Hello hello! My name is Jess and I’m here to answer all your burning questions about gender, sex, sexuality, queerness, polyamory, mental health, and more. How does this work? You comment or send in your questions to Gaysi and I’ll answer a few every Thursday. So here we go. This week, we’re talking about being non-binary and how queer identities can be prescriptive.
Q. I think I may be non-binary, but I’m not sure. I don’t feel “queer enough”. How will I know if I am really trans or non-binary?
A: For this post, I’m going to define some terms first and then dive into your question.
To begin with, gender and sexuality are two separate identities. Gender describes who *you* are and identify as. Sexuality describes who you are attracted to sexually.
People can be cisgender or transgender. Cis people identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, whereas, trans* people don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at brith. Cisgendered people are binary, as they identify with what they were assigned at birth––either male or female.
Trans* people can be binary (male or female), or non-binary (genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, pangender, etc). Trans* is an umbrella term used to describe everyone who doesn’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. To be non-binary (nb) means that one doesn’t identify with the binary genders of male and female. Think of this as a point beyond the spectrum of male and female, like the z-axis on a 3-D graph.
There is no right way to be trans*. Similarly, there are so many different ways of being non-binary, and they are all equally valid. Often times queer identities end up being more performative than free and inclusive. This means that they often feel like roles we have to play––colored hair, short hair, piercings, ambiguous body types––to feel “queer enough”, than identities that describe who we already are. Sometimes this can feel more like a role to play than something that lets you be your truest self.
Not feeling “queer enough” is a crisis that many queer and non-binary people go through simply because there isn’t enough representation of non-binary people in the media. Think about it––you have an idea of what a non-binary person looks like because of what you’ve been shown. Someone who’s neither male nor female usually presents androgynous––the new way of saying short-haired, skinny, flat-chested and dressed in masculine clothing.
But non-binary people don’t all look the same. Some present femme and wear feminine clothing, some present masc and wear more masculine clothing, and some mix it up! Sometimes the way non-binary people present matches the gender they were assigned at birth, sometimes it’s wildly different. Most times, it’s somewhere in the middle.
My whole point with that is that there is no way to feel “queer enough”. In fact, not feeling “queer enough” gives you 20 Queer Points and you are now a Level 2 Queer at least. The only way to know if you are trans and/or non-binary is to spend some time thinking about your own gender and how you feel. Think about what being a woman or a man means to you. Look at the idea of gender beyond gender roles (i.e., being a man is not just about being macho, etc). Spend some time examining the gender you were assigned at birth and see if you identify with it. And finally, trust your decisions.
It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, gender is a social construct––an idea that was established by society. Our idea of gender tends to be prescriptive, meaning that we look at gender as something that defines the standard way of doing things and living. But it doesn’t have to be prescriptive; it can doesn’t have to follow a script. It is freeing to find yourself as you explore the binary and beyond. It is also important to know that because gender is not prescriptive, there is no “right way” to be “queer enough”. And, if you feel like you identify as non-binary, then you’re a non-binary person.