allyship

I came out as non-binary at work! Part 3: In-person interactions

Did you miss the start of this story?
Part 1: How did I do it?
Part 2: Email reactions

In all honesty, this is the point at which I must admit that at some point in the last couple of years I may have slipped into a bizarro alternate wonderland universe of warm fuzzies, because I have no other explanation for just how easy this whole coming out thing has been for me.

Though this is partially because I front-loaded a bunch of affirmations and assurances into my coming out message itself, the thing that I am most amazed by is that since coming out I have not been asked to do a single iota of emotional labour around it.

I mean, when I decided I really did feel comfortable coming out at my work, it was because I figured that the level of potential push-back/invasive questions/insecurities about messing up that I’d have to deal with would be totally manageable. But I never imagined there would be none at all!

So, what did happen then?

The moment I walked into work on the Monday, now three days after coming out, the first person who saw me said: “Kasey! Thanks so much for the cookies! They were so great! I was going to bring in rainbow bagels [apparently this is a thing? But also, relevant context is that the cookies I brought in were rainbow-y] today, but I didn’t have time.”

Which, to me, this is just the sweetest way of making it clear that I belong and am loved? Just adorable, basically. I don’t even care that I didn’t get to experience rainbow bagels.

On top of this, when I eventually got around to checking my work mailbox, I also found a little hand-written note from the same (non-email-having) co-worker, which for the most part echoed many of the sentiments I had gotten in emails – she said she was glad that I felt comfortable enoguh to be open with them, let me know that she had previous knowledge/awareness of non-binary people via her daughter (who also works in our library system), and let me know she would do her best to watch her language, basically. It was a very nice thing to find!

Other than that, most people have just been business-as-usual with me (which is exactly what I would have asked for, to be honest.) One colleague who had offered a hug (that I accepted) in her email response literally jumped up the moment she saw me to deliver on it. Another person who hadn’t sent an email response thanked me in person for the email, basically said that she appreciated the reminder to continue working on the ways in which she uses gendered language, asked me if it had been hard for me to do, and said she’d appreciate recommendations to read more about non-binary people.

Because I have a pretty good sense of her literary tastes, I recommended she read Ivan Coyote’s most recent two books (Gender Failure (written with Rae Spoon) and Tomboy Survival Guide). She actually recognized the name, and we determined she’d seen Coyote perform in a storytelling festival at some point.

But I really want to get back to the italicized bit above! So, not only has no one asked anything of me (beyond accepting my explicit offer to provide resources), this one co-worker made herself available for me to emotionally process with her if necessary (which wasn’t needed, because holy wow this whole process has been so easy I can’t even, but was very much appreciated!) Another example of real allyship.

So, that’s my coming-out-at-work story! Somehow ‘changing’ my gender at work was less work than changing my name (both times I have done this in a workplace it was exhausting). I mean, different work contexts is a big part of that, but also who would have ever guessed it could work that way?

And this will be the end of the story for now! I may revisit to let you all know how pronouns go moving forward – most people do seem pretty interested in putting the effort to use ‘they’, even though I gave them an out. We’ll see how it goes!

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: N is for “Not seeing gender”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

N is for “Not seeing gender”

Although it’s rarely phrased in quite this way, the idea of “not seeing gender” is one that crops up among well-meaning cis folks sometimes. Why can’t we all just get along, and stop worrying about what gender everyone is, anyway? Aren’t we all really just humans, and can’t we all just treat each the same?

And like, ok, yeah, it would be nice if we could eradicate gender discrimination, obviously! But let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist; let’s not pretend that people’s genders and gender expression don’t impact pretty much every aspect of their lives in ways big and small, implicit and explicit.

Refusing to see a person’s gender (if such a thing were even possible) means that you are refusing to see *them*, period. It means you are refusing to take on a very relevant piece of information about them that has informed their experience in this world from day one.

In short, it’s not a good thing.

So, yes, the goal of treating people with the same level of respect regardless of their gender is a great one, and one that we should all be working on all the time. We should never let a person’s gender be the *only* relevant fact about them, and we must not let gender obscure the incredible diversity and special characteristics of individuals. But that doesn’t mean we begin by erasing their gender. It means we need to recognize that their gender is just one of many things that makes this particular human the whole person that they are.


