It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been out of the closet for 4 years. Coming out is a ongoing process in many ways but for me, I mark the moment that I first made a Facebook post to all my friends about my identity. My identity and thinking on terminology and pronouns has changed a lot since then but here’s what I said on June 2, 2015:
Hey folks, I’m Queer!
If you hadn’t figured that out yet, don’t worry! It took me a long time to recognize that in myself and even longer to put words to it, and I’ve never explicitly said it online. More specifically, I identify as Genderqueer Pansexual. And since it’s LGBTQ Pride month, this seems like an appropriate time to officially come out.
Because my gender expression is still masculine(ish), most people perceive me as a cis hetero male, and for most of my life that’s what I tried to conform to. In college our campus LGBTQ discussion group introduced me to the concept of gender nonconformity. For several years that’s how I identified, but it didn’t quite seem like that adequately described my experience of, and sometimes dysphoria about, my gender. So over the last year, I’ve paid more attention to those parts of myself and come to realize a few things.
My gender is complicated, which is where genderqueer comes in. I have never fit comfortably within the standards of masculinity – whether by the American definition, the Evangelical Christian expectations, or in comparison to the experiences of the majority of men I have interacted with. For most of my life I merely accepted being “odd”, “feminine”, “sensitive” or even a “sissy.” But recently I’ve realized that there are other people like me who don’t fit in the binary definitions of gender and that my gender expression doesn’t define my gender identity. I can have a beard and still be non-binary.
Just because the majority of people with a particular body part between their legs tend to act and think in common with one of the two main groups that looks like them doesn’t mean that gender is exclusively binary. There are many people who embrace a non-binary identity like genderqueer. Some choose to change their pronoun to something neutral like “they/them/theirs”. For me, I still choose to use “he/him/his”, but the important part is that this is a conscious choice and I really enjoy being in communities where people ask about pronouns rather than assume.
Genderqueer for me means that I am my own special mix of conventionally male and female behaviors and ways of thinking that don’t really fall easily on a two-dimensional spectrum. I have never identified with other men. I feel very uncomfortable in any men-only groups and I have always sought out the friendship of women, though I did not fully identify with them either. However, feminism has given women some degree of freedom to express a spectrum of gendered behaviors, making “tomboys” and others more normalized. So more often than not, I find that women are more likely to be accepting of my gender nonconformity while men are frequently uncomfortable or at least don’t know how to talk about it maturely.
When it comes to my sexuality, I’m attracted to the person. What is between someone’s legs is not the determining factor for whether or not I am attracted to them. Each person is unique and I experience attraction towards people of all genders, but particularly those who don’t fall completely within the traditional gender binary. Pansexual is a subset of bisexuality for me but specifically calls out my attraction towards other gender-nonconformers and people on the trans* spectrum (not that bisexuality can’t include that).
Some of my friends may have heard me allude to or mention parts of this recently but I have not been very transparent in how I use these terms or inviting of dialogue. So here I tried to lay out the basics but I invite you to ask questions and help me further explore what this looks like for me in relationship with others. This is an ongoing exploration and I don’t know what the future looks like in regards to that evolution, but I hope you’ll join me in finding out.
Because I am white and masculine presenting, I have a lot of privilege in how I come out and who I tell, especially when I am with feminine presenting partners. That’s why it is particularly important for me to come out and speak openly about gender and bisexuality; countering the gender-policing, transphobia, biphobia and monosexism present in both mainstream culture and in homonormative circles can only happen when people speak their truth. I want to use my privilege in positive ways to speak up while it’s not safe for others to do so, though I will try to be clear about only speaking to my experience and not speaking for everyone.
There are a lot of reasons it took me that long to come out, but the biggest one was my first marriage. I started to figure out that I was genderqueer at least 8 months before that post when I started dating other nonbinary people but when I told my wife, she wanted me to stay closeted so she didn’t have to “answer any awkward questions.” My marriage had been doomed from the start for many reasons but that was the beginning of the end. You should never be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want you to be your most authentic self. But coming out is not always safe and I had to wait until I had escaped that marriage before I could say something broadly.
Leaning into my gender exploration is the best thing I have ever done for myself. I truly think that everyone should have a good hard look at their gender and sexuality before assuming they are straight and cisgender. Because you never know what you might be hiding from yourself.