Trans Day of Visibility 2018

tl;dr Trans Day of Visibility was created as a celebration, but it has always been complex. We need to talk about visibility outside of celebration and question what viisbility is necessary for trans people. I’m not sure if the visibility we need this year is a celebration. 

trans pride flag
[image is the trans pride flag, stripes from top to bottom are light blue, pink, white, pink, and light blue]
[cw: mentions of transphobia and gun violence]

(this ended up more convoluted than even TSER’s theme explanation, but maybe that’s the point. TDoV has always been a convoluted day, there’s no reason to stop now)

 

I have to admit that my stomach clenched a bit when I saw that TSER’s theme for Trans Day of Visibility this year was “Surviving, Thriving”. First off, I wasn’t even aware that TDoV had a theme. Secondly, TDoV is complex enough to begin with.

 

But really, as I looked at that theme, the only thought that crossed my mind was simply, “But we’re not.”

 

In the statement about the theme (which personally, I found a little convoluted, but maybe I was tired when I read it), TSER states, “We are not only surviving the Trump regime but we are making strides to transform how people think about gender around the world.”

 

Yes. We have had some exciting “wins” this year. We have trans people in office. We have more people who know what the word means (correctly). In the dance world, Sean Dorsey is about the present at the FUCKING JOYCE (for anyone who doesn’t quite understand the US dance scene, the Joyce is a Very Big Deal).

 

But the fact is, for the majority of trans people, we are barely surviving, let alone thriving. And actually, sometimes it is visibility that is harming us. Trans Day of Visibility has always been a day stuck in that constant balance between the necessities and dangers of visibility, and the fact that the world continues to not Listen even when they do See (and nowadays, there’s a lot more Consuming too).

 

And, if we look at the environment trans people are forced to live in every day – from a president that literally hates us and then keeps appointing more people that hate us into positions of power, to the fact that our right to use the bathroom has become acceptable dinner conversation (a lot of the cis people in my life still haven’t figured out that I really do not like casually talking about going to the bathroom at the drop of a hat), we are living an everyday reality of fear. We are dehumanized and challenged every day.

 

And we are not surviving. We are dying. People are murdering us. Some are straight up burning us in our homes. Some of us are victims of poor medical treatment because doctors can’t look beyond the word “trans” to treat any other medical condition we may have. Some of us are taking our own lives because the completely hostile world we live in turns us on ourselves.

 

Even as a “well off” trans person – white, invisible, has enough money to survive, I even have a job in a trans-friendly work place, I feel this. I feel the way the world around me is unable to care about or see me. I feel the way that I have to fight in order to gain respect.

 

And then I remember that not everyone is in a position to fight the way I can, and my heart breaks. And I remember that  while I am well off enough to take care of myself, I’m not in a place to help every trans person that needs help (yet. I dream of the day that I can), and it hurts so much to see how much my community ISN’T surviving or thriving.

 

I mean, it’s hard to talk about tragedy. Especially when we’re trying to make a successful social media campaign. I recently had to create a social media campaign about queer history in Boston and I almost didn’t include the origin of Trans Day of Remembrance. Even though that is literal Queer Boston History. It’s hard to include something as sombre and sobering as the continued murder of trans women when you want to hype people up and get them excited about Boston.

 

But, I ended up including TDoR history. It’s important to show the true Boston history, not the nice one. Rita Hester and Chanelle Pickett deserve better than one single day. We can afford one incredibly emotional post in the middle of exciting fun facts about epic queer action. It’s important. It’s not something we can erase or ignore in the name of hype.

 

So, when I see a theme like “Surviving, Thriving” for something that’s already so wrought as TDoV, I can’t help but wonder, “is this really what you want to make visible about trans people?”

 

Yes, TDoV started as a celebration of beautiful trans visibility. But it has always been a day that has alienated groups of trans people. And it’s gained traction and political meaning beyond celebration and visibility. In Boston this year, there will be folks canvassing against the bathroom bill that’s showing up on Massachusetts’ 2018 ballot. TDoV is a day that we can exploit to make cis people listen. Sounds like a great idea to me!

 

Do we really want cis people that are willing to listen to think that we are surviving? Maybe even thriving?