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

I came out as non-binary at work! Part 2: Email reactions

Did you miss part 1 of this story (how I did it)? Get it here.

So, I sent off an email and ensured that a card would be available for those without email on March 31st, a day I wasn’t actually working. I was also off work for April 1st and 2nd. But, I can access my work inbox from home, and you can bet your biffy I was checking it from the moment I woke up on the 31st (I actually sent the email around 10:30, before I went to bed the night before.)

When I woke up, I already had an email from my manager, sent about an hour after my email!). She handled it with what I can only describe as professional-loveliness. She thanked me, acknowledged that she’d definitely been one of the folks ‘lady’ing me in the past, apologized, admitted she didn’t know a whole lot about non-binary people (though it wasn’t entirely a new concept for her) and took me up on my offer to provide resources. That was that!

Over the course of the day I got a handful of emails from various co-workers, all very positive, and generally very short. The strongest theme was that the cookies I had left for them all (birthday cake flavour Oreos) were completely unbelievably delicious(!), and beyond that people mostly thanked me for feeling comfortable enough to be open with them.

My co-worker with a non-binary sibling-in-law (I wrote about her here) though? Came right out of the gate with some A+ allyship. She replied-all in the thread to say that “as somebody with a non-binary family member” she wanted to let everyone know that while changing pronouns might seem hard or awkward, it really only does take practice, and “mistakes get made, but surprise – nobody bites your head off when it happens!” She also made a point of mentioning that the process had made her more aware of just how often we really all use the singular they on a daily basis.

Basically she just went ahead and warded off some potential pushbacks on my behalf, and implicitly identified herself as someone that folks could consult/process with on the whole thing if necessary (thus potentialyl reducing te amount of emotional labour I might have to do around the whole thing.

There were a few more emails that came in over the weekend, just variations on the same theme. In general, though, it all added up to me feeling calm and collected when I finally went into work on Monday.  You can read all about that here!

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: J is for “just so curious”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

J is for “just so curious”

If  you are a trans person, and if anyone in your life knows that you are trans, this one is pretty much impossible to avoid. Cis people find trans people endlessly fascinating. So much so that they keep on writing stories about what they imagine trans people are like, and then giving each other awards for them.

And look, ok, I admit it; curiosity is a pretty normal human thing – we all most likely wonder what it would be like to different from how we are, in so many ways. And when ways of being that we haven’t thought about before are brought to our attention, we wonder about those too.

So, I don’t think cis people’s curiosity about trans people is wrong, for the record. I mostly think it’s just something y’all prioritize really badly.

You curiosity it valid. But it does not now, nor will it ever, trump trans people’s right to privacy. It isn’t rude for us to get annoyed when you ask us intrusive questions; it isn’t rude for us to decide not to satisfy your curiosity. We don’t owe you information.

You don’t have the right to have your curiosities satisfied, about our genitals (what they looked like in the past, look like now, or may look like in the future), about the sex we may or may not be having, or anything else.

The thing that actually bothers me about cis curiosity, though, is this: it so very often comes with the implication that our personhood in other people’s eyes, that the validity of our very genders, depends on how well or how comprehensibly we can answer those questions.

Cis people, know this: the satisfaction of your ‘curiosities’ about trans people cannot and will not ever be an acceptable prerequisite for your support and acknowledgement of trans personhood, and of trans identities. If and when you stop seeing trans people as strange experiments, when you forge real relationships with us on the basis of our personhood, when you have built trust with us, when you have demonstrated that your questions are not simple prurient, but actually coming from a desire to better understand trans struggles, only then should you even begin to consider that you might be worth the time and energy of answering your questions.

And even then, you are never entitled to any individual person’s time or labour. Ok? ok.

 


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: D is for “Devil’s advocate”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

D is for “devil’s advocate”

This one isn’t actually specific to cis people – it’s the sort of thing that people in a position of relative privilege love to pull out in the face of any marginalized person or people fighting to make their lives better.

