Last time on Gender Fog Blog…
I had fantastic role models in my life – from my mother to my sisters (who are 9 and 11 years older than I am) to various aunts and family friends – that celebrated and modeled the wonderful variety of womanhood.
So, why, in spite of all those great models of the myriad ways to be a woman, do I feel most comfortable calling myself genderqueer/non-binary? Here are some of my thoughts – in no particular order:
- I’m not athletic so I can’t be a Sporty Spice, athlete kind of gal
- I live in Orange County, California and if I dressed the way I prefer, I’d just be considered a slob
- I’m not a lesbian, so I can’t be butch
Two out of the three points above are very specifically related to gender presentation. But gender expression and gender identity are different (see this comprehensive page on Understanding Gender from the non-profit Gender Spectrum), so why can’t I proudly be a woman whose gender expression is not traditionally feminine?
Who knows?! That’s the tricky thing about gender identity, it’s pretty wibbly-wobbly, especially over timey-wimey (identity can change over time and that’s okay!). Doctor Who reference courtesy of the marathon BBC America is currently running. Have I been so socialized to believe that women can’t be as “gender non-conforming” as I’d like? I don’t think that’s it, since I did have many role models of all kinds of ways to be/present female. Also, considering the enthusiasm (and occasionally soap-boxy attitude) with which I’ve embraced a non-binary gender identity, I’m pretty darn sure I’d be quite happy to be a “non-traditional” woman with as much pride and voracity.
Now, onto the “butch” thing. I love the butch aesthetic and am darn positive that I would’ve identified as a butch lesbian with zeal. Can bisexual genderqueer/non-binary people be butch? Who owns a name? It’s all so complicated!
People can identify any way they like, but calling myself butch feels like inappropriate appropriation (repetitive, I know – I just like the word play). And it feels all the more disingenuous, because I’m married to a cisgender man. (I’m sure I’ll write about that chip on my shoulder sometime in the future!)
Anywho… As I started to hone in on my non-cis gender identity a few years ago, I thought of myself as “gender meh.” It fit the indifference to my female gender identity quite nicely. But I’ve now settled on genderqueer and non-binary. I like the broad possibilities that the words queer conveys and I like “non-binary” because it’s becoming a known term (along with it’s shortened “NB” and “enby”) and also allows for many more specific identities under it.
Once I started using those terms in my head, out loud, and in public it just felt SO right. I think a lot of finding our gender identities comes down to that pivotal part of the journey… from the beginnings of feeling like you don’t fit in, to finding others who seem like they might be like you and reading a TON about those people and how they identify, to testing out those labels for yourself, and then hitting on that ultimately scary/exciting feeling – hey, that’s me!
Muddling through it all and finally identifying as genderqueer/non-binary just felt right. It gave me context, community, and confidence. Yay!
But, also… There’s always a “but” and an “also,” isn’t there. The Kavanaugh hearings and all the crap that’s been in the news about women’s experiences of sexual assault (pressure for sex, sexual harassment, rape, etc.), I do want to acknowledge that “woman” is still part of my gender identity. It’s in there, mixed in with genderqueer and non-binary (see? wibbly-wobbly). This week, in particular, I feel community and sisterhood with the women who are speaking out, both very publicly like Christine Blasey Ford and less publicly like on Facebook, and those who choose not to share/can’t share.