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Trigger Warnings: transphobia, cissexism, and homophobia
Near the end of last year I began to think I might be non-binary. As someone who had spent their teenage years confused about gender norms, the idea of being non-binary resonated. However the road to identification was and is still full of accusations and questions from others and myself.
“It’s just a phase.”
I heard this when I came out as bisexual too. It comes in a box set with, “you’re too young to know,” and “being trans is trendy.” It is extremely upsetting to be told that something you have thought long and hard about is just a phase. Cis people are never told that their identities are just are phase. How long is it going to take for me to prove it? In the words of Sophie Labelle, “your life is a phase.”
“You’re doing it for attention.”
No one is LGBTQIA+ for the attention: being queer is tiring (c.f. these accusations) and often dangerous. I am privileged as white, middle class, and in many other ways. Still, I have been repeatedly misgendered, told that ‘they/them’ pronouns are “not grammatically correct,” that I am too feminine to be trans, that if I came out publicly I’d ruin my chances with guys (because I only want to date transphobic men), and that I’d never pass as anything except a woman.
“You’re not a real non-binary person.”
I am terrified of being accused of faking being non-binary because I’m too feminine. Adding to my dysphoria is a little voice telling me that “non-binary people don’t wear dresses.” That little voice was one of the reasons I cut my hair because I couldn’t really envision the notion of being non-binary, assigned-female at birth, and having long hair. Not to mention not even owning a binder. However isn’t it a bit of a coincidence that the stereotypical description of non-binary seems very masculine? Misogyny is not something that is barred from entering the beautiful land of rainbows and it means that society’s view of non-binary is rather masculine at the center.
“How do you know you’re trans?”
I experience some, but not much, dysphoria (however you don’t have to experience dysphoria to be trans). Sometimes I want to bind my breasts and to deepen my voice, but I’m scared people will laugh at me. I hate it when people tell me I’m pretty and the idea of heterosexual men being attracted to me disturbs me. And when I wear a dress out, I feel uncomfortable because I know people are going to automatically assume I’m a woman. But I don’t like how I look when I’m dressed too masculinely either. I was a teenager when I had my first experiences of dysphoria, though I’d never heard of the word at the time. I remember walking back from piano, wearing a hoodie and trackpants, and a girl asked her mother, “is that a boy or girl?” Her mother answered: “A girl. Look, she’s got long hair.” I was so disappointed that the woman assumed I was a girl just because of my long hair. Not long after I cut my hair short.
If dysphoria is not a requirement to be trans, then what is? Possibly gender euphoria, a sense of pleasure from passing as or presenting as one’s chosen gender. My gender identity is very fluid. Sometimes I feel like a woman and catch myself referring to myself as ‘girl’ or ‘miss’. Other times I feel like I could be Charles, if Charles could be very feminine. When I present and am gendered as non-binary, I experience gender euphoria. And I have felt this, when I get mistaken for a man in the women’s toilets and-whenever I am referred to as ‘they/them’ my heart goes for a ride on a rainbow dragon.