Privileged folks love to play ‘devil’s advocate’, and it’s sort of a softer, more plausibly deniable version of someone starting a conversational point with ‘I’m not transphobic, but…’. You know that nothing good is going to follow, and you know that there is a (approximately) 100% chance that whatever it is will be blatantly anti-trans, cissexist ignorance.

With devil’s advocacy, the only difference is the person who is about to spew cissexism at you is carefully distancing themselves from that cissexism. The implication of devil’s advocacy is supposed to be ‘hey, *I’m* one of the good ones, but you know, there’s probably someone in the back who doesn’t get this, so I’m going to ask this question on their behalf’, or something, I guess.

But it’s really just so much bullshit. The devil doesn’t need an advocate, and there are plenty of cissexist folks out there who are already vocally advocating for them, thank-you-very-much.

So, like, don’t.


Check out the rest of “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

If you’re into me, then you’re not straight: Orientations and attractions to non-binary people

Non-binary people are a weird position in the dating world (ok, I mean, we’re in a pretty weird position all the time to be honest. But anyway, today I’m talking about the dating world). This is true in a bunch of ways, and I’ve written about some of them before, but today I’m looking at the ways in which people talk about sexual and romantic orientation is often non-binary exclusionary.

So, for instance, as an enby person who is pretty regularly perceived as a woman, straight-identified dudes are sometimes attracted to me. They usually don’t magically stop being attracted to me when they find out I’m non-binary, either (much as I might love for it to work that way).

To me, it seems pretty clear that these people are not actually straight then, since they are attracted to people of more than one gender, and not just the other binary gender. Attraction to more than one gender falls pretty clearly under the umbrella of bisexuality (which includes plenty of identities that aren’t strictly bisexual).

the_bisexual_umbrella_by_drynwhyl-d4gq9ji

Simultaneously, though, these folks are also technically still heterosexual, because they’re only attracted to genders different from their own. Such is the difference between straightness and heterosexuality, I guess. All we learn from this is that you can be bi without being same-gender attracted, which means bi and hetero aren’t (again, technically) mutually exclusive identities. Cool?

I’m actually not terribly fussed about the idea of straight, gay and/or lesbian people occasionally being attracted to enbies, without questioning their identities around that. Plenty of monosexuals people have one or two exceptions in their lives, I guess? And if you’re not really acting on them, then whatever.

I’ve dated people, though, who have continued to identify as straight even while dating me. And I have… complicated feelings about this. On the one hand, by and large I am actually talking about people who were/are in hetero ‘primary’ relationships who absolutely benefit from straight(-passing) privilege. And I both empathize with and actually appreciate it when folks in this sort of situation feel iffy about identifying as anything other than straight, because they don’t want to appropriate LGBTQ struggles. This is a pretty good instinct, to be honest.

But you don’t actually have to have faced struggles, or even be out, to be LGBTQ. And the thing is, people who date non-binary people and still identify as straight (or gay, or lesbian), even if they are doing so based on a well-meaning, privilege-acknowledging instinct? They’re contributing to non-binary erasure. If you are into me, and still identify as straight, you’re basically saying that my gender isn’t real, or at least isn’t important enough to acknowledge; you’re saying that it doesn’t ‘count’ in the context of your orientation. I am the unstated footnote, the silent asterisk to your identity.

And that’s a shitty fucking position to be in.

So, to all the straight- (or otherwise hetero-*)identifying men and women who are dating, or have dated, or are open to dating non-binary people, I am issuing you a challenge.

Let go of that straight identity for a while. Accept that you are not just attracted to the gender that your identity implies, and really sit with the implications of that. Think about what it would feel like to think see yourself as fitting under the broad LGBTQ umbrella. You can dip into the shallow end of the pool and just admit that you’re heteroflexible. Or you can go whole hog and embrace the idea that you are, after all, kinda bisexual, or even outright queer. I don’t know what works for you.

I want you, particularly, to consider the idea that maybe your discomfort with identifying as anything other than straight might be because you are a victim of bi+ erasure. And I want to let you know that the messaging you’ve received about what is means to be bisexual, or to be queer, are wrong. I want you to know that you do belong under that umbrella; we have room for you here.

