Genderless in a Highly Gendered World
I am in a mood to speak out. You might even call this a coming out.
For as long as I can remember I have been uncomfortable with the totalitarian nature of gender politics, particularly gender as presented by the cisheteropatriarchal construct of modern society. Simply put, I just didn’t fit in. I was told that I was a boy, but that never felt right. I didn’t feel like the other boys. While I wanted to play with and have always associated more with girls, that didn’t feel quite right either. I didn’t know anybody like me who felt different from everyone. When I came out as a gay man, I did so thinking that this was my place — being gay was who I am, and I finally had found my niche. But over time, I found this not to be true. I didn’t feel or act like other gay men, but I didn’t feel or act like straight women either.
It wasn’t until college that I was presented with the word “genderqueer” by like-minded college students. I met people who, like myself, felt and represented themselves outside of the gender binary. I didn’t feel like other gay men because I wasn’t a gay man. While much of my experience is indeed from the perspective of a human being typecast and treated as a cisgender gay man, my personal experience has differed from cisgender gay men.
I thought something was wrong with me. How much of an asshole could I be that I was even more progressive around sex, gender, and identity issues than those perceived to be my peers? I felt liberal among liberals, queer amongst queers. As long as I have carried the burden of transgender and non-binary queer politics, I have been acutely aware of how much I have to defend my stance to others. I am so often rebutted when I say that changing the words you use is just not that hard. Referring to trans and queer people by their chosen names and pronouns is not difficult, it’s not attention-seeking, it’s not an inconvenience to you at all — it’s the minimum entry point for respecting your non-binary associates in the human race.
As a genderqueer person, I am often guided by a desire to justify myself to others. I refrain from asking people to use genderless pronouns in reference to me, even though it would make me happy for people to recognize who I really am. I know that many cannot respect this part of me, which ultimately means that they cannot respect me as a person.
If you cannot take the time to use they/their pronouns with me, you’re not making the minimum amount of effort to be part of my life. If I have not asked you to use neutral pronouns with me before, I am telling you to do so now. Do not refer to me as he/him/his — I am they/their/theirs. This is not a political discussion. I am not making a request. I am telling you how to refer to me, and if you cannot hear me on this we are not kindred spirits.
I am not a man. I am not a woman. I am simply human, and your gender constructs cannot and do not apply to me. What I was born with between my legs does not inform anything about me, other than how I (might) engage in sexual activity. You cannot divine my aspirations, how kind I am, how spiritual, or really anything about me other than what sexual organs I have. That is the only thing one should be able to decipher from my biological sex, but society projects much much more onto people than just that. On a personal level, gender just doesn’t make sense to me.
I believe in equality. I believe that humans should take care of each other above all other endeavors. I believe that we are collectively only as wealthy as our lowest common denominators. If there is homelessness in the cities, we are failing our people. If there are humans being refused work, housing, or dignity for being who they are, we are all without dignity. If one child is sent home from school hungry because they didn’t want to face the embarrassment of presenting food stamps in the school cafeteria, we have failed our children.
Words matter. Compassion matters. Kindness matters.
I am queer, and in telling you this I invite you to get to know me better.
If you feel like this is inviting a debate, you are wrong. I am not asking you to justify my identity for me. I am asking you to listen, be kind, and stop focusing so hard on labeling the world around you. We are all humans, surging forth together on a single thread of time.
We are in this together, and learning to respect your fellow humans as humans, and not projections of who you expect them to be is much of the battle.