I’m 30 years old. You’d think I’d be done coming out by now, right?
Hahahahahaha. Er. Yeah. No.
So, I wrote a thing on Twitter last night:
*big breath* Hi, everyone, it’s kind of late here, I’m fueled by ridiculous amounts of caffeine and anxiety (as usual), but I want you all to know that I’d prefer they/them pronouns and identify as genderqueer.
— Alex Harrow (@AlexHarrowSFF) February 19, 2018
If that Tweet sounded nervous, that’s because I was. Still am, really, though the sheer outpour of support this post generated is helping a ton with that. Because here’s the thing about coming out: it never really stops. You kind of come out to every person you meet, often along with a more or less substantial list of questions and definitions. It’s a very vulnerable, and in my case often really anxious, situation. I personally stress as much about how the other person will see me, especially if it’s someone I love and respect as I do about somehow hurting their feelings, somehow diminishing their experience as I’m talking about my experience and identity. So yeah, it’s stressful, and complicated, and ultimately a huge rush of relief to put things in words.
That’s why I decided to write this post to go a little more in depth as to what being genderqueer means to me (here’s a handy definition, if you need one) and why this label, along with they/them pronouns, just feel “right” because I figure everyone has questions, hell, I have questions that I’m still trying to sort out.
So, first off, let’s talk about labels. Frankly, I have a complicated relationship with labels personally, finding them at once liberating and an opener to conversation, to community, but I also understand that they can be exclusionary. Prior to last night’s post, one of the main source of stress and anxiety for me was feeling that I’m somehow not genderqueer, not nonbinary enough. It’s like I was right back at my early twenties and not feeling not gay enough (well, duh, because I wasn’t gay, I was bi, or rather, pan, and later figured out I was demisexual, so that was another aspect of my identity I explored, both with excitement and trepidation, because what does it mean? Am I intruding into spaces that aren’t mine to fill? Ahh, someone hold my hand and give me coffee.)
Anyway, here’s my personal take on labels: they’re different for everyone. To me, as to many, they mean community. They mean not being alone, which often is an experience that occurs in repression and isolation, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am to see these mechanisms getting more and more broken down as we open up and talk about things. So, yes, obviously, visibility, and saying something, not just thinking silently “that’s me, too” whenever conversations between friends, family, and colleagues veered to gender and pronouns is incredibly important to me.
To me, gender has always been a tricky issue. Like, yeah, I like dresses, lipstick, things that are stereotypically coded as “feminine”, but at the same time I like to dress, think, and identify in ways that are often coded as “masculine”. I get kind of a thrill out of being “misgendered,” out of responses like, “Oh, from your emails, I thought Alex was a man.” Yeah, that’s cool, because I’m a little bit of both and I’m a little bit neither. I don’t subscribe to binary and gendered thinking, so that’s not how I define myself. I’m part of the chorus of glee at dictionaries finally recognizing they/them as valid gender pronouns, because y’all, that’s how I see me. They/them pronouns fit me and sure, she/her is okay. Those are pronouns I’ve carried with me for the past thirty years and I don’t begrudge them that, just as I don’t harbor dysphoria towards my breasts or vagina, because newsflash, not all of us genderqueer or nonbinary folk do and that’s okay.
That nagging anxiety whether I “get” to call myself genderqueer or nonbinary (both are okay, though genderqueer, the idea of being rather than not being, just personally fits me a little more in my opinion) also held me back. I’ve since talked to a lot of my enby and genderqueer friends and have to admit to a huge relief to realize that no, it’s not just me. Which totally makes sense, because hey, gender is a spectrum, obvi, but knowing that doesn’t mean being able to fully articulate it and figure it all out. It’s a process. It’s confusing. It’s stressful. It’s okay. (Seriously, thank you to everyone who’s validated these feelings and talked me off the ledge. I owe you a drink or three.)
Anyway, this probably won’t be the last post I’m writing about being genderqueer, what it all means, and how I navigate it all, but I wanted to leave you all with some details on what’s been going on, especially since there’s been quite a bit of radio silence from me as I’ve been sorting through things. I’ll leave you all with the request to please refer to my identity as genderqueer (or nonbinary) and use they/them pronouns wen addressing me. Thank you!
Also, if you have questions or want to share your own story or resources, feel free to leave them in the comments. Always happy to hear from you.