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Gender? I hardly know her!

Dear readers,

In line with our theme of gender and sexuality this month this post will be about my own experiences with gender as a non-binary person. Before I start I would like to preface that I will be speaking from my own experiences with coming to terms with gender and the following post is in no way representative of the non-binary experience as a whole, if there even is such a thing.

I say ‘coming to terms with gender’ deliberately, because in my experience coming to terms with your gender means coming to terms with gender as a whole. What I mean by this is that when you grow up within the gender binary, coming out as non-binary to yourself means re-envision the way you think and conceptualise gender. For me that meant having to un-learn a thousand-and-one rules, habits and actions that I had previously done without a second thought. While I did struggle with this, as I expect anyone would, I did it with a feeling of elatedness. When I realised my identity it felt like a weight was lifted that I hadn’t even realised was there.

Coming out to the world was a whole other matter. The only thing I can compare it to is jumping from a cliff into deep waters below. At first you feel apprehensive, but you also want to know that feeling of flying through the air, and when you start running you feel a mix of rising anticipation and apprehension. When you reach the edge and jump you tense up and a fear courses through you, but then you’re jumping and you can’t change it anymore so you let go of that feeling and you’re just flying and it doesn’t really matter anymore. That was what I thought coming out would feel like, free. But in reality it was a little different. While I felt I was flying, others looked on and thought I was falling. My joy (dare I say trans-joy?) faltered as I was met with their grief.

When I came out I was expecting those around me to be confused, and I knew it would take some time for them to get used to it, but I was ready for their barrage of questions and the unavoidable mis-gendering. What I wasn’t ready for was that their feelings were my complete opposite. Where I was overjoyed to be sharing this part of myself, my loved ones acted as though they were mourning who I used to be. It was jarring to say the least. How could something that brought me so much joy be in need of mourning? Did they not see how happy I was to be sharing this part of myself? I realise that this was of course completely new to them, and that I had had the time to comb through my own feelings in the privacy of my closet. But it felt disheartening that such a joyful thing could only be viewed throught the lens of tragedy. On the subject of gender affirming surgery someone once asked me: “But do you hate yourself so much that you would go this far?” and to this I say: I never hated who I was, I just didn’t know who I was, and now that I do I want to live towards what I know I can be.

To everyone out there who is struggling with their own gender identity, don’t be afraid to take the leap, despite the questions and doubts it is a truly joyful thing to get to know and love yourself, and to those who are struggling with the gender identity of a loved one, have patience and practice those pronouns, you have no idea how great a feeling it is to hear yourself reflected in a loved ones sentence. And remeber: you don’t have to understand everything about someone to be able to love them.

Keep growing 💜

Char (they/them die/hun)

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