It was International Non-binary day. I was sitting on my couch, scrolling through Twitter (as I do far too much), seeing everyone I know who’s non-binary posting stunning selfies with stories and information about being non-binary. I sat there, a small twinge of curiosity entered my mind, and I asked myself, “could I possibly be non-binary?”
So I Googled what it means to be non-binary.
I read, I researched, I found out that it’s ultimately not feeling like you identify with the gender you’re assigned based on your sex, even if you don’t necessarily feel like you’re trans (though you can also be non-binary and trans). I set my phone down, looked into my mind’s eye for a minute, and watched racing thoughts pass by that I could be non-binary. Rather, that I am, indeed, non-binary.
Let’s be real, the fact that my Google search query was “how do I know that I’m non-binary” was probably a big hint.
Finding this out about myself put so many moments, so many perceptions of my own identity into perspective. It was like the realization threw me back in time, showing every moment where I didn’t feel like I identified with men, every moment I felt more comfortable identifying with women, and every moment I referred to myself as a “gay man,” thinking that it didn’t feel right. I still very much identify as gay, but being referred to as a “man” just never sat comfortably with me.
The first moment that came to mind was during my high school years, when my dad asked me if I wanted to start going to the gym with him. I was pretty overweight at the time, so he and my stepmom were often looking for ways to encourage me to be more active. I told him no, a mix of not wanting to be active, and not necessarily wanting to be in a gym setting. I can’t quite remember the wording, but I remember him asking me something along the lines of wanting to be, and/or look strong. The question felt very macho, like he was asking me if I wanted to look “manly.” I don’t remember if I said anything, but I remember feeling the word “no” coursing through my body. I wasn’t about to do something that would make people perceive me as “manly”. I remember wanting to feel as distant from masculinity as possible.
It put my desired role in relationships a bit more into perspective. As someone who’d been perceived as a gay man more often than not, I heard a lot of people talk about how there isn’t a “man” and a “woman” of the relationship, since they’re both men. It felt like I had to internalize this message that we had to both be “men” in the relationship because that’s how the community perceives us. But any time I pictured myself with a man, I always picture myself as the more feminine one. The daintier one. The one who might be perceived as “the woman” in the relationship. However, I never really linked that to being part of my gender identity.
There was always a twinge of discomfort (maybe dysphoria) any time I saw the message “gay men are both ‘the man’ of the relationship” because I didn’t want to necessarily feel like a “man” in the relationship. If anything, I would have much rather taken on the more feminine roles. Any time I daydreamed about the perfect relationship, I was the dainty princess being saved by the strapping (usually quite beefy) suitor. I even remember one specific daydream where the man I daydreamed about (probably some hot anime boy I was crushing on at the time) actively entertained the idea of me identifying on the more feminine side of the spectrum.
It put who I related to more into perspective. There’s this thing that gay men who play video games often say about choosing female characters because we could identify with them more, compared to the men in the games who tend to objectify them, or do whatever they can to get the girl. So because of this, whenever I chose a girl to play as in a video game, I never really thought it could be because I identified with her more on the basis of gender. However, the more I grew into myself as a person in the queer community, the more I felt comfortable identifying with women in video games, and on a grander scale, identifying more with women than with men in reality. I had always felt more comfortable around women, and I had never really had an explanation for that, but with this new discovery, I realize it may have been deeper than just a feeling.
Even though I know I am masculine presenting, and know it’s how I’ve been perceived for most of my life, so many moments like these come into perspective when I think about my own gender. It was never something I thought even deeper about because on some level, I always knew that gender is a construct, so I knew that a man could identify with aspects outside of masculinity while still being a man. I always thought that’s all it could be. But once International Non-Binary Day rolled around, it made me take a deeper look into my own gender, and made me realize that my reluctance to masculinity was far from being a preference. It was about me not necessarily identifying as a man.
Much like when I realized I was gay, this realization has also come with a lot of insecurities, and things to consider. How will people feel about me, now that I realized this is my gender identity? Will the boys who found me attractive still find me attractive now that this is an aspect of my identity? Will people still want to be friends with me if this isn’t something they want to just accept? How much is this something I can actually express in a way that’s comfortable without feeling like people’s confused stares discourage me from being proud of it?
But then I stop and think about what’s actually important about this journey: it’s about me, not what anyone else thinks of me. Maybe someone thinks I’m just making up my non-binary gender identity; that’s their problem, not mine. Maybe a boy that may have been interested in me decides he’s not anymore because this is my identity; that’s his problem, not mine. Maybe people have a problem with me finding interests that don’t align with what they perceive my gender to be; that’s on them, not me.
This is a journey entirely for me to go on, to explore, and to discover new things I may not have been able to dive into before I realized where I landed on the gender spectrum. It’s a journey for me to learn how to express myself, how to navigate being free from barriers of gender, and discover who I really am. It’s for me, and only me.
So, hi. I’m non-binary. My pronouns are he/him or they/them, but I generally feel better being referred to as they/them because it makes me feel like I’m not immediately perceived as masculine. I may also refer to myself as she/her when I’m truly feeling myself. Identifying as a man doesn’t feel right, but I also don’t quite feel like a woman. I’m somewhere in the middle, and that’s more than okay, with me. If you don’t like this discovery, or can’t accept it, that’s not my problem. I feel at home here, and have no problems showing you the door.