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My Gender Is Not Political

May I Avoid Your Attention Please

Chris McKinney—December 11, 2016

Every now and then, I come across someone who believes that non-binary people are out to make a political statement, or that we are just “special snowflakes,” desperate for attention. This simply is not the case. Non-binary gender identities are (1) real and legitimate, (2) make no attempt to invalidate other gender identities, and (3) are not merely statements; in fact, many of us would very much like it if people stopped assuming they are statements at all.

Non-Binary Gender Is Real

Non-binary people are not questioning their gender. We have a word for that: “questioning.” If people are initially confused by the concept of non-binary gender identities, that is understandable. Gender is not simple. But that does not mean than non-binary people do not understand their own genders.

Now, this is not to say that “special snowflakes” do not exist. Some people might strongly disagree with me on this, but I think that there are people out there who think that simply not filling a gender role makes them necessarily non-binary (this probably comes from the assumption that non-binary people are out to smash binary gender expression, which I will discuss below), or who do in fact just want to be part of a group. But here is the thing: if someone tells you they are non-binary, go with it. Because we are out there, and you telling us that we are not really non-binary is not going to change our gender and is just going to be frustrating for us, because trust me, we have heard it before. As well, “non-binary” is an umbrella term, and non-binary genders are experienced and expressed in many different ways. Also do not assume that you know everything about someone’s gender expression. Some non-binary people, like me, generally present one way in public and another way in private. Some non-binary people will present one way or another most of the time. This does not make them not non-binary, just as marrying a man does not make a pan-sexual woman not pan-sexual.

And as well, whenever discussing trans people, the medical side ultimately comes up. Some non-binary people undergo surgery or hormone replacement therapy. Some do not. Choosing to undergo these procedures does not make a non-binary person a binary trans person, and it is not necessary for someone to undergo these procedures in order to be a trans person, binary or otherwise. And ultimately (this applies to all people), if you are not close enough to someone that they will discuss their genitals and their body chemistry with you on their own initiative, you should probably not be asking them to.

We Are Not Out To Get You

I mentioned above that some people think that simply not filling a gender role necessarily makes someone non-binary, and that this is likely because of the assumption that non-binary people are out to smash binary gender expression. This simply is not true. I have no problem with masculine men and feminine women. Ideas of masculinity and femininity can become toxic when they attempt to restrict what men and women can do, but that does not mean that a woman wanting to be feminine is bad, so long as that woman also has the freedom to not be stereotypically feminine. This is the bottom line here: we do not want to destroy masculinity and femininity, all we want is to open up the field for other forms of gender expression.

I Just Want To Live My Life

As I mentioned above, I present differently in public and in private. Why do I do this? Because I just want to have normal interactions with people. I am afraid that my dress will derail or otherwise distort my everyday social interactions. On the negative side, when I have presented more feminine in public, I have had people yell at me from their trucks. On the well-intentioned side, I just get so many questions. And I do not mind talking about my gender with people, but at the end of the day, there are so many more interesting things I want to talk to people about. I would much rather talk about robots than my dress, because here is the bottom line: I am not wearing it for you. I am wearing it for me. I do not want the attention, the same questions get pretty annoying after a while, and ultimately, while my gender is undoubtedly part of who I am, I do not think it is terribly interesting. Seriously. Ask me about robots. Or rocks. Or computer security. Or tell me about good books you have read recently. Or talk to me about other issues facing our society. Or maybe let’s just joke around. I am tired of talking about my gender. The only reason I’m writing this is because I just need to let people know once and for all I am fed up.

So I am not non-binary for attention, and neither am I non-binary for political reasons. I am not trying to make a statement about gender. I am simply trying to live my life, and my gender is just one small part of my experience of life. It unfortunately gets magnified in importance, both in other people’s minds, and by the fact that we, trans people, have to fight for our rights. I do not want to spend so much of my time trying to secure rights and social understanding for myself and for people like me. I have things I would much rather be doing with my time. I want to build robots. I want to study rocks. I want to read. I want to write. I want to play my drums. I want to build an 8-bit computer from scratch. But I have to devote time to organizing and trying to take action to make life suck a little less for trans people where I live. I am political out of necessity because I am non-binary. My gender is not what it is because I am political.

Please, let us just talk about anything else.