The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: O is for “Only two genders”

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

O is for “only two genders”


Can it be that I’ve gotten so far into this alphabet without covering this one? Yes, but only because I planned the alphabet out in advance to avoid being forced into repeating myself for some of the more difficult letters :P.

As with last week’s post, there is some overlap here with F is for “fake genders”, but calling some genders fake isn’t necessarily the same thing as claiming there are only two genders (even though most people taking the former stance are doing so because they believe the latter).

To be honest, the claim that there are only two genders is honestly just massively egotistical. In order to make this claim, you need to seriously believe that you know more about how this gender stuff works than every non-binary person who ever has and ever will exist. It’s also a culturally chauvinistic/colonial claim, given the huge number of recognized non-binary gender categories have existed and continue exist in cultures all over the world and throughout history.

Gender is not and has never been stable or static. No gender classification scheme is ever or ever will be definitive or objective. If you think it makes any sense at all to insist that there are only two genders, you’re just plain incorrect. Seriously.


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

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!

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!

I came out as non-binary at work! Part 1: How’d I do it?

I CAME OUT AS NON-BINARY AT WORK. I really did it! It’s done. And it went more smoothly than even in my wildest dreams to be honest. I am going to write so many posts about this, but I’ll start at the beginning.

I decided somehwere in early March that I would come out at work on Transgender Day of Visibility (Marhc 31st), a little bit because it seems fitting (and gave me a framework for the coming out, kind of), but mostly because I realized that setting myself a deadline would mean I actually did the thing. And it worked!

One of the first challenges came up when I realized I wasn’t actually working on March 31st this year, though ultimately I think this just made it easier for me to rip the bandage off – I am wat better at doing these things in non-face-to-face situations anyway. So I decided on a two-prong approach.

First, I wrote an email to all the folks in my department (as in, all the other librarian-types at work) plus my managers.
Second, in order to reach all of the non-librarian types (most of whom don’t have work emails), I also bought a generic greeting card where I wrote a much briefer coming out message, and bought some cookies to go with it (this is a super common practice at my work). In the email coming out message, I let folks know where they could get the card and cookies from my desk and asked them to put them out in the lunch room, (which they did).

Anyway, I’ll tell you all about what happened next later, but for now, here is my coming out email, which proved very effective for me!

Hi all!

Today (March 31st) is the Transgender Day of Visibility, and although it actually worked out that I am not working today, I decided a while back to make use of the day and its theme to stop procrastinating on letting you all know:

I am a non-binary person! Which really just means I don’t feel like I am either man or a woman. This may sound strange or new to you, but it really isn’t a huge deal and kind of just is what it is for me, really. If you do want some resources the topic, though, I’d be happy to send you some links/reading recommendations.

I use the singular they as my pronoun, rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ (er, on those pretty rare occasions that I refer to myself in the third person anyway…), and it is what my friends and family use for me as well. As in, “Kasey is an information assistant at BCRL. They run the family storytime program and their phone extension is 4130”.

I also realize that in a public-facing profession like the one I’ve chosen, it’s completely impractical to expect that people won’t use gendered pronouns for me, and I’m not at all interested in making sure customers get it right, and because of that I’m just generally not super bothered by what pronouns are used for me here. So, do what makes sense for you, I guess, though I do appreciate it when people try to use the right pronouns (I also realize that’s not always an easy thing).

I would like to ask you all, though, to try to avoid other forms of gendered language when talking about me. Again, this isn’t actually a huge issue for me here; I think the main thing that happens is sometimes I get emails addressed “Hi ladies”, or customers are told that “this lady can help you” or whatever. This is a funny one because on the one hand, it’s hard to feel insulted about being included with such an amazing bunch of people as the ladies here are, but on the other hand it is strange and uncomfortable for me to be reminded that yes, I am generally seen that way. But yes, in general, less gendered language to refer to me would be a good thing! So in the cases mentioned, just address the email as you would if one or more of the office men were in on it, and in the other case “this person can help you” will do!

I’ve also left a little card with a shorter version of this message and some cookies in the bottom drawer at my desk; if someone could put those out on the table in the lunch room that would be great!

Thanks all, you’ve made me feel very welcome here over the last 6 months or so that I’ve been here, and I think you’re all great!

[ME! etc etc]

Read on to part 2: Email reactions!

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 19

Hi all, it’s been a while, but I’m going to see if I can’t start pounding out those regular posts once again! The Shit Cis People Say Alphabet will be returning to its regular Friday slot, and I’m going to ease myself into posting other stuff with today’s new eidtion of Gender Perspectives!

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]



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Germaine de Larch discusses their relatoinship to their previously inhabited gender/identity

…as my friend I’d want you to integrate my previous self and my ‘new’ self. They’re the same person. Read more…

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Caroline Frechette brings us a reflection of genderfluidity and motherhood, in web comic form.

