A friend recently said that being trans doesn't exempt you from misogyny. That embracing masculinity also means embracing the hard work that comes with undoing the toxic elements as well. I absolutely agree and am so grateful to them for these simple, yet poignant words. They gave voice to a process my own behavior pushes me into: I identify as transmasculine and, though a staunch feminist, I, too, have to deal with toxic masculinity in myself! It's such a shocker!
When I first realized who I really am--genderqueer and transmasculine--and got into the experience of letting my masculine self out, I went through a phase of being explicitly uncommunicative, terse, uncompassionate, hard and closed off. I especially enjoyed the freedom and simplicity of no longer never having to explain myself.
My poor partner. He was patient, as he always is, but it sucked for him, as he put it. He compassionately reminded me of all the work he had done to eliminate his own toxicity in our relationship LONG before I discovered that I'm nonbinary (leaning towards the transmasculine).
Though I have taken his words to heart, I frequently bristle at having to do emotional labor to a degree I did not when I still thought of myself as a woman (however poorly performed). Perhaps, because as an empath I did so much heavy lifting for 40 years, a part of me is just sick and tired of it. Thankfully, in my relationship with my partner, we share the labor. And when I feel like it should be OK for me to be a dick or, absurdly, that it isn't fair that I don't get to be the dick for a change after decades of being on the receiving end of toxic masculinity, I remember how much I appreciate that he did the hard work of replacing his own toxic behavior, what little there was of it, to be honest.
It's confusing and challenging to navigate transmasculinity but not imitate the average behavior of cis men. As my transmasculinity comes more into the foreground, I sometimes unconsciously behave in toxic ways by being less compassionate, tender, kind, and comforting than I used to be. And yet, a spiritual love for all that is living is more defining of me than my gender journey. These days, as expressed in our culture, and my deeply seated spiritual imperative to be an agent of healing struggle with each other for primacy. The latter takes the win 99% of the time, but these wins are not without cost. A cost that has to do with understanding who I am. A cost that I have yet to fathom.
From considering becoming a transman to declaring myself genderqueer to becoming an activist for gender diversity, it's a journey. Lately, I've wanted a name to express my gender journey. The kingly Henry has caught my attention. I posted it on Facebook. The responses inspired me to write a poem.
Today, I posted a new
"Hello Henry," was
the first response. So good
to be known, dear friend.
“Whatever brings you joy
my friend,” was the second.
You missed the point, my friend.
This isn’t a pleasure trip
this isn't a haircut.
This is my identity
but saying out
loud who I am
"What’s in a name?"
I ask, what's in your name?
With mine, I'm sending up
a flare. I'm building a fire in the shape
of a prayer
Even though we’re slow,
we’re all learning. Someday,
it’ll feel like we always
knew and understood that gender
isn't definable as a pair of opposites.
Someday we won’t think twice
before we ask, "What's your pronoun?"
Someday auto-spell check will know
I dictated, “Ask my pronoun,”
not, “Ask my problem.”
Dear Cis People,
As a cis person, you may have heard the term, but you may not be sure what it means. So, let’s start there. Cis is short for cisgender. It relates, per one dictionary, to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to the common* interpretation of their biological sex. So, if you have a vagina and think of yourself as a woman, you’re cis. If you have a penis and think of yourself as a man, you’re cis. If you have a vagina and don’t feel very strongly about identifying as a woman, you may be on the nonbinary palette.
I use the term palette instead of spectrum—the word frequently used to describe gender diversity—because it further illuminates the non-binary ("binary" means "involving two things," for example-female and male, or binary systems-a system with two suns.). Because, you see, there’s not a neat little slider you can move left or right until you settle on exactly where your gender is positioned right in between two other perfectly definable gradations. Palette of colors can be a useful concept because a palette contains the ingredients that can create infinite variety: A little bit of blue with red and black mixes to a beautiful shade of plum for one person, a dab of vermilion with yellow and white become luminous apricot for someone else. Whether apricot or plum, or another color, what all gender-nonconforming people have in common is that they don’t identify as standardized, unchanging, and uniform colors like, say--and we do say--pink for the female gender and blue for the male gender.
Even if you would, upon consideration, not think of yourself as solidly pink or blue, chances are you haven’t given much thought to whether your gender is female or something else. Why would you? Vagina equals woman; penis, man. It’s self-evident. Well, it only needs no further proof if everyone shares the lived experience of that truth. Not everyone does. Some human beings don’t feel like women or like men. To them, the gender roles, as set forth by society, are restrictive and painful. To us—as I am part of that wide-ranging palette—these roles feel, at best, like a bad fit, at worst like a destructive lie the telling of which would hollow us out, estrange us from ourselves until we feel like aliens who cannot get comfortable portraying gender roles that have been, strangely, tied to our genitalia.
To get back to the idea that you may not think very much about your gender identity. Imagine for a moment that you would introduce yourself by saying, Hi, my name is Becky and I’m not exactly a woman. How would that feel? Utterly false, right? (If not, then grab a palette and start mixing your own special hue.) That’s how it feels for a nonbinary person who tries to present themselves as one of the binary genders. Singularly pink or blue—either feel utterly false in their singularity.
I hope this gives you a little insight into the gender-nonbinary and how exciting it is! Imagine that all your life you’ve thought of yourself as simply pink. But now, with the realization that gender is as diverse as a limitless palette, you might realize you’d like a dab of blue with your pink for a beautiful purple, or a dollop of blue and lots of white for a bright turquoise to make that perfect shade of you. What freedom! What color! On the other hand, if you’re perfect as pink, I say, 'Beautiful'
For now, that’s as much as I want to say about the nonbinary which is a term in itself, as well as a descriptor for gender diversity (more than two genders). Here's why: I really want to get what you can do! How you can navigate a world in which gender is no longer presented as purely binary in a way that makes a positive difference. So here are some seven points to guide you when you find yourself around nonbinary folks and in nonbinary spaces...
* Our common definitions of gender are also in question and slowly morphing into something more nuanced and varied.