 

Or do we want them to understand the reality, in which even trans people with support systems have to fight and expend too much emotional energy to simply exist?

 

A month ago, there was a shooting at a trans bar that was barely reported. Where was our visibility then?

 

Is getting shot when we simply want to go out and have a nice night out really surviving?

 

So, let’s end with something I recently wrote in a creative reflection:
“For trans people, our currency is visibility. We earn it through entertainment. But trans people like me don’t make for good entertainment”

 

So yeah, maybe “Surviving, Thriving” is good entertainment. Maybe it is the visibility trans people currently have. But it is not our reality and we cannot let ourselves be blinded by the quantity of visibility certian trans folks currently have. Trans people are not surviving, we are hurting, we are struggling. And people need to see that too, entertaining or not.

 

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Theory: Becoming

Tl;dr Becoming is a framework for looking at and understanding all transitions without prioritizing one over the other.

A lot of my current artistic work engages with transition narratives, particularly how transition narratives are portrayed in media. This article is a good example of the kind of material I’m working with, I’m basically working with anything that obsesses over specific types of binary trans bodies. These materials both dehumanize the subjects in them, reducing them to their bodies (even while giving them an opportunity to talk about their experiences and gain visibility, I’ve written more on that particular balance here) and erases the existence of trans people who do not follow the described pathways of transition (hi!)

 

That second consequence, while maybe not as obvious, causes a huge amount of harm (as does the first, it’s just a little clearer). In preparing to write this post, I spent a lot of time looking through reflections on transition by other nonbinary folks. There were two common themes – 1) every nonbinary transition is completely different, there is absolutely no “normal trajectory” that can be pinned down. 2) A lot of nonbinary people feel pressured into Transitioning or following the patterns of transition laid out to them by society and the media.

 

That first point could become a book. I’m not going there. But that second point is something I have also felt. Quite sharply. It’s a form of legitimation. Nonbinary people are so often treated like  “trans lite” or as if our identities were stepping stones on the way to a “real” identity. Transition is a socially acceptable means to make our genders “real”. I think West Anderson describes it perfectly in saying, “It used to stress me out, thinking about having to prove to people that I am transgender and that I am transitioning” (2017).

 

Trans people have to prove our genders and when we cannot follow a normative transition narrative, we are robbed of the chance to prove an identity that shouldn’t require proof in the first place.

 

 

Becoming

 

While I would like to look at transition narratives in media and say “cool, but no”, that’s not possible. There are trans people that follow those narratives, and this visibility does positively increase access to transition-related medical care. Just because these particular trans folks currently have greater visibility and are able to prove their gender a teensy tiny bit more easily than me does not mean that I can silence them in my own frantic race to be recognized. Instead of replacing one narrative with another one, we need a framework that allows for every single transition narrative.

 

I first wrote about becoming in a post looking at how cis people control transition narratives in the media for their own entertainment. To quote myself, “I’m slowly becoming my gender, learning what that means for me, letting it grow as I grow and change.” I have read other nonbinary people describing similar experiences: Anderson explains, “I feel like transitioning isn’t quite the right word for what I do. I reify my gender through these actions and in my actions every day. It isn’t showy, its components change daily, and it will never be finished” (2017) while blogger Micah describes top surgery as a “doorway” to the rest of a gender journey (2016) and Joshua M. Ferguson explains, “my transitioning will evolve in unexpected ways over the course of my life. I am transitioning without an end.” (2017).

 

Instead of thinking of transition as a journey from point A to point B, I believe we will have more productive conversations about transition if we see it as a process of becoming one’s gender. For some, becoming is a journey from point A to point B, for others it’s a journey that never stops, and for others it’s a journey to point C from halfway between points A and B with a stopover at points Y and Z, and for others it’s simply a journey away from all of these points…

 

The points aren’t that important, it’s the bit in between, the process, the actual pathway of transition. That is when and how we become our gender. It doesn’t matter if we meet a final destination, just that we become.

 

In Art

 

Time is a particular fascination in my creation process and I’ve been exploiting it recently in order to create and develop processes of becoming. I like to stretch time, bringing my audience on a journey with me, through a mini version of becoming. For example, in my piece, How dare you., I originally had my dancer take a full minute in silence to walk to the front of the stage. This got lost due to time constraints in the actual production, but that opening alongside the repetitive movement brought my audience into a process or experience while time was both condensed and extended.

