Hi, I’m Mae — a 22 year old non-binary butch lesbian who does drag part time as Bambi Ballgag, a hyper femme monstrous magical girl. I personally don’t think about my identity much, but I constantly get questions about both my gender and sexuality and how they relate to each other. Gender and sexual identities can be difficult to understand, but trust me it’s even harder to write about it, even when you live with it every single day of your life.
Let’s break this label down to two parts, my identity as a non-binary person and my lesbian sexuality. Both of these labels mean different things to every individual that uses them, and this is what they mean to me:
I have been living as an out non-binary person since I was 19. I was assigned female at birth, meaning I grew up being raised as a girl. Even as a young child, I never felt as if I was a “woman.” A majority of my friends were boys, I grew up with only brothers, and I didn’t really know how to interact with the other girls. As I grew up, I felt as if femininity was a game instead of who I was. I felt like I was playing a role I didn’t quite understand, but had tried desperately to mimic as I got older. My femininity was always a tool to get things — attention, compliments, affection. Sure it didn’t feel right, but at least I knew what was expected of me. As long as I was a girl, I knew I wouldn’t disappoint the people closest to me, like my family and boyfriend at the time.
Then in college I began struggling with my presentation greatly. More feminine clothes such as dresses and skirts made me feel slightly awkward, but I had no knowledge of how to present more masculine. I felt as if I was grey in a black and white society. Then I decided to take a gender and sexuality class in college and my whole world was opened. I began to learn that gender was not as simple as the rest of society had made it sound — it had been a spectrum all along? As soon as I had learned what non-binary was I knew that’s what I was. Someone who was not a woman or a man, and not really even anything in between. A belief that male and female were not a biological end all be all, but just another option. The knowledge that gender was a strict social construct instead of a hard fact changed my life. Femininity had become a chore to me after years of false presentation, yet masculinity to me was a gloomy stranger I had no real interest in meeting. I am non-binary because personally, I do not identify as a woman or a man. I do not believe gender is anything but a way to police and govern how people are expected to act within our society to increase productivity and perpetuate our late capitalistic government. I do not identify as a “in between” of femininity and masculinity, but as someone who lives outside the spectrum completely. Adopting the term non-binary gave me comfort knowing that there were other people out there that had similar experiences and feelings to me, it gave me power over my own identity. I finally had a name for what I had understood quietly about myself my whole life.
Now, my sexuality…
I have identified as a lesbian for around 2 years now, and it took 20 years to come to this conclusion. Growing up in a strict religious family, the only thing I knew about gay people was that they would inevitably end up in hell. As a kid, that’s the last thing I wanted. So, my tiny gay self was conditioned to bury any queer feelings I may have had. Of course, I still remember having feelings towards women at a young age (Nicolette Scorsese in Christmas Vacation — hello!), but until I was gifted my own laptop in middle school I had no notion that queer relationships could be healthy and even accepted by others. As soon as I could I was talking to girls online and had an array of online ‘girlfriends’, but that was stopped quickly after entering a heterosexual relationship sophomore year of high school.
All that time I told no one of my attraction to women, terrified of the social and familial repercussions I may face if anyone found out. I was able to play it straight for 4 years while I was in the relationship, and only after two years of dating I explained to him that I “might be bi.” This ended up in a explosive fight, where I returned to the closet until breaking it off with him my second year of college. Immediately after this I began to identify as “queer,” but exclusively dated women.
At first I didn’t feel like it was the right label for me; it felt like a word I wasn’t allowed to use. I already was identifying as non-binary at the time and there didn’t feel like there was any room in the community for me. I wasn’t a woman, but I definitely wasn’t a man. I loved women but I also loved people like me, genderless individuals who leaned towards femininity. I felt like I was impeding in a community I had no relationship with. It was only until I met my current partner that I began to slowly adopt the term lesbian. She had been using it for years, and I slowly started to meet other individuals within the lesbian community. I began to do my own research on the history of the community and found that lesbian absolutely was the label for me. I wasn’t a woman, yes, but for generations there have been lesbians that have identified as non-women.
I researched the history of butch identities and found my journey for an identity fit the mold. “Butch” is considered a non-binary gender identity within the community, a masculine presence without being a man. This was a title I came to fall in love with. I learned certain lesbians in the past had even adopted he/him pronouns to be able to work in male dominated fields so they could make a living for themselves and their partners. “Lesbian” has never been a term for only cisgender women who love other cisgender women. Being a lesbian means you are connected to a feminine energy in some way, or you feel your identity is strongly aligned to femininity, and you love people similarly. To me, being assigned at birth and raised as a female along with my gender identity leaning more feminine, is my tether to femininity. How someone may be connected to femininity always varies, but one way is no valid than another. When I began to feel comfortable using the term, the lesbian community welcomed me with open arms and I met the most amazing individuals. No one in the community has ever questioned my identity and I have found nothing but love and support from them. I have met trans, non-binary, and cis lesbians and while all of our journeys’ are very different, our love for women, femmes, and femininity brings us together.
In the end, labels ultimately don’t matter. But finding words to describe who you are and who you love can be the most empowering and scary experience in the world. Labels can seem scary and rigid, but they are ultimately there for you to use however you feel comfortable. You get to label yourself, no one else does! Use a label you understand and identify. Once you find a title you’re comfortable with, you’ll find a community you relate to. Finding communities that love and accept you is the most beneficial and amazing part of being a queer person. My life changed when I found my community of beautiful lesbians, and one day I hope to help a baby gay realise how wonderful my community is.
About the Author:
Mae Eden is a drag artist that has been performing in and around Denver for a little over two years and is an active member of the LGBTQ+ community. As a new writer, they hope their identity as a non-binary lesbian will give others a new perspective on other identities in the community. You can find them on instagram @bambi_ballgag.