non-binary

Question from the search terms: “if i love a nonbinary am i straight?”

Another question from my recent searhc terms:

if i love a nonbinary am i straight?

Mostly my answer to this question is: I don’t know, *are* you straight? Because you’re the only real authority on that!

But that’s not helpful at all, I know. So let me throw some more thoughts at you about this.

I am personally of the belief that people who are attracted to non-binary people in more than a passing way should consider finding a label for hteir sexuality that doesn’t imply they are attracted to only one gender. That is, I am dubious about people who identify as straight, or lesbian, or  otherwise exclusively hetero- or homo-sexual/romantic while also dating, fucking and/or being in love with non-binary people. I think that in doing so, these people are implicitly invalidating their date-mate/fuckbuddy/loved one’s gender identity by rounding it into whichever binary gender they are usually attracted to. I’ve written about this idea more fully before, in fact.

I also understand that this is a complicated thing, and that the real problem with these labels is that the ways in which we currently classify sexual orientations simply can’t reasonably account for non-binary people. Because, realistically, all non-binary people are constantly being perceived as one binary gender or the other, and literally all people who consider themselves exclusively straight or exclusively gay may very well have been attracted to any number of non-binary people without even realizing it, and of course it’s ridiculous (or at least entirely unproductive) to conclude that therefore no one is really straight.

So, person who asked this question, I don’t have a clear answer for you here, other than that you should go with your gut on this – it is possible that regardless of your feelings for this non-binary person, that ‘straight’ really is the best description for the way you experience your sexuality. But if identifying as straight while being in love with a non-binary person seems wrong to you, you can go with your gut on that, too – and there’s plenty of other identities that might feel more comfortable to you, maybe you’re heteroflexible, maybe you’re bi, or maybe you’re most comfortable with queer.

I hope this helps!

Question from the search terms: “do nb people have straight privilege”?

This question popped up in my search terms last month:

do nb people have straight privilege?

The quickest answer to this question is that for the most part, no, non-binary people don’t have straight privilege. The reason for this is that most non-binary people aren’t straight to begin with (I don’t know any non-binary people who identify as straight, but I’m sure some exist!), and you can’t have straight privilege if you aren’t straight!

Non-binary people may, however have access to what’s called straight-passing privilege, which is a much more complicated thing, and I am somewhat dubious about calling it privilege at all.

Straight-passing privilege is concept that’s relevant to any couple that, when out in public, appears to be a straight couple, even though one or both of the people in that couple may not be straight. So straight-passing privilege is highly relevant to bisexual and pansexual people (who are very often in hetero relationships), as well as to some non-binary people (and some of the people who date us!)

The reason straight-passing is sometimes referred to as a privilege is because it does allow some LGBT people to benefit from some aspects of straight privilege. Bi people in hetero relationships can get married to their partners pretty much anywhere, while bi people in relationships with people of the same gender can’t (the situation is more complicated for ‘straight-passing’ couples with at least one non-binary/trans person in them though). Straight-passing couples of all kinds can be pretty sure they’re not going to have to deal with anti-LGBT harassment, while couples or individuals that are visibly LGBT are inherently at risk whenever they are out in public. These sorts of things are the trappings of so-called straight-passing privilege.

But the thing about being straight-passing is it’s a double-edged sword – the flip side of a straight-passing person’s (potential) greater safety and access to legal recognition of their relationship is the fact that, by virtue of being straight-passing at all, that person’s actual identity (and their history of marginalization due to that identity) is erased.

To be straight-passing is to be, in some respects, invisibilized. To be straight-passing is to be invalidated in your actual identity. The fact that bisexual people’s orientation is so often over-written by our current relationship status is, in fact, blatant bisexual erasure. It’s a symptom bisexual people’s oppression, and so to call it ‘privilege’ is extremely questionable.

The same argument applies to non-binary people here – if people think I am straight because they perceive me to be a woman, and because my partner is a cis man, that’s not a privilege; that’s just me being misgendered. ‘Privilege’ that only exists as long as someone is making incorrect assumptions about who I am is not really privilege at all, as far as I’m concerned.

So, again, the TL;DR here is a resounding “No, nb people do not, (in general) have straight privilege“. We are sometimes extended some of the benefits of straight privilege by people who have misread who we are, but this ‘privilege’ is only available to us at the cost of hiding our identities.

Words, identity politics, and a case of the blahs

Over the last year and a half or so, I’ve been steadily moving away from describing myself as genderqueer and toward just using non-binary. I deliberately avoided the word ‘genderqueer’ entirely in my coming out message at work, just because ‘non-binary’ seems less intimidating somehow? I’m not even sure.

Genderqueerness definitely feels more inherently political, more inherently “fuck you and your entire gender system” than non-binary does, to me at least. Because queerness itself is kind of inherently political, about rejecting existing systems either by struggling to get by outside them, or by trying to build your own.

And, a few years ago, that was why I preferred to call myself genderqueer. Because I was still in the process of figuring myself out (I mean, to some extent I always will be, in all kinds of ways, but when I was first coming into my non-binary/genderqueer self, there was a lot of things all happening at once in a way that no longer applies. At least for now.) Because that shit was hard, and scary, and it seems pretty clear that leaning into that fear was part of how I coped with it. Because my defensive instincts often take the form of a strong offense, really.

But I haven’t really been feeling that way lately.

I kind of just want to be able to exist as my gender (or lack thereof, or whatever) and have that be ok. Or rather, I suspect that the fact that I have carved out some pretty significnat spaces in my life where I d ofeel that way is very seductive. It’s nice to feel that I can just be me and that the people around me aren’t going to interpret that as a political move. I am so lucky, and so privileged, to be in that position so much of the time now. I want other people to have that, and I know that means I need to keep fighting, and keep making this a political issue so that one day it won’t have to be for anyone, but also, maybe I am just falling into a gentler version of that fight?

I don’t really think it’s because I have de-radicalized in any particular ways, although I think the last year or so has softened my distrust of the average person, and I definitely have more emotional resources for dealing with people who actually mean well, but just don’t quite get it (whether ‘it’ is related to trans/non-binary issues, or whether it is about other social justice values, either specific or general). To some extent this just means that my approach to advocacy has shifted from ‘angry queer’ to ‘nice, friendly, forgiving queer’. Which, I think both approaches are valid and valuable, so maybe I should just stop worrying so much about which one I happen to have the resources for at any given moment?

At the same time though, I am worried that’s a cop oiut. Because I think I have definitely been tired of it all, for quite some time. Even my writing here lately has quite had the direction it used to have (though I don’t know if that’s something that’s coming through, or if it’s just how I’ve been feeling about it. I am pleased with the Shit Cis People Say alphabet either way.)

I hope that being tired is all it is, anyway. My regular seasonal-changeover depression has settled in (though mildly, thankfully), and I haven’t been taking as good care of myself as I should be, so the compounded impact of not quie enough sleep and kinda crappy eating habits definitely aren’t helping.

I am also thinking that I may be a little bored of focusing so stringently on gender issues in my writing here. I used to cast a broader net and talk about other feminist/social justice issues more often, so maybe all I need to do is let myself feel freer to write about whatever I find myself drawn to for awhile! I mean, I already started doing this with last Wednesday’s post about coloring sheets, anyway.

Hopefully those of you who read this blog regularly will find my various thoughts interesting!

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!

Best,
[ME! etc etc]

Read on to part 2: Email reactions!