reader question: how do you know your gender is non-binary?

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!

9 responses to “reader question: how do you know your gender is non-binary?

  1. For me, I spent my childhood very uncomfortable with my assigned gender. I was always fighting it, there was something about me that never felt like a girl, I couldn’t put my finger on it either. I wasn’t yet forward thinking enough to think totally outside the binary options, so I started looking really hard at all of them to see if I could get any of them to fit. Boy didn’t fit. Neither did Lesbian, or Fag. And especially not Straight or Girl. It was a long process for me, but I had gone through all of the binary options I could think of, tried on every label, and they were all the wrong size. In the end it was a simple process of elimination, I could only be sure what I wasn’t, and I wasn’t any of the binary options. But I wasn’t able to reach that conclusion for about 22 years.
    The thing about gender is the experience of it is so personal that sometimes everyone elses’ experience with gender sounds nothing like yours. You just have to go with whatever feels the most comfortable for you at any given time, regardless of what label, if any, you choose. Because whatever label there is, who you are will always be more than just that. Just be sure to give your self the space, energy and time to sort through it. Annoyingly sometimes the question or the process just takes time, and there is no way to get around that.
    Best of luck. Just remember to love yourself, no matter who or what.

  2. Good post Mx. Punk. I think the biggest reason why people struggle to understand gender is that the normal narrative we are taught to uphold is full of holes and overly simplistic. Also, personal development is shirked in American or Westernized Cultures. You don’t spend any time trying to find words to express your sense of self. See there is still a mentality that “Children are blank slates” – “automaton like” rather that being seen as intelligent and individualized creatures.

    As such people who subscribe to that see fit to shape your personal dimension and a binary manner. For me I knew when I was 3 that I was female internally. At the time I knew it as “I am a girl inside and a boy outside”. I always identified as such internally, but does this mean I identified with the binary? No. My gender identity never fluctuated, though situationally I was forced divide myself into two people… A. The person I was that wanted out, and B. The person I was forced to be, and was allowed to be.

    I am a great story teller, I have the mind for it so my “façade” was especially good. But even all the effort I could put into it only produced a shell that shallow people fell for. Deep, insightful, and intelligent people always saw through it. So where does my feeling of non-binaryness come from? It comes from the fact that though I identify with women, and have a female gender identity that I feel myself outside of the scope of 2 genders. I am a woman, but uniquely so having some very androgynous elements.

    My gender identity and my gender expression are very much separate, because the things I need for my gender expression are different than what I need for my gender identity. I intend on surgery because my body demands that completeness, but I my gender expression is totally fluid and depends on what I like, don’t like and what I feel comfortable with rather than alignment with the binary. I also refuse to repress or deny on part of myself or the other simply for social roles.

    So I embrace those things about me that are masculine and feminine. My personal history is unique and I celebrate rather than scorn that. That being said, my gender expression is rather conservative because of financial limitations. I like wild and unique clothing, unfortunately it’s also expensive or tediously hand made. I look at clothing and style as more than just a form of gender expression, but a form of self expression.

  3. thanks for your input! totally valuable stories. yay!

  4. Pingback: "T and Conversation": Beyond Binary | Queering the Church

  5. Pingback: Gender, Sex and Intersex: A Primer | Queering the Church

  6. Pingback: belonging-ful | rainbowgenderpunk

  7. Im still very insecure but I want to post :)
    When I was small I knew that I wasnt a girl. As soon as I became conscious of gender roles, I cut my hair short. I said, when I grew older I wanted to be a boy. I saw boys doing everything that I wanted to do, while I had been told that I couldnt do certain things because I was a girl. I didnt know that boys couldnt wear dresses, my brother and me allways put on ballett dresses and ran through the house. I only stopped wearing dresses as I grew up and suddenly became conscious that they are something feminine. Now I hate them.
    I feel like I was forced into a restricting label, and the more I became conscious of how the binary genders work in society, the less I like it.
    I had made the BSRI Test and it told me that I had an androgynous personality, and I rolled with that, and androgynous girl.
    In february I discovered that there are more genders than the binary ones. So I immediately said, that my gender was androgynous. Because I was realizing that I didnt feel like a girl. Then I dug deeper, and I started wondering what gender even is and what it feels like, and I went eith agender.
    Then I realized that I tried so hard to be nonbinary that I was rejecting my female side, and I still do, and it grows stronger with every person who tells me that I am a girl.
    My gender is greygender and blurry and sometimes (when Im more open towards myself usually) I can feel who I am, and I am part female and part aporagender and fluid. The aporagender part is what I wanted to be when I was younger. Its not male, tho it has something in common, but its not like men are in this society; its something else. And I have trouble accepting my female side. Im pretty sure that its a nonbinary female side, and its not feminine, (have i internalized misogyny or do i just not identify with all the stereotipical feminine things and feel forced into a box?) but it is there and im scared that my gender will be invalidated even more if I tell people that sometimes I dont mind “she” pronouns.