I’ve always struggled with my gender. I dressed like a boy from an early age, and I enjoy it when people all me sir. Read more…

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Rachel digs into the joys and pains of being a trans woman who is only sometimes seena as a woman by others.

Life as a non-passing trans woman for me means constant vigilance within the gender machine. Professional pronoun detector should be written on my business card. Constant awareness of all things gender defines my worldview. Read more…

Self, Identity, Past, Present

There was a strange thing that happened in my head a bunch over the summer and fall last year, that I have never thought to write about until just now. I think I only mentioned it out loud to one person, even, when it was happening.

My internal monologue kept slipping into the voice of the my younger self.

And while I know that’s a very accurate way of describing the experience, I’m not 100% sure what I mean by it. I may have mentioned before that when I dissociate, my internal monologue turns into a robot. This is like that, but not robotic?

To be honest, these days I don’t know how I relate to my past self, or more realistically, my various past selves. It doesn’t feel at all correct to refer to this person I’ve been… hearing? remembering? experiencing? (or whatever) as Kasey, for instance. I don’t feel like Kasey is a person who has existed my entire life, though once again, I’m not entirely sure what I mean by that. I just know that it is accurate.

Rather, this person definitely owns my birth name, though since I have always been fond of my birth name, and it has always been a significant part of my identity, that’s not terribly surprising, I guess.

I wonder about their gender – I’ve never been particularly attached to the idea that my weird fluid sorta agender-ness is an in-born trait, but at the same time, past me definitely didn’t have a particularly strong gender identity, and to be honest, I do think that my relationship to gender hasn’t really changed that significantly over the course of my life – the only things that have changed are the vocabulary available to me and the extent to which I’ve given it any thought at all.

So yeah, I think this past me was pretty much non-binary, I guess?

The entire experience was weirdly uncomfortable – when I was a kid, I used to super hate the way my voice sounded in recordings (I think I’m over this now, though it’s not as if I hear many recordings of my voice), and I found myself having a similar visceral reaction to this new internal voice (though I think the voice sounds like what my old internal monologue sounded like, not like my child-voice from the outside, so this is definitely an imperfect way of capturing my negative feelings here).

I think to some extent, this is my brain stitching my back together for myself. I need to be re-acquainted with the person I was before… what exactly, I’m not really sure. Before transition, yes. Before changing my name, sure. Before I ever was raped? Before…. well, before I started identifying my father’s abusive behavioural patterns.

Which is to say, not before I experienced those patterns.

I haven’t talked much about my father as an abusive person in the context of my childhood. His behaviour only began to stand out to me in that way after I identified the abusiveness of my rapist ex. To be honest, I still largely consider my childhood to be fairly stable and healthy, though I no longer trust that assessment as fully as I used to.

In fact, I have been questioning this idea more over the past year, poking at strange unanswered questions like: how in the heck did dissociation become such a go-to coping mechanism for me? It’s been with me for as long as I can remember, to the point where it is simply a part of my very basic existence: I am, therefore I dissociate.

I am quite certain that my unstructured attempts to reflect on and better understand this and other aspects of my selfhood are behind the resurgence of this past-self voice in my head, but I’m not sure yet what to make of it.

Other than, I guess, I think I should start writing about these questions and the memories that are kicking up around them. This space has worked wonders for me in terms of working through my memories of my abusive ex, and I suspect it can do the same with these older ones, too.

So yeah, thus begins my new project I guess?

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: G is for “grammatically incorrect”

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

G is for “grammatically incorrect”

This one is mostly specifically about non-binary people, rather than trans people in general. Those of us whose pronoun is the singular they, (and possibly those of us who use neo-pronouns of various kinds) are all tired of hearing that our pronouns are ‘grammatically incorrect’. I’m tired of talking about it at all, myself but it’s all I could come up with for G, so here we go nevertheless:

I’m going to side-step the actual question of grammatical correctness here, to be honest. It’s been done, and done, and done again. And again. And again. You get the idea? The thing is, though, that it shouldn’t fucking well matter.

You hear me? It. Doesn’t. Matter.

It doesn’t matter whether a person’s pronouns have historical precedent. Of course non-binary people’s pronouns don’t have a true fucking historical precedent in English, because the culture in which English has grown and evolved has not historically made room for any genders beyond the binary. That’s the thing we’re trying to change ffs.

It doesn’t matter whether you find a person’s pronouns aesthetically pleasing. Probably there are people that find your name aesthetically displeasing, but hopefully they’re decent enough people to keep that shit to themselves (if they haven’t been, then I’m sorry you had that experience). In any case, surely you don’t think that your aesthetic preferences are other people’s problems to accommodate?

It doesn’t matter why you think someone else’s pronouns are ‘wrong’, at all, ever. If you refuse to even try to use them, you are the asshole, and you are the one in the wrong.

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