a reader messaged me with questions– and i’m flattered. thank you for asking! i’m also very anxious to be helpful– and i hope other people will add their own advice in the comment section. cuz i’m prone to talking about, say, finger paints and space ninjas instead of the topic at hand (look! a t-rex reclining in a tutu!). so here it is:
“I’ve been struggling with my gender alot lately and I don’t know who I am anymore. Can gender change? If somebody thinks they’re a guy can they change their mind and realize they’re non-binary? How do you KNOW? How did YOU know? Thanx.”
first of all, gender can and does change. many people experience their gender as fluid, fluctuating (ir)regularly throughout their lives. other people experience a slow shift from one gender to another and don’t realize they’re trans* until later in life. in other cases, someone’s understanding of their gender is dynamic even while their gender itself is relatively static. people experience gender in many ways– and some people don’t experience gender at all. there is no wrong way of “doing” your gender.
still think it’s silly to change your mind about your gender? refer to #3 of the gender bill of rights. you have rights, my friend. neat, yeah?
“How do you KNOW? How did YOU know?”
i can only speak for myself, so i’ll tell you a bit of my own history. i knew my gender as a toddler in the same way that most toddlers know their gender. at first, i didn’t get that everyone around me was male or female. i didn’t know words like “transgender” and “cisgender”. i didn’t know about the gender binary. but i knew i wasn’t a girl or a boy.
i slowly realized that the other kids were all girls or boys, but i was still completely open about my non-binary gender. i still thought i wasn’t allowed in gendered bathrooms. i still thought i wasn’t allowed to wear/do/play with “girl things” or “boy things”. i didn’t even realize that the world considered my gender invalid until i was 8-ish years old.
my mom, my teachers, my grandparents told me to stop being silly– everyone had to be a girl or a boy. my dad took it upon himself to teach me that women can be/do ANYTHING they want. my elementary school teachers started making sure that i didn’t sneak off to piss outside and they escorted me into the girls’ bathroom on many occasions.
i shut up about my gender for a few years. i tried to be a girl– not by wearing dresses and behaving in a stereotypically feminine way, but by allowing people to call me a girl, a daughter, a sister. then i tried to be a boy. then a girl. then a boy.
honestly, i think i sorta buried what i knew. i spent years believing i was a girl before i started wondering if i might be a boy. when you think about it, it’s pretty fucked up that i forgot myself so completely. it’s no wonder i was confused, though; it’s not like society admits that trans* people exist and that nonbinary gender is a thing.
finally, i said, “fuck it! i told all these assholes the truth when i was in preschool– why am i still trying to change for them?!” i began to gravitate towards openness– a slow process. i still have to come out on a regular basis. i get misgendered every day and sometimes i have to roll with it. but mostly, i am open about my gender and that’s fucking splendid.
my story is just one story of many; there are tons of ways to experience/understand/become open about your gender. having known my gender as a kid DOES NOT make my gender more/less valid than anyone else’s gender. likewise, having forgotten/buried my gender doesn’t make my gender less valid than anyone else’s gender. i hope other readers will share their own experiences and their thoughts. i think the most valuable answer to your question (“[h]ow do you KNOW?”) will contain numerous answers from numerous people.
so keep an eye on the comment section. and seriously, be yourself, whoever that might be. be open-minded/hearted and feel free to check out my blogroll; there’s good stuff there and reading is always a good thing. i hope that helps! and thanks again for asking stuff!