What It Means To Call Ourselves Non-Binary: An Autostraddle Roundtable

Being non-binary or genderqueer is inherently kind of confusing because it depends on not identifying with a gender. Therefore, its definitions are wide and varying and complex. Here’s how just a few of us on staff think about what it means to call ourselves non-binary. Guess what? Our definitions are wildly different!


Alaina, Staff Writer

Non-binary is the easiest way for me to publicly recognize that my gender is not woman or man or anything really, and so I keep it around. For now. But like, what does it mean? I don’t know! It means that my gender is not on the binary. Which is not very specific at all. Very unhelpful, indeed. I’m not a woman, and I’m not a man and it’s not because either of those are wrong, or too rigid it’s just because they’re not me. They fit uncomfortably. I want my gender to at least sorta fit.

I’m re-evaluating an LGBTQ+ and feminist glossary for my school this semester, and something I keep struggling with is that we define gender as something that has to do with your innermost self. And like, I don’t know, maybe I’m too much of a Gemini or whatever, but my innermost self changes literally hourly. How could I expect to find a gender that expresses that? I just want to be able to exist and like be a person who is just themselves and is only seen as that, an individual human being. Non-binary is the closest I’m getting to being able to talk about myself in that way.

I think being non-binary, or really just being any marginalized identity at all, is inherently political, and therefore I think my identity is tied to political and social movements like feminism.There has to be a way for us to still be able to center and uplift women while also recognizing that people who aren’t women suffer under misogyny and the patriarchy. And like, everything isn’t for me, I get that. But sometimes, it feels like there are those who try to push me out due of spite. As if my choice to live my truth as someone who doesn’t want to accept a gender or a binary makes me a threat towards feminism. Sometimes there is a need for space to be held that is woman-specific, and I’m fine with that, and it also feels important to me that feminism not be reduced to “uplifting women,” at the cost of excluding other non-men who suffer under harmful systems. But saying these things out loud feels wrong, like my politics are wrong or something. I just know that I had a girlhood, and it was a good girlhood for the most part, and I aligned myself with girls, and learned how to become an adult from queer women, and that one day, queer women helped me feel comfortable enough to say out loud that I didn’t feel like a woman anymore. So of course I feel connected to them. I love women and want to build community with them. I want the definition of feminism to be about the liberation of all people from misogynistic patriarchal conventions. We all need that, regardless of where we lie or don’t lie on a binary.

Even though it’s not perfect, being able to identify as non-binary has been freeing. A professor sent out a departmental email a while ago and used they/them when she referred to me and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since then. I have colleagues who’ve corrected other people when I wasn’t even there. Sometimes I’m able to be seen and then, just for a minute, I don’t feel like some ghost in a body that wasn’t meant for me.


Cee, Tech Director

I’m definitely not an expert on this, but my understanding of nonbinary is simply someone who exists outside the two option male/female gender binary.

My gender has always been a bit different. I was an artsy tomboyish nature kid who liked to read and harass amphibians. I started to question my sexuality in 1994, in high school. During that time I loved playing with gendered clothing, mixing vintage dresses with knee high combat boots, and started wearing men’s clothes as a teenager. I always felt gender was an optional thing you could participate in however you wanted, if you felt like it, like a daily performance art. I tried to redefine what it meant to be a woman, and felt gender non-conformity was essentially freedom from the strict rules of gender, which I felt were made up anyway. I couldn’t understand why so many people were so caught up in subscribing to gender roles – it felt like they were all operating on autopilot.

I thought for years and years that’s just what it means to be queer. Queers always play with gender, right? Gender doesn’t work the same for us. But as words evolved and new words to describe identities popped up like genderqueer and nonbinary, I began to notice queer friends who did indeed feel very comfortable in their prescribed genders and saw no need to push the boundaries. I started to see other queer friends that happily existed within this gender binary. I saw femme friends feel very themselves in heels and dresses (and look fantastic while doing it). I started to see butch women who strongly identified as women. And I realized that not every gender nonconforming queer woman has issues with her body being feminine, or experiences dysphoria. It made me think more about my own gender – why if I wear those same clothes do I feel deeply uncomfortable and feel like I’m acting a part in a play? Perhaps being queer doesn’t automatically mean feeling out of place with the gender binary and your position on it after all? While that may be the case for some or most queers with binary identities, it isn’t the case for every queer. So, I now identify as genderqueer/non binary, and I’m thankful for the new vocabulary to describe myself.

I’ve also never felt the need to bring attention to my chest, and felt really uncomfortable in anything that showed cleavage or wearing womens bathing suits. I slowly realized that’s not the same experience for everyone. The more androgynous or masculine I dress, the more if offsets the femininity people read in me to create a bit of neutrality. The more people interact with and see me the way I feel I am inside, the more comfortable I feel in my skin.