 

Another artistic perspective on becoming goes hand in hand with some of my reflections on “non-human” movement. Becoming is a process of finding the human element, or our honesty. For me, honesty is a key component of my work. It is so easy to lie with movement and, as a trans dancer, I don’t want to do that. I want my audience to see me as honestly as possible. To really, truly find that honesty, so I can be my form of human, I need to become, I need to process and develop what that is for me. And for me, that is a neverending process.

 

 

References/Further reading

 

 

Anderson, West, “Transitioning While Nonbinary”, The Body Is Not An Apology, 2017 <https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/transitioning-while-non-binary/> [5 February 2018]

 

Bernstein, Jacob, “For Some In Transgender Community, It’S Never Too Late To Make A Change”, New York Times, 2015 <https://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/03/08/fashion/for-some-in-transgender-community-its-never-too-late-to-make-a-change.html?referer=http%3A%2F%2Fm.facebook.com%2F> [7 February 2018]

 

Ferguson, Joshua, “What It Means To Transition When You’re Non-Binary”, Teen Vogue, 2017 <https://www.teenvogue.com/story/non-binary-transitioning> [7 February 2018]

 

Micah, “Featured Voices: Where Does My Story End?”, Genderqueer.Me, 2016 <https://genderqueer.me/2016/02/29/fv-where-does-my-story-end/> [6 February 2018]

 

I may be genderless, but I am not agender

Tl;dr While the term “agender” technically does describe my gender experience, it is not a word I take for myself.

 

It’s a conversation (battle) I’ve been having more and more recently. It goes like this:

 

Me: I don’t have a gender.

Someone: Oh! You’re agender!

Me: No, I don’t have a gender…

 

By definition, agender is not having a gender. I get that. But I still find the word “agender” frustrating me. That’s not exactly what I am and I want to pick apart some of the ways it’s used so we can see that more clearly.

 

First off, I’ve seen agender grouped with asexual and aromantic. That makes sense, right? Not having a gender is a similar experience to not having sexual or romantic attraction. I actually often share the elephant analogy of asexuality  in an attempt to explain how all three of these things work for me.

 

Except, there is also a distinct difference between gender and attraction. I worry that linking these three things perpetuates the obnoxious conflation of gender and attraction. (There are still people that think trans people are always gay and the like. I’m baffled how this is possible, but it apparently is). My gender and my attraction are two distinct entities that happen to be similar. Similar. “Similar” and “the same” are different terms and different experiences.

 

It also leads to separating “agender” from the umbrella of trans with such statements as “the A in LGBTQA+ stands for asexual, aromantic, and agender!”

 

I’m really not ok with this statement because it drags “agender” out from under the T, trans, my actual gender experience, and plops it next to a bunch of attraction-based identities. Agender is a trans identity. There are definitely agender people who aren’t trans, but that’s not a reason to deny agender of its connections and experiences and history by defining it against attraction-based identities instead of other gender-related identities.

 

Secondly, there is a slightly more rigid connotation in English with the “a-” prefix than the “-less” suffix, which is what I prefer (ie. “genderless”). Because greek and latin prefixes such as the “a-” are used in scientific language, it feels more factual and precise than the Germanic (ie. English, ie. a mess) “-less”. My lack of gender isn’t a precise, factual thing, it’s a big, nebulous cloud of nothing. “Agender” just feels a bit wrong when trying to describe that.

 

Thirdly, the term “agender” did not exist when I first took on my identity. Instead, I found different words to describe my experience. I had to make my word. I made the word “genderless”. And then suddenly, the trans community made the word “agender” and decided that was the official word and started telling me that I was agender. For a while, I thought they were right.

 

But, I didn’t make it or find the word “agender”. It was more or less forced on me through peer pressure. Other people do not get to tell me the right words for my identity. Agender may describe not having a gender. But it’s not my way of describing it and that’s important.

 

It’s not my word.

