Nonbinary vs Gender Neutral

Nonbinary or Genderqueer are not the same thing as Gender Neutral.

There are people who describe their gender as neutral but for the most part, people usually have a lot more nuance than that. Gender neutral is a good way to describe pronouns like they/them or xe/xir, but it isn’t a good way to refer to nonbinary people unless they have explicitly said that.

My gender is anything but neutral. For me, it is relatively stable and not fluid, but it lies solidly in the realm of femme with a twist of tomboy. I am both a woman and a nonbinary person because my gender is queer and defies a single category. Queerness at its heart is about breaking boundaries and holding the tension between seemingly disparate concepts.

I see your categories and reject them because they don’t reflect my reality.

Nonbinary beyond a third gender

What do you think of when you imagine a nonbinary person? Hopefully if you’ve been reading my work for awhile you know that doesn’t mean slim, white, and “androgynous” as in indeterminate.

You may think of it as a third gender. But I believe it’s really important to make the distinction that it isn’t a unified single gender. It is a broad category that we use in a colonialized Western culture to define ourselves in opposition to the boxes we were given.

In many ways, it is a temporary placeholder word that we are using to gain recognition. A way to make it obvious to people who have never questioned gender that we aren’t the same as them. Genderqueer was another umbrella term that many of us originally adopted to describe ourselves in opposition to “traditional” genders.

Ultimately these are all simplifications that we use for the benefit of cisgender people and as a shorthand so that we don’t have to explain ourselves to everyone. If you were a fly on the wall in conversations that enbies have among themselves, you would see that we are an infinitely diverse group. We exist in hundreds of genders that exist in far more than a spectrum between masculine and feminine.

The language is still evolving to accurately describe the various aspects of our identities. And words mean different things to different people. But I hope what you take away from reading about my experiences and others is that we are not a single gender. We are an experience!

Realization of the day

I think I’m a transwoman in a nonbinary body.

I’ve talked about this before but when I think about the steps required to bring my body into alignment with my internal gender I get extremely overwhelmed, not only by the amount of work but the realization that I wouldn’t be doing it as much for myself as I would to change how people see me. I have no problem with my beard or 80%+ of my body. I don’t want to spend years trying to learn how to change my voice so that I can pass. And I don’t want to give up a perfectly functional penis to gain a vagina that I don’t even know if I would like as much.

What I do want are breasts (working on it), less body hair (need to get back on that), and a more feminine distribution of fat (hopefully that will start soon). I also want access to motherhood which seems like the far more challenging thing to achieve since I can’t/won’t do that alone. I want to be treated like the woman I am without needing to jump through the unattainable hoops of passing.

But the more I think about it, the less I think my internal gender is actually nonbinary. As in I don’t know of any masculine traits that I identify with. I have the gender of a lesbian woman and the gender blurriness that comes packaged with perceptions queer femmeness. I am just as much a woman internally as any lesbian and probably more feminine than most. I just happened to not be born with a cis woman’s body and I can never attain that no matter how hard I try.

In other news, I am toying with the idea of trying out she/her pronouns but I’m not sure I’m quite ready to make that switch yet. So many complex feelings where I’m torn between what I feel I deserve and what I feel I can reasonably fight for.

Not a man

How do I know I’m nonbinary? Well the truth is I don’t. All I know for sure is that I’m not a man. I tried to fit that role for 26 years and I have plenty of experience to show me that it didn’t work for me. I tried being a masculine man, I tried being a gender non-conforming man, I tried being a sensitive man, I tried being an emotionless man. And it just doesn’t fit. So am I a woman or am I nonbinary? I don’t really know but what I do know is that binary gender expectations and the idea of “opposite sexes” harms all of us regardless of how we identify so I’m perfectly content to fight for nonbinary representation even if that’s not where I end up someday.

If you’re trying to figure out if you’re nonbinary, I recommend starting with Sam Dylan Finch’s articles on Everyday Feminism like¬†Help! I Think I Might Be Non-Binary, But How Can I Know?¬†

More thoughts on identity

I’m still struggling with knowing whether I am nonbinary because that’s who I truly want to be or as an artifact of the barriers I feel stand in the way of being a woman. I don’t necessarily feel like my brain is composed of part-masculine, part-feminine aspects. I very much feel like I was born with a girl’s brain in what was perceived as a male body. Most people these days understand that femininity is broad and can encompass tomboys and people who don’t wear makeup every day. And with the right body I think I would have made a great girl, although not one that could live up to the expectations of the cult I was raised in.

And I’m definitely a femme. I’m perfectly happy to put on jeans and a tshirt when I’m getting dirty or doing something outdoorsy. But I’ll always opt for very feminine clothing whenever it’s not extremely impractical. I’m not someone who puts on makeup every day but I certainly love doing it when I have the time and I am very particular about my appearance. In other words, a fairly typical woman in my appearance preferences.

So that just leaves my physical body. I’m tall and I have a large frame with wide shoulders and huge feet and hands. So I feel like I could never fit into culture as a woman which is mostly why I don’t try. It’s the fear of rejection from other women that keeps me stuck in this in-between place. Not that women can’t have that kind of frame either; my mom and my aunt certainly do although they often times get questioned in bathrooms about whether they belong because of it. They are 6 foot and 6′ 2″ respectively and my aunt has size 13 feet as well. So if they can do it, why can’t I?

As I’ve said a few times before, I keep my beard mainly because it covers up masculine features of my face that I really don’t like. Somehow the facial hair gives me less dysphoria than the underlying face. But I wonder if I also keep it as a signal to the rest of the world that I’m not trying to pass as a woman so they won’t judge me by that unattainable standard. I guess I’m scared of the ridicule trans women so often get so I try to avoid it by doing my own thing.

So then is nonbinary just a phase I’m passing through on the way to becoming a woman? It’s hard for me to say at this point. And just because it’s a phase doesn’t make it any less valid. It’s where I’m at right now and that’s all that really matters. I’ve found that no matter how much I try to plan, life seems to throw a wrench into the gears and redirect me. So I’m just going to take this one step at a time. I’m starting estrogen in 20 days and I’m curious to see what that does to my brain and my body to shape how I relate to them.

Who knows. One day I may need to rename this blog. But for now I remain your Bearded Genderqueer.
PS – I mostly maintain this blog as a way of shaping my own thoughts. When I start to have big gender feels I often come here to write about them before I’ve even fully thought them through. I wasn’t consciously aware of half the things I just wrote before I got there. So thanks for following along in my very confusing journey.