Identity

So, it’s been a while.

I’ve had this piece in my head for the better part of a year. Every time I attempt to write it, I oscillate between having nothing to say and having too many thoughts.

The short version of this story is that for a long time I thought I was a male. Recently however, I’ve started to view my identity in a different light. I am non-binary. That’s the short version. The long version is the answer to the question: what does that mean? What does it mean for the people I know? What does it mean for me personally? What does it mean for society? That last one sound way more pompous than it actually is. So, let’s dive in.

The easiest part of this is what non-binary means is when interacting with folks. Generally, it means I now use they/them pronouns in place of he/him pronouns. It means I feel more comfortable with the name Zach than the name Zachary. It means I might experiment with presentation and wardrobe. At the end of the day, I’m fundamentally the same person though.

This realisation wouldn’t have been possible without all the folks who expressed their identity before me. There were a lot of fears I had about embracing this identity that were assuaged by folks I saw who were openly non-binary. For the longest time, I thought the fact that I had facial hair meant that I couldn’t be non-binary. I had conflated androgyny with non-binary identity. I thought that if I were truly non-binary that masculinity would be emotionally painful to perform. All these doubts about not being queer enough lingered large in my mind.

That was what lingered in my brain. Most folks most days will call me ‘sir’ or ‘gentleman’ if they don’t know me. This is because we still live in a society that is largely binary. As I came to terms with my identity, I realised that while I did not need androgyny for my non-binary identity to be respected; I could use androgyny as much as possible to avoid being put into one camp or the other in everyday life.

When I realised who I was, we were firmly into our most extended lockdowns. I told myself that I would use 2020 as a year in chrysalis. A year where I would start as a caterpillar and emerge as a butterfly to continue the metaphor. My plan was to be utterly transformed the next time folks saw me in a social context. Emerging from the lockdown still dressed in my same clothes felt like I had failed. However, there was solace in the fact that very few people had successfully reformed themselves in quarantine. It was a harrowing time and we need not hold ourselves to arbitrary standards considering the year we all had.

So, I’ve talked about what being non-binary means for me and what it means for folks who don’t know me. What about what it means for folks who don’t me? That large collection of folks we call society. Currently, in places like the US, there is state legislation being crafted against trans and gender non-confirming folks. In the UK, much of their media apparatus runs countless stories against trans and gender non-conforming folks. That’s a terrifying world to emerge into. While there hasn’t been an Australian-based national campaign against trans and gender non-confirming folks yet, there is nothing to stop this hatemongering spreading amongst the same institutions as the UK and US. The rights of trans and gender non-confirming folks are conditional. So, not great. However, I take some solace in knowing that most folks see these barbarous attacks against the trans community for what they are. There is more acceptance every day and hopefully my new identity is part of that process.

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