 

It doesn’t matter why the word frustrates me. It’s a word that makes me uncomfortable and that I do not take for myself. Other folks are welcome to be agender, it appears to have a much more positive meaning for loads of people. But, I’m not agender simply because I don’t want to be. End of story.

 

On not coming out as trans

Tl;dr I find coming out as trans more about cis people than me. Instead, I tend to inform cis people of transness as a mode of communicating my needs and protecting myself.

 

I don’t come out as trans

 

This is something I realized a few months ago when a person newer to their transness asked me how I come out and my mind did a really great impression of television static.

 

Of course I have come out in the past, it’s something I did quite a lot in the beginning of my trans adventure when I still felt like I had to prove I was a “real” trans person and needed the same coming out and transition arc according to what society was telling me. But I haven’t actually come out in years.

 

Instead of coming out, I either simply assume another person will know when it’s time for them to know, or I inform them of what they need to know in order to treat me respectfully.

 

Coming out is for cis people. If I come out, it’s about making them feel good, it’s about letting them know the information that allows them to understand me, and it follows a trajectory they find familiar and comfortable. It also assumes that cis people know what the word trans means, something the cis people in my life are constantly disproving. Most importantly, the need to come out emphasizes the idea that cis is the default and trans is abnormal. This isn’t coming out for everyone, and coming out as aroace is very different too, but, for me, coming out as trans is about fulfilling cis expectations for trans narratives.

 

The thing is, I’ve learned that cis people are smarter than we give them credit for. Maybe it’s easier for them if a trans person fulfils the narrative they expect, but the fact is, they can keep up without it.

 

The other thing is, I don’t need cis people to understand me. What I need is for them to respect me and treat me with kindness, and they can do that even if they have no idea what I’m talking about when I say “trans”.

 

This is why informing is really useful for me. It’s basically saying, “This is who I am and this is what you need to do to respect that”. If they need explanations, they can go find them and, in the meantime, they have all the tools they need to be decent and kind.

 

(That also informs the information I do give people. Today, a google search for “cis definition” still brings up angry articles that claim it’s a slur, so I’m willing to provide a definition of “cis” to anyone that asks because I know that isn’t always accessible information. On the other hand, google searching “nonbinary” brings up definitions, artistic projects, interviews with Jill Soloway and generally solid resources. I’m not going to waste my time and energy explaining easy-to-find information.)

 

To get a better idea of what I’m trying to say, here are some examples of what I do instead of “coming out”:

 

Scenario 1: Last year, the supervisor for my end of year project knew from the beginning that I was nonbinary, not because I ever told her, but because my project proposal was literally about performing as a nonbinary person. Halfway through our work together, I informed her that some of the things she was saying and doing were transphobic, and she went on the defensive, as people tend to do when called out (including me!). She was surprised that I expected her to treat me respectfully without having first offered her a “Trans 101” overview. But, as my supervisor, her education was her responsibility. In the simplest version of this system, I was paying to get artistic support from her that she wasn’t able to give me because she hadn’t done her research. No matter how transphobic, unwilling, or surprised she was, it was not my job to come out to her. In order to make that clear, I did a google search for “nonbinary” and sent her the first three links, telling her how easily I had come by the information. We never had a problem again. I didn’t have to come out to her, I didn’t have to educate her, I just had to communicate that she had to respect me like any of her other students.

 

Scenario 2: A few months ago, I was arguing with someone about single-gendered dance teams (common in certain traditions). Technically, I was on a women’s team at the time and this person wasn’t someone I was “out” to, but, as he continued to explain in gender essentialist ways, how important it was to keep the genders separate, it became obvious that his ridiculous assumption that I was cis and had a binary gender would keep us from having an informed discussion. Coming out then would have completely derailed the conversation, focusing it on me instead of the issue, so I simply informed him, “As a nonbinary person, gendered team make me feel unwelcome.” The purpose was to remind him that he had to consider nonbinary people in his argument and, in making it personal, he was held more accountable.

