I find my gender identity so hard to talk about.
I scream from the hilltops about being bisexual. I love bi love and celebration and I walked with bisexual pride at Leeds Pride this year. It makes me happy and it is a big part of who I am. I am not ashamed of it.
But I feel harrowingly uncomfortable when talking about my gender. Before I even started questioning my sexuality, I felt an enormous confusion about my gender. Why did I feel like I didn’t belong? Girls and boys felt like the only categories of human. So why didn’t I feel like either. This confusion was long-lasting, and before I was a teenager, it didn’t have a name. Now I know it as gender dysphoria.
I knew about trans folk from social media and I completely understood what trans women and men said about feeling trapped in their body, and like their body didn’t match how they felt. But I knew I definitely wasn’t a guy, but I also didn’t feel comfortable as a girl a lot of the time. Although I felt understood about my dysphoria, because I had only heard it in relation to people who were either transitioning to male or female, it almost left me with more questions about myself.
This was, until I heard the term ‘non-binary’ for the first time. Someone who doesn’t fit the binary genders of male and female. I heard about people who were in-between both genders and rejoiced for their visibility, but I wasn’t that either, I wasn’t in the middle. No part male, and only some parts female? And then I understood my anxiety around gender and feeling the need to have a clear gender. I didn’t have one. I am agender. I am non-binary. I am agender and non-binary.
(Understanding is the first step at becoming at-peace with yourself.)
The way I describe it to people is with my favourite beings on this earth; flowers. It started off as a world with only two types of flower. Red ones. And blue ones. They were different and the norm for our society, and that was that. Then there were red flowers that felt that they were actually blue flowers, and so they became blue. And then there were blue flowers that felt they were red flowers, and so they became red.
Then people started to understand that there were also purple flowers, a combination of red and blue. Some purple flowers were more blue, some were more red. And even some flowers could change colour. From red, to blue. From blue to purple to red.
And then there was me. A yellow flower. Still as beautiful but I knew I was different. Born red. But inside I was not red. I was not blue. I was not purple.
I was yellow (sometimes with a few red streaks).
The world is only just starting to more accepting and understanding of trans women and men, and there’s still lightyears to go. And now I am trying to show that other genders exist. The non-binary folk. I am embarrassed still, on occasion, by my gender. Whenever I talk about it online I expect eye-rolls and sighs at the words ‘non-binary’, ‘agender’ and ‘genderqueer’ (all of which I like to use to see myself).
At times I feel like a bad LGBT+ advocate. I am wrong for feeling uncomfortable and ashamed of my gender. But I am not wrong at all. As citizens we are conditioned to reject the ‘not’-normal. I am not ashamed because who I am is wrong. No, I am ashamed because I am told I should be. And each day I try and become more accepting and confident in this body that was once alien. Dysphoria is okay to have. It doesn’t make me any less of an LGBT+ member.
And finally it was my time to ‘come out’. This time not as bisexual, but as genderqueer. I did so through my writing about the yellow flowers. It was good. They accepted me (as they should) which I was warmed by. I was worried that I would not be taken seriously. That my gender would be discounted after a few days and no longer remembered. I maintained the pronouns she/her and added they/them because that fits me best. But I was worried that people would expect me to change. Even for myself, I wondered if I am really non-binary whilst not looking androgynous. I always wear ‘feminine’ clothes, pretty colours and styles. I currently have shoulder-length honey blonde hair and I paint my nails. Why do I think that makes me less valid as a non-binary person? It felt wrong, and sometimes still does, that dressing how I like makes my gender look invisible. I have always been known as a girl and I still worry that people see me as one forever. My point is, there is no ‘look’ to being non-binary. Feminine does not always equal female. To you I may look like a female. But I am not one.
I realise now, it is not about other people being at peace with who you are. It is about being at peace with yourself.
Sending love to any purple or yellow flowers out there,
Emma Catherine (she/they)