There are a number of phrases I could use to describe myself.
I am a junior in the digital animation and game design program. I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community. I am pansexual, meaning that gender is not something I consider when looking for a romantic or sexual partner. I am demisexual, meaning that an emotional connection is necessary for me to feel a sexual attraction to an individual. I am an artist. I am a writer. I am someone who enjoys quiet social gatherings. I am a kind person. I am nonbinary.
I chose to put on many of these labels, like the ones that are derived from the hobbies I take on. Many other labels, such as the ones that are derived from my physical appearance and my place in the LGBTQ+ community, are labels that I cannot remove from myself.
I AM NOT A WOMAN
Growing up as a woman felt like wearing a pair of shoes that didn’t fit. Proclaiming I was a woman felt like a statement that was simply incorrect. Going by my birth name felt like wearing shoes that squeezed my toes too tight. Being treated as a woman feels like wearing heels I can’t walk in. And male doesn’t fit me either.
Until my college years, I thought these were the only shoes in existence. So I spent my years dealing with the pain of tight shoes, questioning why they felt so tight when the same pair fit perfectly fine on other women.
Realizing the existence of other labels and finding one that fit felt like breathing after being suffocated. Imagine running a track with shoes too tight only to discover the existence of shoes that fit, shoes you could have been running comfortably in the whole time. For me, being nonbinary is just that. Nonbinary is a label to describe someone who does not fit in male or female shoes.
THE NONBINARY EXPERIENCE
Just as I did not realize genders other than male and female existed until I reached college, many others, especially those of older generations, do not know either. This makes it incredibly hard to prove that I am nonbinary.
As a cis-gendered individual, which is someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth, you may walk around and have everyone know exactly what you are. Nonbinary people do not get this privilege.
Even while openly expressing who I am, I am still told that I am a woman, and people continue to refer to me as such. Sometimes, coming out feels like talking to a wall.
Many nonbinary people, including myself, present themselves as the gender they were assigned at birth. This leads many people to believe the way we present ourselves is exactly who we are.
“No one knows I’m nonbinary unless they ask about it directly. Most people assume that I’m a woman, and they don’t question it,” LGBTQ+ Resource Center Coordinator Becca Osborne said. “There’s this expectation to look and act androgynous. I felt like I couldn’t claim this identity unless I looked the part.”
Osborne expressed feeling comfortable with all pronouns and being seen as any gender. Since they present femininely, they are sometimes frustrated to see their masculine and androgynous sides ignored.
Others, such as communications senior Jason Fitzpatrick, express their gender fluidly. Fitzpatrick feels comfortable in both men’s and women’s clothing and with using both masculine and feminine pronouns. Since he feels no aversion to presenting masculine and using masculine pronouns, it has felt hard for him to be perceived as a gender.
“As [a friend of mine] described what gender meant to them, I realized that I fit this non-man, non-woman third group outside this binary paradigm,” Fitzpatrick said. “I realized that I have no sense of ‘male-ness.’ I assumed that since I did not experience gender dysphoria, I could not be nonbinary.”
Fitzpatrick described his experience as feeling like he has no connection to the male or female gender. At the same time, both male and female presentations and pronouns felt equally acceptable to refer to himself. He expressed feeling most comfortable using he/him pronouns and expressing as feminine to experience a sense of both.
“I dressed in men’s clothing because I was afraid of how I would be perceived for wearing women’s clothes. After taking a brave step to wear a skirt, I realized I like women’s clothing just as much as men’s,” Fitzpatrick said. “But regardless of what I wear, I always feel myself, without any sense of [being] fully male or female.”
I see myself as purely androgynous. I feel a strong disconnect between seeing myself as either male or female. I am happy to have found a gender that fits me after believing male and female were the only options for so long. I am happy to have found spaces that recognize me as nonbinary and allow me to be my most genuine self.