 

Scenario 3: And finally (since I spent the last few months on job applications, wheee) my resume and cover letter have become and interesting method for identifying myself as trans. Of course, sometimes, all I want is a job, and my resume will reflect that,. At the same time, I don’t really want to work long-term for anyone that wouldn’t hire me because of my transness (and I worked short-term for a person that wouldn’t have hired me if they knew I was trans and it was just…not something I want to do again if I can help it). I might not always blatantly write “I am TRANS AND NONBINARY” at the top of the resume, but I make sure my internship at a queer organization is clear, that my involvement in lgbt+ volunteer projects is noted, and that I mention my experience in facilitating workshops on gender identity. All of these things highlight other skills that I bring to a job (administration, teaching, even management and scheduling), but it is also a test. How an organization responds to that information on a resume tells me a lot about them and that allows me to protect myself going into a job.

 

Personally, I wouldn’t call any of this coming out. It’s much more about protecting myself, minimizing the amount of emotional and educational energy I have to use outside of educational situations, and holding people accountable when they decide to be transphobic or uninformed.

 

To be honest, coming out was exhausting, and I’m glad I don’t do it anymore, except on my terms.

 

 

For the days I don’t “feel” trans

Tl;dr Societal narratives around transness means that sometimes I don’t feel trans, this brings up some important things to note concerning how we define transness through pain. Most importantly, I want to remember that the capacity to recognize my own transness can be enough.

 

 

Whether we like it or not, societal expectations, norms, and narratives pressure and impact trans identities.

 

Some days I don’t feel trans. Some days I even feel cis.

 

Even on those days, I am still trans.

 

It’s hard, because I try to be outspoken. I am much more safe to openly discuss my trans identity than many trans people, and I believe that it is my responsibility to talk, to challenge, and to continue to demand respect for trans people. I don’t have a huge platform as an artist or blogger, but I want to use the tiny audience I do have to talk about transness, to give cis people a chance to start shifting their perspectives, to make sure trans voices are heard. Even touching one person is enough to start changing the world.

 

But it’s hard to do that on the days I don’t feel trans. I feel like a fake, like someone that’s fabricated a giant narrative in order to speak over “real” trans people and push an agenda. And it’s hard to talk about this when I know many of the people reading my writing are cis. Even with cis people I trust, it’s hard not to feel like someone will use my writing about this as an excuse to jump out and say “aha! I knew you weren’t really trans, I don’t actually have to listen to what you’re saying”.

 

I’ve alluded to it a lot in my writing – how certain forms of transness are validated and accepted by mainstream society much more than other forms, how invisibility often leads to self-judgement and shame, how narratives around being “trans enough” are so widespread among trans people and yet…we still police each other’s transness and the problem remains…

 

But here’s the thing – It’s not that I stop being trans when I don’t feel trans, it’s that sometimes I start believing the nonsense being thrown at me. I start believing that I should shut up, sit down, and accept that my transness isn’t real.

 

Of course, that’s the moment when I need to be the loudest, because, if nothing else, I have learned that if I am experiencing something, there’s probably at least one other person in the world that has experienced it. And if we both start talking about it, there’s a higher chance that we find each other (I’ve been learning probability and statistics recently, watch out).

 

And here’s a crucial detail: Days I don’t feel trans usually come after a nice stretch of time when I don’t experience dysphoria. A lot of people still believe that gender dysphoria is a condition for being trans and I have internalized that statement. Instead of being happy that something that makes me incredibly uncomfortable is not present, I am disappointed and judge myself for not being in pain.

 

Let’s repeat that: I judge myself for not being in pain

 

I know there is now the term “gender euphoria” in response to defining transness through pain. It defines transness through joy – the euphoric moment when everything aligns properly and a trans person can experience their gender to the fullest. I love the idea in the word, but I have to be honest, I have never experienced gender euphoria. Maybe I will someday. I’m ridiculously happy to know that other trans people do. But, in the meantime, it’s not a useful definition for working through my own feelings.

 

There’s just one thing I have to remember on these days: cis people, unless prompted, do not question their gender to the extent that trans people do. Society does not give them reason to. If I am capable of thinking of myself as trans, if I am capable of seeing myself as nonbinary, I probably am. And, even if I’m not, I’m definitely doing enough thinking on the subject to trust my current decision on the matter.

 

There is no single definition of trans. Every trans person experiences gender differently, even while we share certain experiences. And, if we are capable of conceiving ourselves as such, then it’s a possibility to consider.

