Between: A Story of Becoming

In a paper that I am currently writing for a class, I was asked to reflect on the intersections of my identity and the ways it affects my social location. In writing this, most of my identities came clear to me. However, my gender didn’t.

 

My pronouns have been up in the air for a few years now, but never really caused me much distress until recently. I don't feel like I'm not a woman, but I also don't feel like I'm a woman. I sometimes have unexpected visceral reactions when I'm called a girl, even when I haven't told them or myself that I am possibly otherwise. 

 

I had a panic attack not too long ago that was triggered by the complexity of my gender identity. These feelings were new and overwhelming, as the questioning of my gender identity didn't become a source of panic until now. I called my partner, who talked me through the anxiety, but for about fifteen minutes, I felt that I wasn't able to tell her what was actually bothering me. As we were about to hang up, I blurted out, "My pronouns don't feel right. I don't know what it is, but I hate being called a girl. I don't feel feminine, but I also don't feel masculine in any way. But I also feel like I'm still holding onto a sense of womanhood." I was expecting her to be taken back, but she just said reassuringly, "babe, that just means you're non-binary. Everything's okay."

 

I didn't start questioning my gender identity until my first year of college when a professor asked: "how do you know that you're the gender you identify as?" The combination of this question, as well as my education in Women's and Gender Studies, has led me to find an identity that falls outside of the gender binary. Labeling myself as non-binary feels like unexplored territory that I'm hesitant to enter, where I haven't let go of my identity as a woman, as it has been a subconscious mode of comfort as I travel into the unknown. I feel safe when my mother calls me her daughter. I feel safe when my brother calls me "sissy." I feel safe in job interviews where I can stick with "she/hers" pronouns rather than telling my potential employer to refer to me as "they." I feel safe when I have a box to check when filling out paperwork. But I'm starting to learn that the feeling of safety doesn't mean it's right.

 

I’m experiencing a myriad of emotions and feelings. It’s uncomfortable and disorienting to let go of what has made me feel safe for so long. But by letting go, I’m getting closer and closer to myself.