Beyond Gender: Celebrating International Non-Binary People's Day
I’ve toyed with this article for a couple of years now, inserting and coming to terms with my thoughts little by little to better understand my most authentic self and communicate that in one of the best ways I know-- through writing.
I grew up in a household that understood gender roles intimately, being the only male-presenting child between exclusively femme presenting children tends to do that as the world made sure we understood our place early on in our childhoods. It also made it clear that even regardless of age, we had to choose sides and creat barriers between us do to the hatred engraved within the boxes we were told we fit.
I never understood it. Throughout my childhood, I wanted nothing more than to remove my masculine presenting identity, especially since it was the source of so much of the violence I experienced as a child. I hated myself for being male presenting and wanted to be anything but… and was always told that was impossible. The realm of possibility growing up centered two genders and there was nothing in between. Or beyond.
For years I lost touch with everything related to gender and I resigned into my body dysmorphic disorder and dysphoria by never believing that this body was even mine.
Looking back, I would’ve reflected on gender earlier but I had to survive first. At 18 I was living on the streets. At 19 I had moved 7,000 miles with a constant risk of deportation and a return to homelessness. At 20, with my PTS,D survival seemed an impossibility. At 21 I learned to live with being foreign and Muslim, with the police pointing guns at me. At 22 I learned that death threats were the norm for someone like me. At 23 I learned that even though things might be more challenging you can always create your own possibilities in the most painful of ways. At 24 I finally started creating those possibilities.
The last couple of years since then have been deep dives into the well of everything that I am, understanding who I am as a person with disabilities and mental health challenges, a person whose family is displaced by two wars, a person who has endured countless years of violence and three years of homelessness, a person who takes bits and pieces of different occupations and industries and creates new pathways, a person who is a person of color, a person who is a refugee of the world, a person who… a person who had never identified as a cis male, and has always, knowingly and unknowingly lived beyond gender.
I often hear, ‘ladies and gentlemen, and everyone in between,’ and I don’t view myself as in between. I do not desire to be or am male or female. I just am.
For a time, I didn’t identify as anything at all until I found identifications for the unidentifiable in queerness and non-binary gender. Today, I don’t identify in between, I identify beyond gender in the ways that work best for me. Most people hear this, and they wonder if I want to be more femme presenting or, as some have asked, if I want to be female. The reality of being non-binary is beyond that, it’s not about presentation, it’s about everything that we are.
To me, being non-binary has very little to do with gender as we know it. Gender, as we currently know it in mainstream society as Male and Female is a social construct, and like all social constructs, it is defined and balanced within itself. What is male cannot be female and vice versa. Within that binary, there’s very little room for anything else or anyone else.
Personally, my gender is not defined within that small gap of possibility, it’s not about redefining traditional masc and femme roles as something else, because to me, all that is still within a binary. Being non-binary means that my actions, my purposes in life, are not defined on a backdrop of societal constructs. Being non-binary is telling the world to stop defining me or limiting my possibilities. I am everything I want to be, regardless of the constructs and barriers presented.
With all that said, I will always acknowledge that when I am masculine presenting, I am granted male privilege. I may live beyond gender, but we live in a capitalist society with the most significant form of currency being privilege.
International Non-Binary People’s Day! May we one day replace this day with a reality where no non-binary and trans people are murdered, and we are all living our most authentic lives.