I decided to do something to help with my dysphoria, and several months ago I had top surgery. It took me several years of back and forth to finally make a decision and do it. I’m so glad I finally did – I’m looking forward to my first summer where I don’t have to spend so much energy blocking out and ignoring a part of my body. I’m pretty excited about the idea of wearing tank tops with wide sleeves, long necklaces, and getting a tattoo on my chest — things I’d never do before, as it would have drawn attention to that part of my body. I feel like I have all of this new space on my body I have claimed as mine.

About 5 or 6 years ago when I first heard “they” being used as a singular pronoun it felt weird. I was always in support for gender neutral pronouns – but “they” as singular felt odd for use with one known person. Over time, and use, it became very normal to me, and I grew to love it. Now I’m a big defender of the singular “they” pronoun, identify strongly with “they”, and prefer my friends use it for me. And being part of those folks who are changing and evolving language is fun.

A year ago I changed my name legally to Cee, a nickname I’ve used for almost 20 years. I always loved it because it was gender neutral. I no longer have to cringe when my old name is called at the doctor’s office, or anywhere else. My name on my driver’s license is my real name. It’s freeing.

I don’t really feel like I fit in non-queer women’s spaces. I feel like I’m intruding on a “ladies happy hour” or “ladies who tech” space. I cringe when someone calls me a lady, so why would I put myself in a ladies space? I never really felt like I fit in in those spaces to being with, so that hasn’t changed since I came out. I still do feel connected and like I fit in queer spaces, as long as they are not women only spaces. Most spaces like this that I end up in are the “no cis men” or “gender minority” spaces.


Audrey, Writer

Not to start off on the wrong foot, but I’m terrified that everything I’m about to write is wrong. I am a white, afab, spilled-glitter-on-my-tie-of-center, liberal arts-educated human with money in savings and a Toyota Corolla. What gives me the fuckin’ right, ya know? Like, I fully expect everyone else to assume I don’t have any real problems so I’m inventing a gender crisis to seem interesting. I’m not doing that, but listen, it took me three years of kissing girls to come out as bi because I assumed that all girls felt that way when they kissed other girls. It’s taken me a lot longer to embrace the word genderqueer; I assumed all women felt deeply ambivalent about being women. For the first quarter-century of my life I lived into the idea that “being a girl can mean whatever I want it to mean,” and I did whatever I wanted and cut my hair short a bunch of times (but never said I wanted a boy’s haircut, always a pixie — always one centimeter and a razor fade from having my head look how I really wanted it to). At my first A-Camp, all that suddenly felt like punkass bullshit. I saw people with all kinds of haircuts and bodies and dance moves using all kinds of pronouns, all kinds of language to describe their heartbeats. It made me want more. It made me want all of it. A few months later someone I briefly, deeply loved used gender-neutral pronouns for me, and that was the ballgame.

To be clear, being a girl can mean whatever you want it to mean. I know that in the venn diagram of gender there are many women who share many characteristics with me. I don’t feel the desire to reject the identity of “woman” completely, but I have decentered it in my understanding of my identity and the way I view the world. It feels more and more alien when people call me “ma’am” or “lady” or “miss,” which happens a lot here in Texas. That language is so far from the way I see myself that it makes my brain hurt trying to figure out how other people still see me that way. I don’t feel totally comfortable identifying as trans, but the gender I was assigned at birth is pretty useless to me, a skin-tight costume I grew out of very quickly and have finally thrown in the dumpster. Sometimes I get stuck on the idea that if I call myself trans, I am taking up space or power from others, especially trans women of color, who need it so much more than I do. Then I feel like a real asshole when I remember my brilliant, generous non-binary trans friends. This Autostraddle community reminds me that there is enough space for all of us, and we can do so much to build each other’s power.

I’m still at the teeny tiny beginning of being “out” as genderqueer/non-binary or whatever the heck it is that I am. I’m a damn wimp and really have no idea how to talk to cis straight people about my gender. She/her pronouns don’t make me feel much of anything, positive or negative. They/them pronouns make my heart click together, make my legs stop shaking in their subconscious effort to burn off my endless anxiety. But the psychological peril of trying to explain that to people all the time makes me want to hide under the bed with the monsters. I’m still learning, and I’m still trying. For now, I call myself genderqueer and tell people I trust about my pronouns. I’m giving myself more grace. I frequently quote a line from The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson about how it’s important to create new language, but we must also relish the complexities of context and embrace “the wings with which each word can fly.” My words are growing wings, and so am I.


Cecelia, Writer

For me personally, gender helps me match my inner feelings with an outer expression. I think my notion of gender is weaved into my practice of identifying as a witch, or my concept of spirituality. With spells, for example, I’m trying to actively call-in a certain energy into my life. I’ll do a new moon ritual to try and attract confidence and courage, and then I’ll find myself on a day-to-day basis enacting the desire of that ritual through gender expression and performance. Like, for example, I have three kinds of queer femme that I find myself rotating through, one of which is “Knife-Licking Femme,” a gender expression which is simultaneously the hottest and scariest version of femme I perform. It’s like, she’s not a Scorpio but at the same time, is she? For this past Aries new moon, I found myself expressing myself more through this version of femme, which helped me enact some of my desires to bring fierceness and courage into my life. Then I also have “Glitter Witch Femme,” and “Cyber Femme,” which help me bring other energies into my life.

