This is an essay I wrote but never shared after *last* year's #ComingOutDay. I touched it up a little, but it's still very rough (I've learned a lot since then and am still learning!). I tried to keep it personal, about myself, and not making proclamations for others (I can get carried away, though). And then I was like, where the hell would I ever post an entire intact essay in this day and age? Unless...
(hi again, LJ)
Gender is a ridiculous concept, on the face of it. These toys/clothes/jobs are only for people born with this set of genitals, and these other toys/clothes/jobs are only for people born with THIS set of genitals (lord/lady/liege help you if you're born with both). And the distinction is VERY important and NE'ER the twain shall meet.
The whole idea, viewed from the outside, is laughable. It's ridiculous and a complete social construct, like capitalism or national boundaries. And yet, we're not on the outside, and societal constructs have real impacts. We live in a society that is deeply, frustratingly, idiotically, and yet incredibly stubbornly persistently gendered. The absolutely arbitrary, completely made-up and farcical rules are rigidly, constantly, vehemently enforced by people who very definitely have better things they could be and probably need to be doing.
I, personally, have never had a use for gender. When I was a kid, I found I was equally able to play with G.I. Joes and Barbies; they both worked just fine in my hands (though I found the Joes made better dancers, due to the articulation). They didn't break or melt or fly from my hands the moment I touched them. I had friends of both genders (both of the ones I was aware of) and those friendships also worked just fine. The boundary lines were always obviously made up and one of those things only adults seemed to really care about. My contemporaries only seemed to care as far as appeasing adults on one of their many, many bizarre fascinations/obsessions; it always seemed as if they made up elaborate games (more 'rule systems,' really) to fill up their time and compensate for the fact they couldn't get away with just flat-out making-believe the way we kids could.
As I grew older, and started attending grade school, other kids seemed like they had started buying into the charade. We gotta do this thing so the adults will take us seriously, maybe? Others were learning they could get a little power from enforcing adults' rules. And then you get peer pressure to stop being so girly or acting like a 'tomboy.' Since I've always been a legendary contrarian, I sided with the Girls when my 3rd grade class decided to do their "Boys vs. Girls" prank war. I think I was mainly excited to have an opportunity to play the spy, because I was already bored by the whole War of the Sexes thing. And like, it pretty much stayed that way, that girls were my best friends / my best friends were girls. I never got into the whole toxic masculinity thing, not til later, at least. I think I saw that I was never gonna be the biggest or the toughest, shrugged, and decided not to bother. Tedious, tedious, tedious.
I didn't realize until way later (way, waaaay later) that there were alternatives. Mainly due to a lack of sympathetic representation in media. At some point, I thought to myself, what do I actually identify MYSELF as? And the response was silence. Like many things in life, I compared it to a moment in Batman the Animated Series. Batman escapes the villain's mind control because, as he reveals to us (by way of his sidekick), that he doesn't think of himself as "Bruce." He identifies as Batman. For me, I realized I don't identify as a gender, any gender. I've always existed in this weird, omni-liminal state of not belonging. Neither fully Black nor white, squarely in between Gen X and Y (I won't use the 'm' word), left-handed but fairly ambidextrous (ambi-sinistral; fuck you, righties). I'm not used to belonging in categories or to labels; what I actually is used to *not* belonging in either. Why should gender be any different? And gender, for me, has always been an external concept; something imposed on me by whoever's viewing me. Gender exists in your perception of me; it occurs in that moment when you observe me and make whatever judgement you're gonna make, and act according to your own perceptions and biases.
That's not how it is for everyone, though. I said earlier that gender is a ridiculous, completely artificial concept, but I also said that we live in a deeply gendered society. As long as that's true, people are going to experience dysphoria, or run up against those imaginary boundaries, or have to fight for their right to self-determination. Just because *I* don't identify as male doesn't mean I don't still benefit from male privilege; I do, and I acknowledge that (I also acknowledge that it's fucked up). But, y'know, it's complicated. As someone AMAB who doesn't put much effort into presenting differently, I make more money than I would as a woman. But as a Black 'male,' I make less money than I would as a white woman. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I'm not out here trying to co-opt someone else's struggle. But I have learned to spot the commonalities in the struggles many of us face. I remember reading about manspreading, and hearing from my friends how it made them feel, and the pressure to always feel smaller, the feeling of not being entitled to take up space. And I realized that, I too, felt that way most of the time. Both as a Black American and as someone not socialized with my male privilege. I'm not as loud as I might be, I don't speak up when I maybe ought to. I identified with a lot of the things women around me were saying. Because they're all of our struggles. I thought to myself at one point, "I don't identify as a woman, but I do identify *with* women." Because unless you're cis, white, male, and rich, we're all downhill from the shit coming out of the top of patriarchy's totem pole (totally appropriated, by the way). And, to me, "queer" as an identity is more about acknowledging that we're all on a spectrum and we're all fluid on that spectrum. It's celebrating our differences and affirming each other along our respective journeys towards living authentic lives ("our truth"). It's a condemnation not of heterosexuality/cissexuality but of heteronormativity/cisnormativity; it's a commitment to a world where there's no such thing as "coming out."
So when they come for trans/non-binary/gender non-conforming/intersex people, don't hide. Don't yell about how "this is a distraction" or try to change the subject. Because America has always pretended to be about self-determination. You don't have the right to happiness, but you can definitely pursue it. I know they're out here trying to pull up the rug, haul up the ladders, laugh at us for believing the lie, but we've seen it. We know it's a lie, but we've seen the idea the lie presents, which was their mistake. Because we've seen what could be and we are not going to let that good America, that America (and world, and eventually Federation, hashtag #StarTrekTimes) that could be just vanish. We know it's possible, and THEY know it's possible, so they're terrified, because the lie is how they control us.
So we're gonna lock arms and step forward into the future. One step at a time, but millions of feet with every step, trampling anyone who would stand in the way of that future of justice, and happiness, and self-determination. But it's gotta be all of us. We won't hide, we won't be erased.