    And sometimes I really dont know and neither my chosen nor my given name sound right and I dont want any pronouns and get dysphoric about anything but luckily that never lasts long.

  8. Though I am very feminine in my expression, and I’m also AFAB, through my entire childhood I always felt I didn’t fit with the “girl” label. I always felt I was, at least, some other kind of girl. Where I live people were still very conservative and I didn’t learn about non-het sexualities until I was about 12 and about gender identities until I was like 17, so it was hard for me to imagine it possible to be something other than a girl, given my anatomy, even when i felt totally different from other girls.

    When I learned about transgender identities I started identifying as a trans gay man who was a crossdresser, because I very much felt like a man inside, I was some sort of man in my mind, I liked (gay) men sexually, but I felt very comfortable in my feminine body. I never expressed that very seriously, it was more like a joke I told people to express the unconformity I had with the female gender. But I did feel a lot like that, even though, looking back, I never had the courage to actually recognize myself as that. That was the first time I think I questioned my sexual/gender identity, knowing there were other possibilities outside of what my anatomy told the world. At that time I started fantasizing about a world and a society where there were no genders and people could dress however they wanted to and have sex with whomever they wanted without having to identify themselves as something specific, just human.

    Later, when I got out of school, I learned a lot about feminism and came to the conclusion that I was, actually, a woman, I just never felt like that because traditional gender roles defined by the patriarchy are too closed. I never felt comfortable with the term anyway, I always felt that people were missing something about me when identifying as a woman. Even as a feminist in a female cisgender community, I always felt like something else, not a woman, I was with my sisters but I felt like I wasn’t really one of them.

    I have been aware of the concept of non binary gender for just about 2 years, but never really identified with it until I read an article from a genderqueer person telling their journey through gender identity and expression, and I just felt they were like me. That was just exactly what I had been feeling my entire life.

    I’m still truggling with this gender identity thing because I’m very feminine in the way I dress and look and I’m biologically female too. I also identify with female pronouns. But something about being a woman doesn’t feel right for me. Everytime someone assumes me as a woman I feel like they are missing something about me, like that word doesn’t really describe who I am. Everytime I have to identify as a woman I feel like I’m lying to others and to myself, like I’m being totally fake. But it also feels unfair and capricious to expect people to see me as something else than a woman because of the way I look and express myself. And I’m very sure I’m also not a man.

    Today I just say “fuck the gender binary”, because fuck it. I think for now I’ll stick with the definition I came up as a teenager: I’m a trans crossdressser gay man.

  9. Pheonix10100101010

    Honestly, my gender-exploring and gender realization didn’t start until I was at least 13. It never really donned on me that I could be a different gender until I remembered back in 3rd grade when I started developing breast and mom constantly getting on me about wearing a bra. I never understood why I needed to wear one until she explained it to me and I immediately felt horrible about my gender and my gender role. Ever since I have been trying to hide the fact that I was developing. Not to say I wasn’t girly but I just hated the idea of people looking at me and my chest. Knowing my family, they always commented on the fact that I was a well-built woman and still to this day, my mom says that I have a great butt and a wonderful chest which makes me very uncomfortable. I always decided that I shouldn’t so about a year ago, I tried pushing those feelings aside and began being as girly as possible. Soon that lead to me getting a boyfriend, a new output on gender, and really low self-esteem.
    I ended up cutting very shortly after pressing this gender role that killed me. After my first time trying to commit suicide, I decided I needed to switch the way I was myself or else it was going to kill the person inside and out.

    Soon, about a month later, I started binding again and started stealing my older brothers clothes, wearing them to school whenever I could. He realized really soon what was going on and started buying me new clothes, an actual binder, and men underwear which felt really good wear for the first time. I kept looking at the way he acted and pursued this gender and continued on with my life. Until my boyfriend found out what was going on and broke up with me right in the beginning of school. I was left heartbroken and soon met, after 3 months and Christmas break of crying over some guy, I met my former boyfriend Garrett who loved me for who I was and kept his promise that anything I went through, he would still love me no matter what. I soon found out he was bisexual and have been going out with him ever since and, honestly, I could not be happier.

    Fast forward to now, me sitting on my laptop searching the web for absolutely nothing, I came across this. Me being 16 and knowing what this all meant to me back then, I now know that what I was feeling back then wasn’t absolutely crazy. I really wished 8 year old me would have found this but unfortunately, I didn’t but I would like to thank you for this and what it did to me. I might already know what my gender is and what it ended as but I have a better self-esteem knowing that someone else understands what a struggle it is. Thank you and hope you love my long ass story.

write stuff

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s