 

Transness isn’t contingent on pain, nor is it contingent on joy. It’s not the same thing every day. It’s just an experience of gender that is in contrast to the gender we are assigned at birth. That’s all.

 

And, that is me.

 

So, even on the days I don’t feel trans. I am, most definitely, trans.

 

 

Between two names

Tl;dr Having two names is different from the mainstream trans narrative about names, but the most important thing it has shown me over and over again is that polite, considerate asking is always the best option when you’re confused about a name.

 

I have two names.

 

This is a bizarrely controversial statement for a trans person to make, which is why I want to say it before cis people get too married to the predominant narrative about trans names.

 

There are, of course, many trans people with one name. Trans people with dead names that need to be burnt and then buried underground. Trans people that wish to legally change their name, but don’t have the money yet, but we’re sure as heck never going to call them by that terrible, awful legal name (side note: if you want to help a trans person change their name, here’s a great New England-based project to donate to!)

 

I’m not one of those people.

 

I live between and with two names and I love both of my names. And, even though I technically have defined uses for each name, it’s always still ambiguous, it’s always fluid, and I’m not always sure which name belongs where.

 

Sometimes, it’s just my damn ornery nature that means I’ll demand someone use one name over another. I admit it quite willingly. I did that when someone decided to submit some of my written work without my consent and I wanted to make their life a little difficult because of that.

 

Sometimes, I choose to ask people to use a different name for me because I know it’s a learning experience for them – the name they’re using is fine, but I know they need to get better at respecting people and calling them the name they want to be called and I can give them some low-stakes practice. I have done that with many of my classmates and my teachers over the years, especially ones I wasn’t explicitly out to.

 

Sometimes, a name is a way to call someone out. If someone is being transphobic, asking them to call me a different name makes their stumbles more visible, to me, and to others, who may need more blatant proof that someone is transphobic. I had a teacher last year who was still calling me the name on the register halfway through the year. By clarifying that as transphobic behavior, there was a tangible, clear line drawn concerning her unacceptable actions, as opposed to my vague, unprovable awareness that she was transphobic.

 

Sometimes, a name is about my personal autonomy. My mother once asked my grandparents (and the rest of my family) to start calling me “Jo” without checking with me first. Asking my family to call me my legal name was as much about taking back the power of choice she had taken from me as it was about my name.

 

Sometimes, my name is about anonymity and personal protection. There’s something nice about not always going by my legal name. There’s something comforting about knowing that my legal documents (especially my passport) may not immediately lead to all of me. I know it’s not hard for anyone to make the connections, but the ability to have disconnections in my presentation of self (the person, the artist, the employee, the writer, the academic, the friend, the family member…) and delineate that with a name is both useful and reassuring. I can be both, or I can be one, and that flexibility makes me feel safe (it probably doesn’t make me actually safe, but feeling safe is important too).

 

I purposefully organize my presentation of self to make people ask what name to call me. I prefer to be able to make that choice than to allow someone else to make that choice for me.

 

This has led to moments of other trans people looking at me in confusion going “you know, we can just remove this name and call you what you want, if you like” and having to explain “no, I am both, I want you to ask”. And I have met so many well-meaning cis people fumbling and being too embarrassed to ask. And, of course, there are the ignorant cis people refusing to call me the name I’ve asked them to because it doesn’t fit their worldview and understanding of me.

 

Every trans person is different. We all have unique relationships with our names. But, if there’s one thing that I’d like someone to take away from this it’s that asking is good. If you are confused, ask. If you think you know what someone wants to be called, but are not completely sure, ask. Ask politely, without drawing public attention to the person, and then go with that answer. The biggest harm you can do is to act as if you know more about a trans person’s name than they do, either through ignorance, uncaringness, discomfort, or unwillingness to ask.

 

And, most importantly, no single narrative about a trans person will ever act as your blueprint for every other trans person you meet.

 

Women-only spaces welcoming nonbinary people, a personal dilemma

Tl;dr When women-only spaces open themselves up to nonbinary people, it puts a lot of responsibility onto women and forces nonbinary people to misgender themselves to access necessary resources offered by the space. While it can be helpful now, I would like to see us start to find a new system.

 

There’s this new trend I’ve been noticing in which spaces that are “women-only” have started specifying that to include nonbinary folks.