And I also want you to ensure you understand that your straight identity invalidates and erases the many other beautiful people of beautiful genders to whom you may be attracted. So, in this weird ourobouros kind of a way, by identifying as non-LGBTQ, you are failing as an LGBTQ ally. Or, less paradoxically, (especially since some of the straight people I’m talking to right now are trans, and already LGBTQ) by not identifying as LGBQ, you are failing pretty terribly as a non-binary ally.

I actually feel weird about asking you to do any of this; I’m not the kind of person who questions how other people identify, and I don’t really think it’s my business. Wherever you land is up to you, obviously. But I also think these are things you need to consider all of these things before you make that call.

And, I guess what I’m really saying is:

Image is of a spherical light brown cat with a devil tail, with taxt "Join usssss we're adorable"


*I’m letting non-binary-attracted gay and lesbian-identifying folks off the hook for now, because of reasons?

Comment-related CW: comments contain references to naked bodies, and draw connections between bio-sex and sexual orientations. I think the ppints made are legit enough to stand, but for sex-repulsed and bodily dysphoric readers, please tread carefully here <3

Questions from the search terms: “everyone has a marginalized identity”

This was an interesting search string that brought someone to my little corner of the internet: everyone has a marginalized identity

I don’t know if it was meant as a question or a statement, but it wormed its way into my brain nevertheless. Because the thing is, when you get right down to it, the *vast* majority of people do experience some sort of systemic marginalization in their lives (though I would argue that there are many cases in which the axes of marginalization in question are not particularly axes of the people’s active identities).

To look at it another way, let me ask: what people in this world have faced no forms of systemic marginalization? For simplicity’s sake, I’ll actually limit myself to people in the US and Canada.

That would be white, anglophone, cisgender, heterosexual, allosexual, monotheist (really, Christian specifically), thin, conventionally attractive, non-disabled, neurotypical men from at middle-class backgrounds or higher. I am sure I’m even forgetting some things here. But the point is, its far and away a small sliver of the population.

This is, of course, part of why intersectionality is an important aspect of social justice discourse. Because once you’ve missed one of the privilege boxes, every additional hit doesn’t just add on to that, it multiplies and interacts with it. So, for instance, if you’re a rich white straight dude, you can usually get away with being publicly atheist without facing too much scrutiny (depending of course on specifically where you are, but nevertheless), whereas if you’re a rich white gay dude, it’s probably safer to at least pretend to be into the kinder parts of the bible (y’know, one of the ‘good’ gays or whatever). You don’t want to question the hegemony too much, after all.

Not to mention that when you have intersecting marginalized identities, you’re more likely to find yourself not just excluded from mainstream stuff, but also from groups dedicated to individual aspects of your marginalization – LGBT people might not want atheists visible in their groups, and atheists sadly aren’t free from heterosexism).

And I actually think this is one of the places where relatively privileged people often get stuck in social justice discourse. Because most of us actually have experienced some sort of marginalization, but those who only experience this marginalization on one or two fronts, or on the ones that are less relevant to day-to-day living, often make the mistake of thinking they know what it’s like to be marginalized. Because they kind of do. And I think most of us (myself included) are sometimes guilty of forgetting that the impacts of different marginalized identities aren’t directly comparable, that the effects of marginal identities aren’t simply additive, and that the intersections between privileged and marginalized identities within any given individual have complex and hard-to-parse consequences.

None of us can seperate out the parts of our lives that result from our privilege and the parts that result from our marginalization, because everything flows out of all of these things.

I want to be able to say that remembering we have all suffered should help us all be a little more compassionate, but unfortunately in practice it is those who have suffered the most, or those who are currently trying to end their own most immediate suffering, who are put upon to be kind and quiet and gracious and compassionate toward those who are contributing to their suffering. We are always playing a game of “no, you be civil first!” and this is a game that the most marginalized people will always lose, because the most marginalized people will inevitably have fewer emotional resources available to do the work we are constantly demanding of them.

So yes, I guess almost everyone does have some sort of marginalized identity. But we all need to learn to see past our own marginalization and recognize the experiences of those different from us, their suffering, and the ways in which we may have been complicit in, or complacent about, their marginalization. And none of us is absolved of doing so.