Life would be easier if it came with a guidebook.
If it did, maybe it wouldn't have taken me 27 years to realise that I didn't actually have to subscribe to society's assertion that everyone is either male or female. At the very least, ripping the book to shreds in a fit of rage would have made for great stress relief. Then again, had there been such a book I probably wouldn't have grown up to be the person that I am today and I wouldn't change that for the world.
Hello, my name's Vesper. I'm a 31 year old non-binary person who's here today to tell you that gender is a much more beautifully complex thing than society would have you believe. That some people, such as myself, are neither male nor female but a different gender(s) entirely.
Unlike some who struggled with the gender that society assigned them at birth from a young age, I grew up not actively thinking about gender. While I wasn't oblivious to society categorising me as one thing as opposed to another, I was content to shrug off society's assumptions. It wasn't until adolescence when the background noise from society and my peers became increasingly difficult to ignore. Over a decade of denial and inner conflict later I happened to come across the word "genderqueer" when researching my sexuality and all things LGBT+, which of course included the word "transgender," a word I'd never heard of before.
The instant I discovered that there are, in fact, more genders than male and female, everything changed. While this may sound cliché and exaggeratory, the best way I can describe it is that it was like having gone through life for 27 years without glasses not realising just how blurred my vision had been until finally seeing it in focus with glasses for the first time. Everything made perfect sense! I was (am) neither male nor female, but a different gender entirely! I am maverique, one of many non-binary genders which are neither male nor female.
It wasn't long at all before I started trying to immerse myself in LGBTQIA spaces online and no sooner had I done so than I ran into criticism and rejection of genderqueer and non-binary people. As someone who was brand new to discussion of sexuality and gender in general, it was incredibly hard not to internalise such negativity, especially since it was coming from people who I saw as my "senior" in the community. At the time, it was especially hard because the internet was my only means of accessing LGBTQIA spaces. Feeling under attack in the only space that I had caused me a lot of pain. However, having finally found words and a sense of commonality that made me feel comfortable in myself for the first time in my life, I sure as hell wasn't about to let take that away from me. I chose to retreat from such spaces and create my own on Tumblr and YouTube.
It's been four years since I was first able to put a word to my gender. A lot has changed and yet it hasn't at the same time. I've watched as so much growth has taken place within online non-binary and genderqueer communities and even as the identities themselves have grown and changed. In four (relatively short) years, I've also seen online LGBTQIA communities in general grow, change and yet remain the same. There have seemingly been shifts in the negativity and bullying, but at the end of the day it's essentially the exact same hurtful thing it has always been, sadly. Unlike before, however, I now have access to offline LGBTQIA spaces. I'm also out to select family members and friends, which has brought with it new challenges.
Truth be told, I actually never intended to come out to anyone in my extremely religious family. I ended up being outed time and time again thanks to my own social media presence. Make no mistake, being outed is not a pleasant experience and I do wish things had happened differently, but two years after my first outing to my minister of a mother, I'm finally in a place where I can look back on it all and be glad to be where I am now. My being non-binary continues to be the biggest thing that my family struggles to understand and come to terms with about me, but things have improved a lot in two years.
Navigating LGBTQIA spaces as someone who is neither male nor female continues to be very challenging at times. That said, every day awareness and support of non-binary people grows. More than ever, non-binary people are carving out spaces for ourselves and I'm incredibly grateful for this. It means that even when faced with negativity elsewhere, there are spaces for us to retreat to for support and affirmation when need be. I'm so proud of how far things have come for non-binary people in 4 short years. There is still a long way to go, but I'm more confident than ever that we'll get there.
To exist in this world as a non-binary person is a challenge. Even more than that, life itself is an act of defiance. There are days when that fact makes it all the harder to get through the day, but there are also days when that fact can be empowering for me, making me love myself and everything that I am all the more.
Self-care and self-awareness are perhaps two of the most important things I've learned since coming out to myself. If you're non-binary, genderqueer or otherwise struggling to navigate and survive in this society that we live in, I encourage you to take time out of life for yourself. Shut everyone and everything else out and check-in with yourself. Acknowledge how you're feeling, allow yourself to feel that way and love yourself because of, or in spite of it. Be kind to yourself because you're just being you and you're doing your best. That's more than enough.
Society in general, including the LGBTQIA community, has a lot of learning to do. In the meantime, keep being as awesome as you are. Let those of us who are in a position to try and help society learn, who are able to offer support/encouragement to others, do our thing.
Perhaps you're reading this not as a non-binary person yourself, but as someone who's curious and wants to learn more. There's a lot that someone who isn't non-binary can do to support those who are, but in my humble opinion one of the biggest things you can do is listen. Tips on what you can do to be a good ally to non-binary people can be found in the things that we say.
I may be but one non-binary person among many, but I'm one non-binary person among many who can genuinely say that things have gotten better for them and who is determined to help support and raise awareness for non-binary people. Stay strong! And hit me up anytime.
Originally posted on Ditch The Label.
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