“Too queer for your binary.” This is a common phrase used by the non-binary and gender non-conforming community to protest against the enforcement of the binary gender system and to celebrate our queerness. I love the sassiness of this sentiment that says, “We are here and we’ll make our own lack of rules, thanks!”
However, in spite of my identifying as queer and non-binary, I often find that I feel awkward vocalizing this to people, even to those who are affirming or queer themselves. A great deal of this certainly has to do with all the internalized homo-and-trans-phobia that I am still working through, but another component I’ve been noticing is that I’m just not queer enough for many peoples’ idea of what it means to be non-binary.
I’ve often been told—both by people to whom I’m out, and otherwise—that I “wouldn’t understand what it means to be a gentleman, because I’m such a lady,” or that I “look quite feminine, so it’s to be expected” that people wouldn’t be able to remember my pronouns. Friends to whom I’ve come out still regularly ask, “What’s up lady?” or “How’s it going girl?!” I appreciate the sentiment of affection they are trying to convey, and how I deal with these uncomfortable situations is a topic for another post, but I use these examples to highlight how common it is for me to be misgendered. (Never mind all of the iterations of “Have a great day miss!” or “Thank you young lady!” doled out by strangers).
Non-binary gender is slowly coming more into the mainstream in the last few years, but there are still many assumptions made about what it looks like to be queer. I do not have short enough or bright enough hair, wear expressive enough makeup, or have the right blend of sass, piercings, and stylish “gender-neutral” clothing to fit in with a certain image of queerness.
My hair is too feminine. My voice is too feminine. My clothing, body, and sensitive spirit are all too feminine.
This is in part because I’m not yet fully out, don’t have money to spend on my physical appearance, or feel too timid to try to pull off some of the looks I enjoy on others. Yet it is also partly because I enjoy some elements of the ways in which I present myself.
Regardless of why I look or behave the way I do, my physical appearance does not dictate my identity or my pronouns. This is true for me, and it is true for all people.
One day my appearance may be more in line with what I envision. One day I may actually figure out what this vision is. For now, regardless of what others might imagine, I am too queer for your binary.
In the spirit of not defining people by our expectations, but instead welcoming all to come and be loved fully as they are, I offer this song:
Draw the circle wide.
Draw it wider still.
Let this be our song,
No one stands alone,
Standing side by side,
Draw the circle wide.