 

It makes me think of something that happened a long time ago at uni, when someone had a go at making the scope of the women’s forum more trans inclusive and made a huge mess of it. In their enthusiasm, they basically said that anyone that wasn’t a cis man (including trans men) belonged in a space that was specifically about supporting women. As you can imagine, that was super uncomfortable for everyone involved, people that didn’t identify as a woman who were suddenly thrown into the woman box and women that actually kind of needed their women-only space.

 

Here’s the thing: I have spent my life running away from the identity of “woman”. Every nonbinary person’s experience is different, but I have never been and never will be a woman. Except, I am perceived as one during the majority of my public life. The violence, discrimination, and insecurity I face in my day-to-day life is not because of my transness or because I’m nonbinary, it’s because others perceive me as a woman. That means that conversations about sexism and misogyny, things like the wage gap, rape culture, patriarchy…that affects me daily. And on a political level, we’re still working in a society and with a government that recognizes two genders. I can’t fight the fucking nonbinary wage gap because it doesn’t exist (trans unemployment and employment discrimination does, but that’s not what I face).

 

I need to be part of conversations about these things. I belong there.

 

So, it is important that women-only spaces are opening their doors up for people like me – people that aren’t women, but experience life as if they were one.

 

But, every time I walk into a women-only space, I feel sickened. I feel like I am misgendering myself. I have to adopt the one identity that I never ever want to touch. And I have to do that in order to enter dialogues about my life. It’s this vicious back and forth between honoring my gender and recognizing the practicalities of my life. And it becomes more upsetting when I consider how often trans women are unwelcome in women’s spaces. It’s sickening to consider that I would be more welcome in a women’s space than a trans woman (ok seriously, who belongs in a women’s space? The nonbinary person or the woman? Do we actually have to talk about this?).

 

For me, it is hugely important not to enter women-only spaces. I never went to the women’s forum at uni. I do not involve myself in events for women in the arts (although I will happily support such things), unless it explicitly includes nonbinary folks (and, even then, I might not, because I know most cis women there will welcome me as a woman, not a nonbinary person). I do not go to women’s discussion events or workshops. It’s as much about telling myself “yes, you’re not a woman” as it is about giving space to actual women.

 

Because, yes, women do need women-only spaces.

 

We talk a lot about privileged women, but the fact is that we live in a world where catcalling still hasn’t stopped. And yes, there are experiences I share with women because of how I am perceived, but I experience it differently because I am not a woman. How can I expect people dealing with this crap to take my crap into account, just because it’s similar? I worry that, in opening up women’s spaces for nonbinary people, it’s putting too much of a burden on women, people that are already struggling and fighting their own battles.

 

There’s a time and a place for us to share and find solidarity and a time and a place for us to separate and be with people like us.

 

But, at this moment in time, there’s not enough resources specifically for nonbinary people to make separation feasible. For loads of nonbinary folks, feminist and women’s spaces are how we get access to services, support systems, community, and respect. I know that I tend not to go towards a trans organization or support system when it comes to things that have to do with being perceived as a woman, it doesn’t even occur to me because these things are not caused by my transness. And, if it does occur to me, I choose the women’s space because I know a trans spaces’ resources are already stretched much thinner and are much more necessary for people who can’t enter women’s spaces.

 

It might not be possible now, but I would like to see more nonbinary-exclusive spaces. Instead of expecting women to carry our weight, I’d like to see new opportunities specifically aimed at nonbinary people. And I would like to see women-only spaces recognizing that people they may consider as women are not actually women and don’t belong in those spaces. And, most importantly, I would like to see the end of grouping nonbinary people into binary gendered categories because there’s no other option. I want there to be more options. Yes, maybe there’s not a lot of us. Yes, we still belong in women’s and feminist conversations. But it’s time to start really recognizing nonbinary genders and their accompanying specific needs as distinct from other genders.

 

This is something that takes time and is, happily, already in process. In the meantime, I am happy to know I have support from so many women’s organizations and spaces and am not without a safety net. But, the more we start recognizing these distinctions and trying to manage the nuance in how we create spaces and support systems, the better we can support nonbinary trans people to their (our) fullest.