Hello, I don't think you actually 100% believe there are only two genders. Here's a thread about why.
Before I get into it, let me say this: I’m not speaking for every genderqueer/non-binary person. I’m just talkin’ about me here, just as an example to help illustrate what I'm talking about.
Here's the thing... I think if (most) people understood what I meant when I say that I’m genderqueer, they wouldn’t actually disagree with me identifying that way. Because it just… makes more logical sense.
I was assigned female at birth. There’s a school of thought that says that makes me a woman now and forever. But that’s bizarre on a practical level — especially since surgery and hormones, literally no one sees me that way. My mental health suffers when I'm viewed that way, too.
I guess I could go around correcting people when they say “sir” or “he,” but if I’m more comfortable this way, I don’t know why I’d shout “SORRY WRONG I HAVE A VAGINA” at the barista I ordered my coffee from. Seems weird and unnecessary. Let’s not.
Okay, so I could just identify as a man, yeah? There are lots of ways to be a man, after all! When I move through the world, most people assume that I’m a gay cisgender man. And that’s not *wildly* off-base — it’s just way oversimplified.
I am a very feminine person that, for almost two decades, moved through the world being perceived as a girl — but I actually cherish and identify with a lot of those experiences, emotionally & socially.
“Femmeness” is very much a part of how I still relate to the world. Not every transgender person actually resonates with their pre-transition experiences that way — for some, it’s a lot more dissonant and fraught. But I didn’t feel stark inner conflict in that way.
I was never uncomfortable being seen as very feminine. I WAS uncomfortable being seen as a woman and I was uncomfortable with my physical body... that's the crux of the issue, I think.
So my question then: At what point is this no longer binary? If I have these earlier experiences of femininity that are important to who I am, that have informed how I relate to the world… but need to inhabit a body that is deemed masculine to be mentally well…
Where do I fit into all this, exactly? I’m seen as a man, but I don’t feel like I’ve moved through the world existing and relating as one 100%. I was seen as a woman, but my skin crawls to this day when I remember that.
When I say that I’m “genderqueer,” what I’m saying here is that my internal reality is not neat and tidy like yours might be. I’m uncomfortable being seen as a woman, but IDing strictly as a man feels like wearing a suit coat that’s three sizes too big.
AND — this is important — when I say that I’m “genderqueer,” what I’m saying is that the world sees my gender as inherently queer, too. They just frame it with different words.
Everyone assumes I’m a gay man for exactly this reason. They don’t know anything about my sexual orientation — they just know there’s something about my expression and manner that is inherently queer to them.
I’m not actually inventing anything new when I self-identify as “genderqueer.” I’m stating a fact that cis people actually DO agree with — calling me a “man” is kind of hyperbolic, because it's noticeably undercut by something they perceive as "gay" or "femme."
Cis people meet me and think I’m a gay man bc they don’t know how else to describe what they’re seeing. And as a shortcut, that’s fine, but the reason I identify as “genderqueer” is because it’s a *unique* experience and I think it’s worth articulating. It's important to me.
Cis people actually DO know that I’m genderqueer. 100%. They know in their gut that there’s something queer about what I’m doing. But they just write it off as being “gay,” conflating my gendered experience of the world with my assumed orientation.
But in reality, it doesn’t actually have anything to do with my orientation (I know this because I’m mostly asexual). We really ARE seeing the same thing. My description of it is just more accurate than theirs.
A lot of people think of non-binary identities as being outrageous somehow, but what they aren’t realizing is that they are looking at AND trying to describe the same thing that we are. They just mistake it as being “gay."
You’re looking at me as a gay man because you’ve assumed that I have sex with men. But I’m asexual… so what am I now? You said “gay” for a reason. What was your reason? Your reason is probably pretty similar to why I say "genderqueer."
Instead of getting stuck on the “there are only two genders” thing, maybe consider that there’s a totally legit explanation as to why folks are getting more specific about their identities. It’s because the existing language is inaccurate.
Chances are, you're actually already talking about non-binary people. AND you've already tried to describe them in a way that isn't binary, because you added another word to try to make a distinction — you just attributed it to the wrong thing.
When non-binary people ID a particular way, what they’re articulating is often really cool, layered, and fascinating. These are layers that you've probably noticed but didn't consciously think through in the ways that we do, because we're living it.
Some people look at this and think, “Okay, I kind of get it, Sam, but can’t you just be like... a gender nonconforming man?” Sometimes I think about this, too. But I’m not sure that’s legit, either.
...what does “GNC man” mean if I don’t feel like I ever really related to being a man? Can you non-conform to something you never considered conforming to in the first place?
The way that femmeness and femininity spoke to me (and still does) doesn’t really feel like a man's experience, cis or trans. After a certain point, it feels distinct to me in a way that I want to name as separate.
When I say “genderqueer,” I’m just distilling all of these questions, experiences, and complexities into one word. In that way, being non-binary isn’t complicated — it’s simpler/more accurate than “gay transgender man” with the same one-word simplicity of "man."
The learning curve may be there, but once you understand that the word actually matches what we're both seeing… it’s not as complex as it might appear at first.
I think if cis people were honest with themselves, they’d realize that we’re not talking about something they’re unfamiliar with. We’re just using words that better describe it.
Now you can look at this and say, “Whatever, I just don’t want to be accurate or learn new things.” But then that’s not really the fault of non-binary people — is it? That’s your personal issue and your own inaccuracy.
You can say that red and orange and yellow are all basically the same color, and get angry at the person who corrects you, but you’re the one that’s not accurately describing what’s in front of you.
And if you paint their front door red but they wanted it to be yellow, and you say it’s “basically the same color,” I think it’s totally reasonable for someone to say, “Hey, it really sucks that you painted my door a different color than what I wanted."
If they paint it yellow and you come back and keep painting it red... and you keep saying, "You don't get to just CHOOSE what color your door is!" Yeah, that's... frustrating.
Yes, changing how we speak about people can be tricky and there's often some learning involved, but you know what? It's a lot less tricky when you realize that we've been talking about the same thing all along.
So rather than getting defensive about gender identity… realize this, cis folks: Even the most stubborn among you don’t actually disagree with the concept of “non-binary” quite as much as you think you do. It's the learning that you disagree with, not the observation.
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