitioning to male or female and what the jarring disorientation of that looks like–but what happens when we insist on non-binary gender?

Our experiences vary even more widely than for binary social transition. Please feel free to share your own stories, here or on your own blogs. Keep on going, keep on going, whether you only live on the private insides of your skin or you wear a nametag every day or you wake up fully visible as trans or non-binary. You are giving love to yourself and love to your community every time you wake up.

Thank you. The world does not thank you, but I do. Thank you for sticking tight to the pages of the world, and filling in the painstaking drawings of our lives, again and again and again.

…And stay tuned for Part II, where we get out of the downer end of things and into some highlights of my own coming-out process. AKA “In Which Coming Out Is Actually OK Sometimes.”

Moving Into My Gender

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

TRIGGER WARNING: misgendering, dysphoria, trying to make yourself be the gender assigned at birth

When I first accepted that I was not a girl, I took a whole bunch of online quizzes, mostly for fun, just to see what would come up when I asked a random internet survey about my gender. One “gender expert” survey asked what my assigned sex was, and my result was, basically, “You seem sorta androgynous, but we think you’re a girl.” I was devastated. Were they right? I knew not to trust some creepy people that also were asking about autogynephilia (or, for that matter, anyone who claimed with any kind of seriousness that they could tell me my gender, whether they were linking it to my sexuality or not), but some part of me was doubtful–maybe I was wrong; maybe I really was a girl.

That night, after turning off my computer, I tried to fit myself back into the gender that had never worked for me. I could just move back into “woman–” I could already feel the familiar contortions so easily. I just had to squeeze into it, in the room of my gender, the room I held in my ribcage near my heart. As a “woman,” I felt metal beams constricting my breathing, before I even got inside that room. It’s OK, though, I could be a woman. All I needed to do was just make myself a cup of tea and curl up in that armchair, in my “girl” room. It all felt tight, tight–just thinking about it felt tight, and I hadn’t even walked inside of this wrong girl-self yet. But I was resigned to feeling the same as always.

When I walked into the room of my gender, though, I was amazed. I hadn’t been back inside recently, and the place was bare. Lackluster boards made up the floor. A faded curtain waved in the breeze through an open window, which shone on a mug with a dried-out tea stain in the bottom, sitting on a bookshelf cleared of books. There was little or no other furniture. One or two books lay scattered, maybe a pen. I realized I had cleared out of “woman” fast.

Feeling what is right for me has been a process. I have been slowly moving into myself, moving into my gender, in a much brighter, fuller room. It is a relief to be free of those metal beams and a room that I had never realized was so drab for me. I hadn’t even noticed I’d sped out of there at the first sign that I could.

Part of this moving has been internal, and part of it has been about others’ affirmations. Some of it has been a search for the right words for myself, and then having others try it on. This is perhaps my favorite way of moving.

Hearing my right pronouns, or hearing someone call me by the right gendered words, is ice cream melting in my mouth. It is the feeling of hot chocolate pumping warmth through my veins. It is as if my whole gut was a rock warming in the sun, filling my body with solidity and lightness all at once. It is a fitting of that last puzzle piece. With the right words, I suddenly become more solid than I knew possible, and yet more ready to skip and twirl at the same time. My wholeness takes its rightful place, from my gut to my elbows. I am simultaneously as excited as a hummingbird and as unperturbed as a smooth lake.

When someone uses the right words for me, finds the right words for me, says those right words, a settling-in takes place. Leaves fall into piles and bud on branches all at once. I am real, I am real, and someone sees me. Thank God someone has finally seen me. Oh, and, here! How about this? Trying this new word–they see something I have been afraid for even myself to notice or become. But now, with a new word echoing from others, I am here at last.

It is so rare to find these right words; it feels like such a journey, especially for non-binary people. But they are there, sometimes. We make them, sometimes. We search high and low and try on everything from hither and yon. This one fit halfway, this one fit for six months and now feels tight. This gender felt OK this morning and not later, or now a few of them are here at once. That word never felt right, except for a few hours last Thursday. But sometimes a glistening Right Word comes, and we move in. We move into ourselves. Moving into ourselves is the best kind of moving there is.

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!