I was 16 years old when I first came out. It was a virtual game of cat-and-mouse with my best friend at the time; there were hints in person, but much of the process was via a pseudonymous email address. Every few days this friend would get another email, suggesting that a close friend of his had a deep, dark secret. On July 11, 2000 (at 11:11pm), the final email was sent: my identity was revealed. I was out. I was hopeful and terrified. But I was out as a gay young man.
Months later when we looked back at my ridiculous coming out process, there were so many details I had forgotten. But the one piece which I still remember clear as day was Sean’s larger-than-life eye-roll. The process which I thought was so secretive – pseudonyms, anonymity, fake email addresses – was so obvious to him. My fear of his reaction made me carry all this baggage alone for months, though it turns out he was journeying with me from the beginning.
When I look back to that warm summer evening nearly two decades ago, I realize a number of things. My self-understanding and my lived experiences have surpassed anything I could have imagined as that scrawny, awkward, acne-ridden teenager. Yet the most important thing I’ve learnt is that the date which lives in infamy, July 11, 2000 (at 11:11pm), is a sham.
I started coming out long before that day. And, I’m still coming out nearly two decades later.
It’s a (learning) process
That might seem obvious to many readers – the process of coming out is, well, a process – but it’s something I’m only coming to terms with now. Several months ago, when depression and anxiety were rearing their ugly heads, I began reading books about gender, sexuality, and identity. I hadn’t noticed, but the identity I assumed on that warm summer evening two decades ago no longer fit me.
Through several books – particularly “Gender: Your Guide” by Lee Airton, PhD – I learnt that I didn’t have to base my identity on who I was as a teenager. I finally realized that who I am changes on a daily basis, and conforming to a former identity is severely unhealthy. So once again, I came out. I started asking people to use my correct pronouns (they/them), I began openly identifying as trans/non-binary, and I have become somewhat of a resources for those who want to learn more about gender identity.
I remember all the reading from my first coming-out process. The forums, coming-out stories, and casual conversations: these normalized the feelings stirring within me, allowing me to simply “be.” And whether I would end up gay, or straight, or bisexual, or pansexual, or asexual, or anything else, none of that mattered. What mattered was that I had safe spaces to learn, explore, and express who I was.
And that’s why you’re here…
Welcome to “Being Non-binary,” a place to share everyday situations that non-binary folks like myself encounter. Some posts will be helpful for cisgender people to learn how often people like me find ourselves in unsafe spaces. Others will be complaints about how difficult this identity can be at times.
And maybe, just maybe, some of these posts will be for that hopeful and terrified teenager who needs to know that they are beautiful just the way they are.
…but I don’t have all the answers.
There’s one important caveat to this space: I don’t have all the answers. My experiences are, well, my experiences. I don’t speak for any other non-binary or gender non-conforming people. Whether you are cisgender or transgender, you might disagree with my perspectives. And that’s great! Please share your experiences so that we can all become more aware.
I firmly believe that humans learn best when we learn with others. My hope is that “Being Non-binary” will be a space where we can work together toward creating a gender-friendly world.
Won’t you join me on this journey?