I don’t ever really feel masculine in a full-grown-man sense, but I do have two prominent boyish gender presentations, which are some combination of “Child in a Miyazaki Film” and/or “Futuristic Ash Ketchum.” These actually feel more tied to personal identity, and interestingly, racial identity. I’m Japanese but I’ve always been alienated from that part of myself. I think in expressing these two boyish, playful, rebellious tomboy identities I’m trying to embody the energy of my Japanese grandmother who I’ve had to get to know through my pieced together recollections of her. I remember she always had this really playful, mischievous, secretive but lighthearted energy. But it’s really hard for me to embody the authentic part of myself that feels playful, boyish and lighthearted. In fact, I really surprised myself when I began expressing myself this way. It took me a while, actually, to realize that this gender expression reminded me of the energy of my grandmother. So in this way, gender feels like a canvas for self-discovery in ways that are surprisingly significant beyond myself. Not to get too far-out, but I truly believe that people who are alienated from their culture still have inherent remnants of their ancestor’s spirits in their own bodies. And for me, gender expression has been a way for me to discover that story in myself, name it, and embody it. In this way, I think experimenting with gender can help someone resist not only the alienation they feel from their own body, but the alienation they feel from other parts of themselves as well.

Then I have more neutral gender expressions that I rotate through when I have to roll my eyes at the world and tread invisibly through it, which are something like “Cis-Passing Art Hoe,” or “Neutral Cis-Passing Take Me Seriously I’m A Capricorn Rising.” This is usually what I’m doing when I go to work at my server job, or on the off-chance I go to an art gallery opening to “network” or something (barf), where I know there will be hot, wealthy people surrounding me. In these moments, my internalized shit just throws its arms up in exasperation and gives up, and I deal with the situation by just invisibly passing as one of the many blah cis stereotypes. Funnily enough though, in terms of “ gender performance,” these gender expressions feel the most like a costume that I wear to the fun “participate in capitalism & survive in the world” themed party.

One thing that I know for sure about my gender is that I’m not a woman. I haven’t fully formed my thoughts about why I feel this way. I feel comfortable with so many other words: boy, prince, femme, and I’m even okay with being called a girl. But the word “woman” doesn’t work for me. I don’t make a big deal about this though, because I know it’s complicated, obviously. I’m really riled up about “women’s rights issues,” like reproductive justice, but even then I’m super critical of the categorization of the notion of women’s rights. Like I straight-up don’t think reproductive justice is a “women’s rights” issue, because, for example, these issues affect not only me but so many other more marginalized folks who don’t identify as women. But I know that “woman” is the word we need to organize around in order to be recognizable and enact change in any way on a legislative level (and even then, it looks like it doesn’t matter what we call ourselves, sigh, sob, scream-with-my-mouth-closed-all-day-everyday).


Tiara, Staff Writer

My sense of gender is very similar to Vi Hart’s in that I don’t really feel all that strongly about my gender – ‘gender agnostic’ is a great term. I was assigned female at birth, and that’s how most of the world is going to parse me as, so ¯_(ツ)_/¯. I have noticed a lot more fluidity in the past year or so, even developing a male alter ego, though I’m still grumpy that that alter ego is often what people needed to really see me as non-binary. And frankly, I have given up on being more assertive about my non-binary gender situation.

Despite knowing I was some kind of ‘androgynous’ since I was a teenager in the early 2000s when all I had was the Mx honorific (even before I came to terms with my sexuality), I found that people – particularly other queer and non-binary people – didn’t really take me all that seriously. I had the alternative lifestyle haircut sometimes, but that wasn’t enough. I didn’t bind, didn’t dress masculine all that often (outside the aforementioned alterego), didn’t do or wear all the other things my fellow non-binary friends did to flag their gender – even though the straight cis world is confused enough about my gender to keep calling me ‘Sir’ even when I’m dressed as feminine as possible (no thanks, Singapore Airlines). About the only time I really make a deal of it is when I sign up for apps and they allow a Non-Binary gender option.

If other non-binary people won’t remember or recognise me as non-binary, and if my non-binariness has no material consequences (it’s not like my ID changes), then what’s the point?


Archie, Cartoonist

As someone who hates processing with words but isn’t afraid to process my shit through art, I’ve drawn about my genderqueer body and how I relate to this fleshpile that I inhabit. For so much of my life, I’ve felt like a stranger, a visitor, an invader and a voyeur in my skin. It took me years to figure out that maybe I’m genderqueer. In fact, in fear of sounding old, it is WILD that this is a word you can Google now! That it’s in the dictionary! I am so envious of those who are able to name their feelings with the help of the internet, although TBH, it’s not like naming feelings or your gender will instantly make everything better.

