Since sharing the reasoning behind my name, I’ve had more conversations about gender. Hopefully this will give you some insight into my relationship to gender and its importance in my life.
I’m one person at a specific time and space
My experiences can help inform you about experiences other people may relate to, but you should not use them to generalize or make assumptions about anyone else. My current perspective is not representative of the perspectives of:
- other non-binary or trans people
- other people of colour or children of immigrants
- other people who work in the tech industry
- even myself in the past or future
Gender, race, socio-economic status, cultural norms, and many more factors all influence how I understand and navigate the world. They combine in ways that make it impossible to identify a clear source for each particular thought or behaviour.
Learning about gender is also new to me
I’m not an expert. I own books about gender that I have yet to read. There’s lots of knowledge, research, and art by people who understand so much more about the topic.
If I’m the first person you’re aware of in your social circles who is non-binary or trans, it can seem like I know what I’m talking about, but I probably only know a small amount more in areas that affect me day-to-day.
I also had regrettable moments when friends shared experiences with me that I didn’t initially understand. It’s okay if you need time and practice to unlearn and challenge your existing mental model of gender and of how you percieve me. This kind of growth is usually uncomfortable, but you don’t need to shame yourself when you make mistakes. As long as you’re trying your best, I’m grateful, and we can face the discomfort together.
On a scale of
0: man to
People tend to simplify things into binary, opposite categories. In reality, humans are a mess, and most of our traits exist on a spectrum. There are real, non-binary values between
To make general observations about the difference between
0: men and
1: women, those values are usually rounded to the nearest integer. Both
0.9999 round up to
1, but in practice the difference between them can be very significant.
What if instead a doctor were trying to predict if you
0: absolutely do not have cancer or
1: absolutely have cancer? Maybe you’d want to know if your results were
0.5 instead of
I identify as non-binary because I’m between
If you assume I think or behave like most women, you might be wrong. In some cases I might be aligned with most women, but I don’t find those cases accurate for predicting my feelings and actions.
Some days I could be
0.53. It fluctuates. That’s normal. I just try to accept that it is what it is, I don’t always know how to measure it, and it won’t always be in the same range for the rest of my life.
I identify as trans because I don’t think
1: woman is accurate
Cis-gendered people usually feel like they’re in the right category when generalized to
0: man or
At first, I didn’t identify with being transgendered because I thought it was more extreme, and I didn’t identify with being a trans man. I didn’t think I was “trans enough”, but now I think trans is not cis.
I have experienced disadvantages of being perceived and socialized as a woman. However, spaces designed for cis-gendered women can feel exclusionary and may not take into account the experiences of people who identify as trans women, non-binary, or otherwise gender-non-conforming.
Growing up, I felt the disconnect
I didn’t have the words to describe it
The closest word I knew was “tomboy”, which seemed better than girl but didn’t quite fit either. I was frustrated by all the “girly” gifts I received, until one Christmas I got an off-brand Lego racecar set because the church thought I was Daniel. Even back then, I’m sure everyone knew I was different, so I doubt anyone’s that surprised.
I didn’t see my identity represented anywhere
Up until my teenage years when I frequented online art forums, I’d never met anyone who shared feelings of gender dysphoria, and at the time I was still attempting to be a cis girl. The only trans people I saw in media seemed to still identify as men or women, and were often made fun of and disrespected.
I didn’t want to disappoint my parents
I carried an intense amount of guilt, and I strived to protect my refugee parents from feeling like they sacrificed so much to end up having… an “unnatural” or “pitiful” child. I knew it would be hard for them to accept something so fundamentally conflicting with their beliefs, especially caused by the combination of generational and cultural differences. I held back from being real with myself and the world, thinking I could wait until my parents were gone to spare them the pain, but trying to maintain that ingenuine persona was tiring.
I didn’t want to inconvenience other people
When I eventually came to terms with being non-binary, I preferred not to request that anyone change their habits to make me more comfortable… until I found myself with a lovely group of supportive friends in New York who would rather be inconvenienced. My friends asked if I wanted to try using they/them pronouns, and as more people consistently referred to me with they/them, I felt more understood. When I came back, the contrast between environments became more obvious, and every instance of she/her reminded me of the disconnect.
Ultimately, my gender affects how comfortable I am showing up authentically in different environments. However, it’s not the only important or interesting thing about me, so I don’t want to be in-your-face about it, and I don’t think it’s always relevant.
I’m fairly optimistic about the future
Kids these days seem to understand gender better than I did growing up. Most people have moved past terrible gendered insults. I’m regularly inspired by the increase in visible examples of amazing people who don’t conform to the classical gender binary.
I hope this helps you/someone you care about
If someone in your life decides to share with you that up until that point everyone’s classified them as
0: boy/man or
1: girl/woman but they don’t feel it’s accurate, I’d love if you’d support them by opening up a dialogue about why it’s significant to them, and how you can understand their unique perspective. I hope you treasure the moment of being trusted with something so tender and vulnerable.
You might be curious about things you’re hesitant to ask about directly. If there’s something else you’d like to know, you can ask, but I won’t guarantee a straight answer.
I prefer single-stall toilets that anyone can use. I’ve been to spaces that repurpose restrooms with or without urinals to be available for all genders, and I’m fine with being around people using urinals, but they’re useless to me. Womens’ restrooms sometimes also stock menstrual products. (Women who don’t menstruate and people who aren’t women who menstruate also exist.)
I haven’t discussed being trans with my family doctors. They treat me as a female patient. I’ll bring it up eventually, but trans-affirming care isn’t very common. I do discuss being trans with therapists.
Hormones & surgery
I experience some gender dysphoria, but currently not so much that I’m planning to change my body. (Side note: I used to think a lot about using hormone therapy to force myself to become a cis woman.)
If people who care about me reframe the difference between gender and sex, and understand that having physical feminine traits doesn’t make me a woman, I might be okay with accepting that this body is what it is. But again, I’m not going to guarantee that perspective won’t change over time.
Misogyny, toxic masculinity, & colonial ideologies
A lot of things are perceived as gendered without needing to be. Some are silly, like the colour of a pen. Some are serious, like who should be allowed to live, or what they should be allowed to do with their lives.
I hope you can encourage any children in your life to enjoy things and activities independent of gender, and help them push back against the dangerous narrative that it’s shameful to diverge from the norm.
I probably reject femininity more than I’d like to because it’s been consistently devalued. Being non-binary doesn’t have to mean not expressing gender or needing to stay close to the middle. I’ve done that to avoid people making assumptions that I’m a woman.
The binary gender model imposed by European settlers doesn’t need to be the only one we accept. Indigenous peoples have been celebrating two-spirit well before colonization.
I’m happiest when I can express myself in a variety of ways, feminine or masculine or both or neither, without having to worry that other people will make a documentary on trans people based on a blurry photo of me in the moment.