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Can You See Me?

March 31 was the International Trans Day of Visibility. I’m never really sure whether this is a day for me, or not. If transgender means that my actual gender is different than the one that was announced at my birth, then I’m transgender. If it means that I’ve settled into one of the two accepted binary gender options, than I’m not.

I am non-binary. My particular kind of non-binary is genderfluid, which means that my gender doesn’t feel like a static thing. I have moments of feeling quite male and moments of feeling quite female, but for me, most of my moments are spent somewhere outside of that binary.

Being non-binary means I have had to be aware of my gender and what it means to me for most of my life. If you’re cisgender (meaning that the gender they assigned you at birth feels right), then you might never have thought about your gender before. You might never have been questioned about your gender or had to defend why you are the gender you are.

This is a privilege.

But, I also wonder if maybe you’re missing out on really getting to know yourself. Take a second now, and ask yourself (without referring to biology) what makes you the gender that you feel.

 It’s a hard question to answer. As a society, we are used to defaulting to the idea of biology, but what if an accident or illness changed your body? Would that change your gender? 

I first remember being aware of my gender in kindergarten. I remember boys and girls being separated into two lines and asking my teacher where I should go since I wasn’t a boy or a girl. I was put in the line with the girls.

Every time I would tell someone I wasn’t a girl or a boy, I was dismissed and ridiculed. Again and again I was plunked firmly into that all girl lineup and told to be a girl, (at the same time, I was constantly told that I was too loud, messy and active to be a good girl.)

In grade one, I remember my teacher patiently explaining to me that there were only two options, there were girls and there were boys, and that was it.

So, I decided I would be a boy.

I knew I wasn’t a boy, but I wasn’t very good at being a girl and the boys got to do more active and fun things. If I had to be a girl or a boy, boy seemed to be the logical choice.

I expected the grown ups at school to be happy that I’d chosen one of their genders. 

But, they weren’t.

The kids on the other hand mostly had an easy time accepting me as a boy. Most of my friends were boys and I played soccer, wrestling or climbing trees at recess, so boy made way more sense to them.

At least it did until grade 4.

In grade 4, most of the girls in my grade got together and decided that I couldn’t be a boy anymore. They mobbed me one recess on the play structure. They left me with torn clothes, cuts and bruises as well as a deep feeling of loss.

I knew now that it wasn’t safe for me to be a boy, but I knew equally that I hadn’t gotten any better at fitting in as a girl. There was definitely no room for me to be who I was. As far as I knew, I was the only person in the whole world who felt like they weren’t a boy or a girl. 

I stopped telling people my truth and tried hard to be what I was supposed to be. Mostly, I failed to fit in and was bullied and shunned as a misfit.

Miraculously, in my mid-teens, it became cool to be different and I made real friends and felt more accepted. I knew I was being accepted as girl, and later a woman, but this was definitely better than not being accepted at all.

I was in my early forties when I first heard the term non-binary, I didn’t know what it meant exactly, but I remember hovering around it like a moth on a flame, wondering if maybe there was a chance that I wasn’t the only one like me.

Then I read a book called Symptoms of Being Human and for the first time in my life, I saw a character like me in a book. It was a little like an explosion of fireworks going off in my soul.

I wasn’t the only one. I wasn’t the one broken weirdo in a world of males and females. There were others like me and slowly a little place was being carved out for us in society. A place where I could be liked, accepted and be seen as who I am. A non-binary person.

Regardless of who we are, we all need a time and a place to be seen, to be accepted, to be respected. We all need our day of visibility.

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