It was years of feeling this feeling before realizing that maybe I was feeling dysphoria. And then what! I had to come out and tell people! I explained what non-binary meant over and over again! I taught everyone close to me how to use a new pronoun. I had to listen to folks who I thought loved and cared for me explain the plethora of stubborn and stupid reasons why they wouldn’t use they/them pronouns. I got so frustrated and often wondered if this was even worth it. I felt like such a bother! I felt like THAT person! I felt so needy! For someone as sex-driven as I was, sex was difficult. If I had to explain to one more person I tried to hook up with what a binder was or that I didn’t want my chest touched I was Going! To! Freak! Out! I now know how common and universal these feelings are. At the time though, they felt overwhelming. And lonely.

But it got better, in some sense, in some ways, over time, with patience-for myself and others- and a thick skin. I eventually learned to enjoy baths again. I moved. I found new friends. Work was harder because, to make money, we so often have to play the capitalist’s game, which means fitting into the comfy boxes others have set out for us. Even at my crappy jobs, I learned the skill of finding that ONE person/queer who got it. Eventually folks sought me out – I was the one person/queer in their life who got it. I was able to find folks, online at first, and later in life, who saw me, felt like me, and who fucked me the way I needed. I used my zines and comics to explain myself so I didn’t have to use my words. I discovered and learned a way to do androgyny that wasn’t focused on imitating the male, where skirts/long hair/makeup/glitter/mesh/leather are not in opposition to being genderqueer, that felt like a political statement, a way of protest, as well as a way to find home and comfort in my skin. Especially during these political times, it’s vital to be able to be our authentic selves.

I feel lucky and challenged that I’m able to still express my ever-changing and growing gender-feels in monthly comics drawn for this very unnamed website. Honestly, learning to be flexible with myself and my gender expression is so healthy for me. Allowing myself room to play and stretch and experiment with my gender (and sexuality) enabled me to get not just a solid sense of who I am, but what my body wants and needs (especially as it changes with time/age). Like gender, the processing of our genders is not linear. It’s important to have a community, or art, or books, or online spaces where we remind ourselves that we’re not alone in this process.



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Alaina is a 20-something working on a PhD in Performance as Public Practice. They are a mom to three cats, they listen to a lot of NPR and musicals, and they spend a lot of time on Pinterest lusting over studio apartments. They are actively trying to build A Brand on twitter @alainamonts. One day, they will be First Lady of the United States.

Alaina has written 144 articles for us.

52 Comments

  1. Wow! Thank you all so much for sharing! ❤❤❤
    It feels so amazing to read different thoughts and feelings about identifying as nonbinary, and I can relate to so many different parts of them. I feel so seen and present, thank you

  2. <3 thank you all for sharing.

    Archie's thoughts really resonated with me.

    I've been identifying as transmasculine agender outwardly for about a year, inwardly for closer to two… But I still don't feel that "gender euphoria" thing. That sense of self, that 'everything makes sense'. And the more perspectives I hear from the nonbinary spectrum, the more I wonder if maybe I am not nonbinary at all. Like… I know I am masculine, but maybe I'm further out than masc nb. Like, i don't see a lot of nb folks wanting to start hrt or get top surgery. But also I don't know that I am male, and I definitely know that I don't want to be. It breaks my heart to think of not being in non-men queer communities. Even identifying my sexuality in some way that is not lesbian feels really shitty. Especially since I have been identifying as a lesbian for more than half my life. It feels like I am losing a huge part of me to try and recognize a different part of me; like not all parts can exist at the same time.

    • It can be hard to find, but I can assure there are SO many non binary people out there who want HRT and/or surgery. One thing that I think cannot be said enough is that so many people forget that non-binary can include every type of person with every type of body or presentation, as long as they don’t ID as 100% female or 100% male. You get to pick whatever words feel good to you and change them as many times as you want, and I really hope the right people will get it in time.

      • Thank you, Linds.

        I think that that is one of the reasons it can be a struggle to find the right words for yourself when you are nb. Like, if we consider labels as a way of aligning ourselves with those of similar experience and for shorthand to communicate who we are, then we seek out labels not just because the definition resonates with us, but because the other people who use that label also resonate with us.

        But nb is so expansive and diverse and those who use the same labels often don’t mean the same thing when they use it. And it’s not that that’s not great (it is!) it just means that for some people (me) it is harder to orient oneself under the umbrella.

        Like I hear transmen’s voices and stories and it sounds familiar and strikes a cord with me somewhere deep inside that I have tried to ignore. But I don’t feel whatever this feeling of “maleness” or “femaleness” is that binary people seem to feel. And I don’t feel a third gender either. So agender seems right, right? I don’t feel a gender so that’s what I am. But then I hear these narratives from other nb people, and it makes me question myself again because I struggle to find that same community bond within the nb community as I feel with transmen.

        Sorry to write my feels essay all over here. I am in therapy for this very thing, and hopefully that will help me orient.

        Regardless of where I land, the more nb voices we can put out there the better. Especially, as another commenter pointed out, for transfem folks.

