CN: gay slurs, swearing, biphobia and erasure, transphobia and erasure.
I once had a nightmare where I was invisible. I don't know how or why but I couldn't be seen or heard. I walked around the house screaming my sister's name and waving frantically at my mum only to be ignored. As the panic rose I became obsessed with trying to be noticed, and then I woke up. I lay in bed the rest of the night petrified that if I walked into my mum's room she wouldn't be able to see or hear me. Terrified that I was in fact invisible.
Unfortunately that wasn't just a nightmare. You see, as someone that lives beyond the binaries of gender and sexuality, I am invisible in many ways. Growing up I was a tomboy. I cut my hair short (and got teased) I would run around with the boys and play fight and I yearned for an action man instead of Barbie. But I was still a girl. Because I didn't express any desire to be anything other than a girl, that is what I was. I fancied boys and had boyfriends, I grew up and was attracted to men and slept with men. I still found women BEAUTIFUL. But I assumed everyone did (don't they??) and because I was happily in relationships with men, I was straight. I lived within the binary of female and straight.
When I came out at 25 as bisexual (I now use the term queer or pansexual as there are more than two genders) I made a once invisible part of myself visible. I felt so free it was amazing, I suddenly felt able to openly pursue relationships based on love and attraction regardless of gender. I pondered the women I had crushed on and wondered what might have come from that if I had come out earlier. I thought of the "gay" bars I would go to and the community I would finally be a part of. I was ready to dive into the LGBT* scene and be accepted. YES!
On my first visit to a local "gay" bar (I put "gay" as this is what they're called and, as you will see, what they are) I walked in with awe and excitement...MY PEOPLE! We approached the stage with a host of drag queens and scantily dressed male backing dancers....and look!! gay people snogging in the corner!! Then it happened...the compere took the microphone and said:
"All my gay boys, fags, fudge packers shout heeeeyyyyyy......." *shouts from gay men*
"All you lezzas you dykes and muff divers scream heyyyyyy...." *screams from lesbians*
"And you straight people...you're in the wrong fucking place get out."
And there it was. I was invisible. I am not a gay man, a lesbian or straight. I do not exist in this space. I wrote it off as just my first time, a one-off. Unfortunately the reality hit me like a punch to the stomach when it happened over and over and over and over again. I have actually not once been to a "gay" bar and felt openly welcomed as a queer non gay person. Not that I have faced abuse, though I have had people try to ask me "what" I am, a drag queen try to liken his performance persona to being trans-"I'm basically like you non binary people but I know I'm a man and I like being a man. I like dressing in drag and make up too though" (URGH).
It is not just my sexuality that excludes me from the spectrum of visible colours, but my gender too. I have spent a lifetime trying to understand and explain my gender to myself and others and I have come to the term - non binary trans guy. I don't identify strongly enough with maleness to be a guy but I would rather be recognised as male than female. When I wear women's clothes and make up and nail varnish I feel like a man in drag, not a woman. But ultimately I am happiest and most myself as neither male nor female, tending towards male.
However, no matter what I do to my appearance-I bind and wear men's clothes, I have short hair and masculine glasses - I am consistently read as female. When I say read, I mean that is what people assume me to be when they meet me. The assumed title is Miss, I am "the lady", part of the group of "girls", and because I am dating a woman, I am a lesbian. Let's go back to the gay bar...it doesn't matter which, they're all the same really...in fact let's go back to any bar, any night out, any club, any tour group or classroom...when the group is addressed it is usually or always with "boys and girls" or "ladies and gentlemen". Where am I? What about the multitude of people in between? I....we...are invisible. I have repeatedly heard my non binary siblings introduced with the wrong pronouns or as "brother" or "sister". I have, as I said, had my gender likened to drag. I feel mocked. I feel like my identity is not important enough to be respected. And this is on the LGBT* scene, my apparent home.
Outside of the LGBT* scene I am unsurprisingly no more visible. I have argued and explained my gender to the GP and receptionists numerous times when I tried to change my name. I am still referred to as female. The gender clinic lists me as female to male transgender. And my passport and driving licence cannot be changed to reflect my gender, I must be either male or female. I am invisible.
You will hopefully be happy to hear that since then I have shunned the local "gay" bar as they are just that-bars that welcome and cater to cis (that means identify with gender assigned at birth) white gay men and just happen to allow gay women and some trans people in. I've found a local queer hang out and this is the place I always dreamed of. The place where I walked in and felt at home, with my people, in my community. I surround myself with people who see me for who I am and a fiance who loves me for who I am. I can be masculine but not a man, wear nail varnish but not be a woman, and be having a same sex marriage that isn't a gay marriage.
I am endeavoring to live my life as loudly and visibly as I can. Sometimes that will look like writing this blog as honestly as I can. Sometimes that will look like asking for the title Mr when someone obviously reads me as female I do this at the doctors where my sexuality is female but my title is Mr. Sometimes that will look like heckling speakers who gloss over us who live between or beyond the binaries. Mostly it looks like living authentically, living openly and honestly as myself and holding people accountable to using my correct name and pronouns.
It's not easy. It's exhausting. But I hope that by doing this, living visibly, I will erased the nightmares, and realities, of being invisible for others. So let me leave you with this:
Queer, straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, non binary, genderqueer, gender fluid, male, female, trans, cis, agender...if you pass or not, if you're out or not, if you're sure or questioning ....I see you. I acknowledge you. I love you.