I need a sign. And a chart.

When I was growing up, my family had a dishwasher. We didn’t use it all the time (I’ll tell you stories about Grammy some other day), but with six humans living in one domicile, it was a helpful appliance when we were actually allowed to use it. On the door was a little stop-sign-shaped thing. One side said “clean” and the other said “dirty.” The point was, as you emptied the dishwasher, you could flip the sign so the other five humans within the domicile would know the status of said dishwasher. I usually screwed up the use of this helpful tool, because the machine didn’t automatically flip the sign to “clean” — but I digress.

Have you ever felt like you needed a sign? Not “clean” or “dirty” perhaps (or perhaps yes!), but might it be helpful at times? Or what about a chart? I guess at a lot of times in your everyday life, you might find signs and charts helpful. As a very visual and creative-minded person, signs and charts help me process a large amount of information into recognizable patterns rather quickly.

So what do you think? Do you need a sign? How about a chart?

If you’re still reading, it’s high time you hear this from the horse’s mouth: I’m gender non-binary, one of the identities that falls under the transgender umbrella. You may not know what that means — and to be honest, some days I don’t know what that means either — but what I’ve realized is that I need a sign. Actually, a chart and a sign.

First, I need a chart like the SOGIE Spectrum. Because not only is that helpful to explaining myself to cishets, it also helps me remember that I can be whoever and whatever I want, whenever I want. My guess is that if you’re still reading, you’d agree with that statement.

But a sign would also be helpful. You see, some days my gender (identity) matches my body (biology). Then other days, I feel like my body belongs to someone else; an exoskeleton that oppresses and hides the real me. And because this can literally change every few hours, it would be so helpful to have a sign — probably not “clean” or “dirty,” and definitely not a binary, so maybe a Wildfire Danger sign would be more helpful, like “Danger: MD is this queer today”? — to alert the other humans around me as to my identity at any point in time.

The truth is, friends, I usually do know who I am, even if you don’t. But because it’s not always possible to announce my gender identity as it evolves, I end up getting (unintentionally) hurt pretty easily. To quote an awesome book I just read:

“Every time I’m misgendered, it feels like someone is adding a brick to my backpack. As the day goes on, there are more and more bricks. By the end of the day, I feel like I am slowly being crushed by the seemingly unending burden of the gender binary.”

A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns

That paragraph broke my heart because it was so real. (If you’re curious, my pronouns are they/them/theirs. More on that here and here.)

This is my first post explicitly about this topic, and I will likely change my perspective as I continue to come out and express my identity. And you needn’t fear, I’m still me! Yet in this short journey of self-understanding I’ve learnt how often words (including pronouns) can hurt. My hope is that the world will become more gender-gentle for people like me, who occasionally carry the weight of the world within an unfamiliar body.

We can be whoever and whatever we want, whenever we want. Please, be gentle.

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