    • I can’t speak to the sexuality bit, since I’m more on the bi/ace axis, but I’m nonbinary/genderqueer and doing the whole medical transition thing! The way I see it, I don’t feel like a man or a woman, but I feel like my body should be closer to “male” and I wanna be able to fail at binary gender standards in a way that feels closer to true for me. We are here!

    • I just wanted to chime in as another non-binary person who’s doing medical transition things (I had top surgery a year ago, am on HRT, and am considering conflicting lower surgery options). I’m just doing what I need in order to feel like a whole person!

      There’s loads of us out here, and just some validation that we’re real and you can do whatever!

    • also chiming in as a nonbinary person who has thought/is thinking about top surgery and/or hormones: you’re not alone. there are a lot of nb people who experience some form of dysphoria, and a lot who think about some kind of medical transition for millions of different reasons. there are different ways to feel dysphoria, and different ways to transition. while i haven’t had a medical transition, i can look back at how i expressed myself and how i described myself to other people a few years ago and see changes that feel in some ways like a transition. medical transition is only one of many kinds, and many nb people transition in some way; thinking about it doesn’t invalidate your nonbinary-ness

      one thing that has been interesting for me is to see how in some ways i feel a lot in common with my trans guy friends, but in other ways i think we feel really differently. one really eye-opening and validating experience for me meeting another nb person who was on T + identified as femme + played with gender in similar ways that i do. my gender identity feels very complicated and fluid, and that’s why nonbinary feels like home to me.

  3. Thank you for this! I hope that we can continue to talk about all this messy gender stuff and to make space for people coming from different backgrounds, since it can be harder for transfeminine nonbinary folks to access this kind of space.

    Personally, I resonate with a lot of bits and pieces of what’s been said here. It’s wonderful to see how varied and complex our community is!

  4. You are all wonderful. 💜

    I was assigned female at birth, grew up dreaming about being a boy, and then spent years suppressing any indication of that past and teaching myself to perform a socially acceptable femininity, which I’m currently unlearning.

    I wouldn’t go as far as to identify as genderqueer or fluid, but something Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher talked about in the first episode of Queery really spoke to me — the concept of being socialised or conditioned female. All of my life I have primarily been treated as female, which in turn makes me identify as female, because my experience is one of being treated like a woman. It’s cyclic, and based on someone else’s perception, which is very much based on genitals, so it’s super problematic, but at the same time it’s also my personal life experience.

    I feel much more connected with women than men, because I was suddenly cut off from the men’s world when I entered puberty, very abruptly, and forced to cope. That’s socialised.

    At the same time, I also just don’t care much …? A woman at the grocery store called me Monsieur the other week, and I went with it. You can call me sir, that’s fine. He is a perfectly acceptable pronoun, as is they and she. But I sometimes worry my lax attitude to my own gender is all internalised misogynistic bullshit, because I have definitely been the person who relished in being mistaken for male in writing, because masculine traits are desirable and feminine ones aren’t.

  5. “I just want
    I wanna be here with you
    Not bracing for what comes next
    I’ve got some new words
    I can see sideways
    If there’s a limit
    It hasn’t found me yet”

    (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Dskj0nqnIIY)

    i deeply relate to so much of this. I’ve kept a lot of my feelings about my own gender silent for very similar reasons to the ones Audrey described. I consider myself “gender emergent”, in that my gender isn’t something fixed or defined but rather something pluripotent that emerges moment to moment, occasion to occasion. I’ve thought of identifying as “plurgender” in reference to this pluripotence, but like so many folks eloquently outlined above, there’s a lot holding me back from being really vocal or out about it. I sort of silently identify as a nonbinary femme because (1) I don’t have to explain those words in most queer spaces (2) it tells people I don’t identify as a woman but also that I (3) still move through and experience the world primarily as a femme (just a nonbinary one). I would love to hear from more non-cis femmes about how they negotiate their gender!

    I usually try not to take up much space at all, let alone space that doesn’t belong to me. I’ve been really quiet about my journey with this, but even being slightly more vocal about it this past year has already made my life so much more comfortable and liberating. So I keep going, because it feels right. I just keep being here, being me. That’s what I learned the first time with my queerness, so here I am again. Ready to learn and unlearn and surprise myself again. (Natal Uranus in my 1st house lyfeee)

    Btw she and they pronouns both work, and it actually makes me happy when you use a mix of both, but no pressure 🙂

    • jumping in here to give you LOVE. and also to say being a non-binary femme feels hard/almost impossible to me so often bc of the way I feel like i’ve been taught about femininity and the ways i’ve been taught to give in. I feel like saying it out loud means that I demand that people grapple with it the way I have, and that feels almost…unfair? but it’s not!! saying non-binary femme out loud feels so important to me. even if i don’t know what it means or other people don’t know what it means fully, if we stop saying it, people will stop even trying to see us that way.

      • <3 I love you, Alaina. I remember the first time I string together the words "nonbinary femme". I was like, "is this even a thing? Do people even say this??" When I see other nonbinary femmes existing in their truth it makes me feel like a mirror looking into another mirror, in an instant we reflect each other and ourselves infinitely. I go from feeling like a lonely little satellite to a real person connected to a whole bunch of other beautiful real people who gave existed throughout time and space. It's a universe of difference. Thank you. If you keep saying it, I'll keep saying it.

