I’m part of an extended friend-group on Twitter that includes people (mostly writers and poets) of all genders, and publishing’s lack of representation of people who aren’t cis males concerns all of us. It’s fashionable nowadays to have many calls for women writers, but when you’re nonbinary (NB), like I and many of my friends are, inquiries about if our work is welcome too get all sorts of answers. None of which make us feel like we’re anything more than an afterthought.
Friday, a NB friend linked to a blog post our friend Polenth wrote about this in 2014, and I read it. Then I jumped right into the ongoing conversation. I ended up interacting with a great many people (including some I don’t know well) in a long, productive, and ultimately (to me, anyway) encouraging conversation on our lived gender experiences, pronoun usage, beauty standards, pushback from cis people . . . all of the usual issues of marginalized groups interacting with hegemony.
Polenth’s post got me considering how I might characterize my own gender. I came up with this:
- ~ 20% female;
- probably +/- ~ 20% male*; and
- ~ 60% other.
*Much less certain of this section because I don’t feel safe enough to explore it in any social situation.
Hence, “genderfluid”, back when I was using that term.
I would certainly prefer to be in the ~60% most of the time but instead I find myself squished into the 20% female — or pretending to be that part — for ~ 90% of the time I’m being social.
It’s exhausting, it’s demoralizing, and . . . I feel like the “real me” . . . doesn’t quite exist, as far as most cis people are concerned.
I haven’t found ways to feel socially attractive as a person in the 60%. Not just physically attractive, but “generally appealing”. I feel awkward and ugly and/or invisible.
My poem, In defense of scruffy, written in late September . . . I now realize is actually about being that unnamed gender, rather than being (solely) the girl/woman my family wanted me to be. It begins: “I’ve never been soignée”, and that is exactly the word I felt my mother always had in mind when she showed me the clothes she thought adult-me should wear. A standard of elegance. Comparisons to Audrey Hepburn, despite me looking a lot more like Katharine Hepburn. Lots of black (which I don’t like, and never wear anymore), or beige or ivory; all such classy colors, totally unlike the vivid hues I was naturally drawn to.
I want beautiful, appealing clothes that aren’t “feminine” or “masculine”. I’ve been too afraid to explore creating clothes like that, even just for myself, because . . . where would I wear them?
I do find it mind-boggling that my 74 year old father-in-law, born in rural Kentucky — and who had, I’m sure, never even heard of transgender — has bent his mind around me being nonbinary-gendered, but still a fine spouse for his son. And calls me Mea, as I asked. But my brother, born in Chicagoland almost 30 years later, college educated, supposedly liberal, a father of daughters, the whole thing, couldn’t or wouldn’t make that leap.
Then again, my father-in-law is actually fond of me.
My primary care doctor is also fond of me, as was P (my former therapist). Maybe their new knowledge of “other genders” is having ripple effects downstream. I hope so.