Looking Non-Binary vs. Being Non-Binary

I’ve talked about being called a “real” non-binary person by binary people before, and having embodied the general non-binary stereotype (white, androgynous style, short hair), I’m used to people thinking that my general aesthetic is representative of my gender identity.

The other night, I wore a dress. Someone asked me if I was having a “femme” day. Nope! Just having a “I wanna wear this dress” day. But it got me to thinking about a lot of younger non-binary people I’ve encountered, in real life, and on the internet, who do see their clothing as the most important part of their gender identity. I don’t mean that in a vain way, of course, but when the majority of any of the conversations I’ve had with them are about wearing men’s pants and seeking to be so androgynous thatstrangers can’t tell what they are, a pattern starts to emerge.

Why are we focused so much on how others perceive us, and is it damaging to our own internal journey? Are we spending more time seeking to look the part than exploring what we really like and want?

I’ve been out for a number of years now, so clothing and androgynous style isn’t new and exciting anymore. Apparently, people are going to be confused about me, whether I wear a dress or go for the classic flannel shirt look. And more importantly, appearing androgynous doesn’t make the people that matter respect my identity more. As a general rule, if it takes looking so ambiguous that your birth sex is unclear for someone to respect your gender, their respect isn’t worth having in the first place.

I’ve been blessed with a circle of close friends who don’t always understand what I’m going through, but respect who I am regardless of what I’m wearing (this hasn’t always been the case, and I’m so very grateful it’s changed!). I’m also dating someone who understands the journey I’m on (because self discovery is a never ending journey! Yay!). I think these things are waaay more important than looking the part, but even more importantly, I’d like to see the non-binary community focusing on this part of their identity more than their clothes.

This isn’t just a critique of androgynous fashion, of course. If androgyny is your game, more power to you. But if androgynous fashion is going to be made synonymous with non-binary identity, we have a problem. First, not every non-binary person considers themselves an androgynous mix. Second, not every non-binary person can look androgynous. There’s more nuances to this whole “looking the part” mentality, and more issues the more you get into it, but I believe these two points are the most important. Androgynous fashion is pretty damn cool, but it’s not representative of the whole NB community, and frankly, it’s not very accessible for curvy AFAB NB people, and generally not intended to suit AMAB NB people. It alienates NB people who are drawn to more “feminine” clothes, and that’s unfortunate.

I’d like to see a community where walking into a trans meeting as an AFAB person in a dress won’t have people assuming you’re a trans person’s SO. I’d like to see a community where AMAB people have more freedom in their clothing choices. And most importantly, I’d like to see a community where my androgynous fashion choices are not seen as “more real” than someone wearing a dress. No more costumes, just people.

 

 

5 Things When You “Used to be Lesbians” and Now He’s a Dude

When you’re involved in the trans community, as a transgender person or an ally, it’s bound to happen eventually; you date someone who changes genders after your relationship is over. I had a weird track record of doing this before I came out myself (the running joke was that if you dated me, you’d turn out transgender.)

Now, I know some people take it personally when a former partner transitions (one of my friends described his ex-fiance crying when he found out, even though they’d been broken up for years!) but I like to focus on some of the weirder things that come with the territory. I’ve always had a very panromantic orientation, and a relaxed attitude when it comes to gender to begin with, so when someone lets me know they’re going by another name and pronouns, it doesn’t exactly rock my world. I’m super thrilled, obviously, for this person to discover their true selves and all, it’s just happened so many times, I look at it a lot like any other life change. You know, like when your friends announce they’re getting married after dating for about five years.

Especially with former partners, I tend to notice a certain vibe about them before they do (because I purely date logic-driven Spock type people. Yeah.)

However, regardless of emotional impact, here’s a few of the interesting things I’ve noticed about dating people who have since shifted gender; in this case, I’m gonna be talking mostly about trans men and nb people, but I hope it’s all pretty familiar to other people in my boat.

1. When my exes transitioned, I got a ton of their clothes as a hand me down. This made me able to say a sentence like “I’m wearing my ex-boyfriend’s bra right now.” which cracks me up. I’ve also noticed that seeing clothes they previously treasured (an old shirt or dress?) finding a good home on someone else seems to be a good feeling for some of these guys. Maybe kind of like realizing you enjoy boobs, just on other people, not yourself?

2. One of the first discussions I’ve always had with my exes is how they want me to discuss them. Are they going stealth? Do they care if people know they’re trans, or that they identified as a lesbian at one point? Is it okay to refer to them as a girl in a story where they identified as one? The questions go on and on, and there’s no one size fits all answer. For one ex, the phrase “back when we were lesbians” was a perfect way to encapsulate our old relationship. For another ex, he wanted me to strictly refer to him as my ex boyfriend, and a man in all stories.

3. I’m lucky, and I’ve remained friends with a lot of my exes. It helps that we’ve all transitioned to some degree or another, but I think understanding and patience goes a long way. Dating someone pre-transition also feels starkly different from dating someone who is…well, being true to themselves. It’s hard to connect on a deeper level or continue a long term relationship when there’s that much going on inside someone (so I feel like that makes a break up less impactful!) I watched one ex who started out as my surly, angry girlfriend, become a much more relaxed, outgoing man once he finally realized why he felt so uncomfortable at all times. So I guess one other interesting thing about dating someone who’s transitioned is that it makes a break up and an ensuing friendship a bit…easier?

4. I’m mostly into ladies (or so I thought. I might want to re-examine that one.) but when it comes to listing my dating history, I appear to be really into dudes. Like almost exclusively. It cracks me up, because I’m not specifically seeking other trans people to date either, yet here I am, with a whole lot of transgender exes. One person accused me of chasing trans men, before I explained that all that happened pre-transition.

5. Telling stories is a bit awkward sometimes, especially if it was a lesbian centered romance. You know, you were both super proud of being lesbians and figuring out your sexuality. You were still in that “I’m NOT gonna CHANGE, Mom!!!” phase, and being a lesbian was super empowering. I don’t regret identifying as a lesbian, but obviously the label doesn’t fit me or my ex any longer. So describing that we started dating because we realized we were both ace lesbians…makes very little sense to an outsider.

Overall, I’d guess someone you loved transitioning can bring a lot of questions. Like, is this why the relationship didn’t work? Is your sexuality different than you realized? And most importantly, how do they want you to talk about them now? Outing an ex, even if they were a total anus while you dated, is pretty not cool. So, that’s my experience; anyone else experienced something similar?