        I changed my insta profile a little while ago to say "queer nonbinary femme" and it felt like a tiny revolution in the same way changing my Facebook to "interested in women". Maybe no one noticed, but it meant a lot to me. <3

  6. My bod and I just kinda misunderstood our assignment, ya know?

    Part of the reason I keep my very gendered name, though, is I need that valuable shorthand for how wrapped up my identity is with other people accusing me of being a man(duh) since I was literally a child. That I’m still mad as hell about it. Everytime anyone looks suddenly confused or embarrassed (or occasionally way, way, way too excited) about my whole… Self, I mostly want to melt into the floor, but I’m also a little like “Confused?? Scared?? Well, it’s your fuckin turn!!” And it is their damn turn.

  7. AHHHHHHHH I LOVE THIS ROUNDTABLE

    And I have a lot of feelings about being nonbinary because being nonbinary encompasses SO MUCH. And it’s really great. And I love that I have a word that is short and succinct but contains multitudes that…well, enable me to go into detail or not go into detail about gender depending on the audience! Because like, people don’t tend to “get” my more detailed account of gender that is like being a femme dude and a butch lady at the same time but also NOT EITHER OF THOSE THINGS (because gender is weird like that). Well, except the bigots when they see me when I’m in my ideal aesthetic because I’ll get both dyke and fag yelled at me, which like sucks, but is also ironically validating because those same people who would have issue with my description of gender are….basically reinforcing that experience of gender in the shittiest way possible.

    And like, I’m super stoked to get top surgery so I can do/wear some of the femme outfits I have COMFORTABLY because 1.) binders aren’t super comfy 2.) so much femme stuff DOES NOT WORK WITH A BINDER 3.) like even if I were comfortable with having boobs, femme stuff, you are so frequently slacking on the SUPPORT FOR THE BOOBS (which makes things categorically uncomfortable and like honestly pretty painful at times) which I feel like shouldn’t be an issue??? since femme clothes are generally designed for people WITH BOOBS????? but that’s a perpetual issue for people with larger boobs and i wouldn’t think it would be but for some reason it is. 4.) also like i’m pretty sure a lot of my neck/shoulder issues will ~~mysteriously vanish~~ or at least dramatically decrease after having these jugs removed and that alone is something to celebrate

    • For maybe the last 20 years I’ve joked that when I’m done with my childbearing years I’m gonna get my boobs “taken in.” I’ve been planning this and waiting for it forever and it’s maybe 5 years away? At first i felt like it was responding to an inconvenience. I’m active and heavy-duty sports bras are annoying and expensive. I hate the skin-against-skin feeling.

      This past year things seem to be clearing up… My desire to be a boy was strong during my adolescence. I have always written it off as an adolescent thing, a desire I had as a way to cope with the ways the world expects adolescent girls to change, which are generally terrifying. But I think it was more than that. I changed my name to a more androgynous one 15 years ago, at the time saying it was for convenience, but I really liked the androgynous one much better. I generally don’t shave my pits and love having good upper body strength. I’ve always been attracted to butch/nb folks and I think my long-time identity as femme had a lot to do with both family pressures and how I related to my partners.

      I can be femme at times (more that I’m ok with dresses and long hair but I’m truly not a glitter/lace/nail polish person) but am learning to accept that I’m in a different place on/off the binary than I’ve felt comfortable owning in the past.

      All that because of the top surgery comment 🙂 I was really interested in what you had to say, especially in relation to always saying I want to have a major breast reduction as soon as it’s realistic.

  8. I’m not in a good enough brain place right now to adequately explain how much I love and needed this piece; but I believe this has now given me the confidence to live my truth as agender so thank you very much

  9. As a non-binary trans woman-ish person I thank you deeply for this round table. Closest thing for me was Lisa on Season 1 of the L Word. Which then lead to me finding the work of Eddie Izzard(this was a decade ago), which now we’d say the language he uses is dated and genderqueer, bigender, or non-binary might fit better. Then when Jiz Lee and the language they use it started clicking more. Plus, all the visible trans women I see in the media have really helped too.

  10. Love this <3

    as an AFAB non binary person, I spent much of my teens and early adulthood trying really hard to successfully "be a woman". I felt like everyone else had been given some pamphlet about how often to shave and womanly body language and how to put on makeup and I always felt like I was somehow failing at this sacred ritual of womanhood, all day, every day.

    to me, being non binary means I got to stop trying and just live life and not feel like a constant failure. it's very freeing.

  11. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS.
    Recently I was talking to an old friend and said, “idk I just think gender is the worst? Like why is gender a thing??” and though I had never before said such a thing aloud, she, who has known me for half my life, said “Yeah, you’ve always felt that way” and I have never felt so seen.

  12. thank you thank you thank you all for writing and sharing your experiences.

    I’m currently trying to figure out what being genderqueer means to me, and so far it seems to be an equal mix of femme and masc, sometimes at the same time. Reading the different experiences written here helped me see some of what I feel on other people.

  13. I cannot express how deeply grateful I am for this piece. I have been struggling with so many aspects of gender for the past several years but have only recently allowed myself to accept that it’s actually super valid for me to feel this way. This round table made me feel so seen and surrounded with community.

    Thank you.

  14. I have complicated feelings about non-binary genders because mainly I feel like actually the majority of people in the world don’t feel super male or super female. Like being a balanced human being is about not feeling like you are 100% woman, whatever that means.

    I know some people are really invested in the performance of their assigned gender and dig being a man or woman, but I can’t shake the feeling that we’re all non-binary in so me capacity, or like this would be the ideal state for our society to reach.

    Has anyone read “Woman on the Edge of Time”? I feel like that represents a future I would like.

    I think people who identify as non-binary are awesome warriors in the greater struggle to smash gender. I also want to have mastectomy and hrt while retaining my name and pronouns cus why the fuck not eh?

    Whatever, respect and love to you all.

  15. This article managed to put words to all of the things I was feeling, especially Audrey (as a fellow middle-class white afab nonbinary person).

    Thank you for publishing this. Thank you for making me feel welcome here.

    My new years resolution is to finally buy a binder.

  16. What Alaina wrote here resonated so heavily with my experience as a trans boi:

    “I just know that I had a girlhood, and it was a good girlhood for the most part, and I aligned myself with girls, and learned how to become an adult from queer women, and that one day, queer women helped me feel comfortable enough to say out loud that I didn’t feel like a woman anymore.”

    Thank you all so much for sharing this. <3

  17. Wow…hearing all these experiences has made me tear up. Some of them hit so close to home and describe my own gender in ways I’ve never been able to, or talk about feelings I didn’t know anyone else felt. I’m very new to thinking of myself as genderqueer/nb, but it’s like a weight has been taken off my chest and I’m finally able to see myself *as* myself. This was what I needed tonight. Thanks folks.

  18. I am so grateful to see this. I don’t know *what* I am. In all honesty, I’ve spent a rather large amount of time and energy, consciously avoiding the subject of my gender. Not to mention the ways it’s tangled up (for me) in my sexuality.
    I think it may be time to start opening those boxes.
    Thank you.

  19. All of this is so important and sacred and I really appreciate it! It meant a lot to read things that resonated with feelings I don’t really discuss, including:

    “There has to be a way for us to still be able to center and uplift women while also recognizing that people who aren’t women suffer under misogyny and the patriarchy.” – Alaina

    “She/her pronouns don’t make me feel much of anything, positive or negative.” – Audrey

    “I don’t feel totally comfortable identifying as trans, but the gender I was assigned at birth is pretty useless to me.” – Audrey

    “I cringe when someone calls me a lady, so why would I put myself in a ladies space? I never really felt like I fit in in those spaces to being with.” – Cee

    “One thing that I know for sure about my gender is that I’m not a woman. … The word ‘woman’ doesn’t work for me.” – Cecelia

    “About the only time I really make a deal of it is when I sign up for apps and they allow a Non-Binary gender option.” – Tiara

    Also, Tiara, I looove the idea of “gender agnostic.”

  20. Thank you so much!! This was so relatable and needed. Turns out I’m not the only one with a confusing gender. I used to think I was a woman for most of my life. It wasn’t that I felt strongly that I was one, I just kind of accepted that I was one and didn’t think of anything else. I am a hardcore proud feminist and identified strongly as a lesbian. (so it also feels strange leaving that identity behind – I think that my unclear relationship to my gender made my small, but still existing, interest in men impossible to pursue). After thinking a lot about gender and meeting non-binary friends I started to identify as agender and autigender (which is just an add-on making clear that my perception of gender is severely linked to my autism). I still feel a strong connection to agender,bc gender is just not that important or understandable to my personal identity. but lately I’ve been thinking hard if maybe I am transmasculine or even a binary trans man (with a strongly nonbinary understanding of gender). I am veeery confused, scared, but also excited by new discoveries. Is it possible to be a nonbinary man? At the same time, I experience little to no physical dysphoria (my relationship to my body is…it’s just there. I don’t inhabit it. I’ve heard this is dysphoria in a way? I don’t hate my body though, it doesn’t feel wrong. and as a disabled individual, feeling connected to my body is complicated on its own). But social dysphoria has been kicking me hard. she-pronouns make me uncomfortable, but they pronouns, though they’re slightly better, don’t do the job and I strongly prefer he pronouns (German doesn’t offer many acceptable explicitly nonbinary alternatives). I like some girly stuff though, but I always felt like my femininity is “clumsy”, failed, my masculinity is kind of a baby who’s learning to walk but my femininity keeps it at the ground, being too big and flashy for my body. does that make sense? I guess I just wonder if it’s possible to choose to identify as a man while having little physical dysphoria/only little desire to start HRT and basically no suffering? I just really want to be seen as a man, especially by men, and I like seeing myself as a boy. genderfeels are complicated….can anyone relate? 😀 I just really am thinking much about this so this roundtable was perfect!

  21. also omg…as I said I am a proud feminist and…I just feel so guilty?? I am always wondering if maybe I’m just a bad feminist and internalized lots of sexism and maybe that’s why I feel uncomfortable/can’t identify as a woman?

    • been struggling with that exact issue for years and my friend the other day finally gave me a logical tool to use: she doesn’t want to have to choose between being treated with respect, and being female.

      Like, in a job setting, answering emails with a gender neutral name, customers will listen to your advice and be respectful of your authority, compared to having a female name, where they ignore your advice / don’t respect your know-how or authority.

      It helped me to determine which experiences I have are really attributable to my specific gender identity, and which are due to patriarchical bs gender roles at large. Very useful!

  22. I really loved this round table.

    Gender has always been something fluid for me that I’ve done my best to ignore. But I’ve started going to a lot of drag shows/performances and I’m seeing all the ways our queer community expresses, deconstructs, and rearranges gender as art and in their lives. It’s freeing and heartbreaking, and I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do.

    Thank you all for sharing your experiences and ideas.

  23. “spilled-glitter-on-my-tie-of-center” is the cutest thing i’ve ever read. audrey, i relate to a lot of what you said about being at the very beginning of being out as nonbinary and being scared of having to explain things to other people that are hard enough to understand yourself.

    cecelia, i also feel comfortable with “girl” but not “woman,” though i think for me that has something to do with being on the ace spectrum and “woman” feeling, to me, inherently sexualized in a specific way i can’t really describe.

    it’s interesting to read all these comments where people are talking about being unclear if their gender feelings are just a result of, like, wanting to avoid the treatment that comes with being a woman and instead receive the treatment that comes with being a man. i spent a lot of my youth doing exactly that, but i was very aware of the fact that i wanted to be a boy because of the freedoms boys had that girls didn’t, and so it took me a long, long time to realize that those feelings could ALSO be coming from a place of actual, genuine gender confusion. so i guess what i want to say to the people who are worried that questioning their gender is just a result of of the patriarchy or whatever is that there’s no reason it can’t be both.

  24. Ugh too many thoughts my this roundtable makes my brain rocket ship at warp speed and crash into walls of SILENCIO you don’t work here and Nobody wants your life story Karen (my name is not Karen)

    It’s like I can’t respond to it in an organised un-embarrassing fashion so everything gets shut down and goes unexpressed except for the shallowest surface of The Non-Binary Thoughts which is the seemingly unhelpful, “I like none of the pronouns, none of them.”

    Or boobs are weird in context because they are treated as privates but can never be 100% hidden and how can anyone who grows boobs while still a child not panic/have an adjustment period?

    Maybe rocket ship is not an apt descriptor? More like eldritch writhing mass stream of consciousness…

    Too queer to function here.

  25. I’m feeling so much. Thank you for this!!
    Especially, from Aubrey: “What gives me the fuckin’ right, ya know? Like, I fully expect everyone else to assume I don’t have any real problems so I’m inventing a gender crisis to seem interesting.” I’ve been wrestling with this feeling for a little over a year, and I feel guilty stepping in and telling people I’m non-binary because for so long I didn’t question the idea that I was female, and I still use she/her (although they/them would be rad, if anyone were to use those). I haven’t been here that long, and I’m pretty sure I pass as cis pretty much all the time :/ , and I don’t want to take time and attention away from people who don’t have the privileges I do. But at the same time I want to tell people who I am?
    This part from Alaina is helping me with the “I don’t know anything and I shouldn’t be here” feeling: “I just know that I had a girlhood, and it was a good girlhood for the most part, and I aligned myself with girls, and learned how to become an adult from queer women…” Just, like, thank you for perfectly articulating the way it feels to look back at your past before you identified/knew you *could* identify the way you do now.
    Also, re: Cecelia’s comfortable gender-ish terms: oh man, I love “prince.” Maybe it’s because I just played Prince Gabriel in George Sand’s “Gabriel” (#theatrenerd) but like, that feels so great. (I think I also like it because it’s like a title/job and the gendered part of it is almost secondary?And doesn’t have the same specific connotations that “princess” does?) But I will never tell anyone in real life because then I’m just that asshole who can’t let go of a role.

  26. hello yes I’ve been reading this website for 3+ years and have just now made an account to say thank you thank you thank you for sharing. I see so many parts of myself (parts I’ve only just begun to acknowledge) reflected in your experiences and it makes me feel less like a space alien wearing a disguise!

  27. this is so great, I’ve been re-reading this and all the comments for the past few weeks. it’s really opened my mind to my own gender stuff that I haven’t paid much attention to before, and trying to grapple with strongly relating to some of the things here while also in recent years having become proud/unapologetic to be an unusual woman, as Alison Bechdel once described it.
    and it’s so nice to see everyone so supportive of each other! wishing you all nothing but the best.

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