I identify as demiguy, and I use they/them pronouns. What does that mean, you ask? Demigender is defined as the gender identity one holds when they identify with one aspect of the gender spectrum, but not completely. This identity is related to other nonbinary identities in that they both inherently reject the idea that gender is restricted simply to man and woman. Being demiguy means I identify most strongly with more masculine representations of gender, however I reject that my gender presentation has to be restricted to all things manly.
For me, this means that I typically dress in clothes you find in the men’s section, but I also love wearing nail polish and occasionally makeup. But it’s a lot more than a physical representation, it’s an identifiable discomfort and inability to identify as a cis man.
I refuse to let a binary gender identity hold me back from expressing myself as I wish to express myself. Yet, in the same vein, I am utterly terrified of this identity that I have taken on.
I am terrified of this identity for many reasons.
1. First is what you might expect, the fear of being outcast by my family.
I have only come out as demiguy to my partner and a few close friends, mostly because I expect the worst of telling my family how I feel about my gender identity. My family is all pretty liberal on most things, and both of my siblings are queer, so to a degree I know they would understand this very different feeling I’m experiencing. A big part of me still feels like that isn’t enough to feel 100% sure that my family would even take the idea of demigender seriously.
My father wasn’t completely supportive at first of my siblings coming out. He had his own fears beyond whatever fears my siblings had, mostly not wanting any of his children to be in a situation where they’re being treated poorly because of their identities. I completely understand where he was coming from at the time, at least as best as I could from his perspective. He doesn’t want us to get hurt, he doesn’t want us to get attacked, he doesn’t want us to have a harder life than we already have as mixed race, lower-middle class kids. My dad was pretty quick to come around with my siblings, though, completely supporting them and treating their partners like family without blinking an eye, because he sees they’re happy. But will my dad be the same way with me? What if he never makes that shift to supporting me, finding it too complicated to shift from calling me his son to just his child, to using they/them pronouns, etc.
2. I’m also afraid of what my identity will do to me in the workplace.
Do I even reveal my gender identity to my coworkers, my bosses? Do I just admit that I should never expect my full-time job’s coworkers to call me by any other pronoun than whatever they feel is appropriate for me? Or do I take the chance that maybe this group of relative strangers, despite me working there for nearly two years, will accept my identity as demiguy, accept my pronouns and use them properly. It all gets quite complicated though, thinking to what degree that kind of acceptance may actually go. Will they talk to our clients using my pronouns or introduce me as “him?” And what if I desire to start wearing nail polish and lipstick to work, what then? Does that open them up to looking for reasons to fire me, cutting off my source of income and forcing me into a frenzy finding another job?
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Every time I feel like I might just end up okay in that environment if I came out to them, I’m reminded of just how difficult it would really be as they talk about Caitlyn Jenner or Chelsea Manning by using their names given to them at birth.
But at the same time, I’m hurting to just be myself, to act how I want to act, to wear my nail polish and lipstick, to say “fuck it! I’m going to be this person that I want to be and to hell with all of you!” I feel most dysphoric around my coworkers, and I just want it to stop, but I can’t make that leap quite yet, if ever.
3. In a broader scope, considering that I live in New Orleans, I am petrified by the thought of coming out in this city.
The South isn’t totally as bad as many folks on the West Coast, where I’m from, would make it out or like it to be, for whatever ulterior sense of grandeur it brings them. Especially in a city like New Orleans, there are plenty of folks who are openly trans and nonbinary, who are open with whatever queer gender or sexual identity they hold, and it’s powerful to see. But at the same time, sometimes on the same block, there’s rudiments of the conservatism that has plagued the South for centuries, and it is often quite alive and well. For every open and proud trans or queer person in this city, there seems to be 10 or more folks ready to beat them down, emotionally or physically.
It doesn’t help being mixed race in this situation, either. Without even getting into much of the internalized racism I’ve witnessed and experienced while living in the area, being black is to be attacked by white supremacy in this town. Beyond the white hipsters who are taking over once vibrant black neighborhoods, the white folks already look at black folks like animals. Imagine if those black folks are openly trans or nonbinary—the word queer has all of the strength and utopic [like-home-ness] removed from it in an instant and it gets thrown around in the most aggressive ways. Not to mention all of the violence queer and trans people of color face in the South, let alone the rest of the country. Do I take a step in the direction of being unapologetic with my identity and be who I want to be in this city? Or do I hold off in favor of saving my sanity, if not my life?
There are so many different things that I am afraid of when it comes to the idea of embracing my identity. My mind constantly races with thoughts about the legitimacy of it—if I’m trans or non-binary “enough,” if I’ll just be seen as a man trying to win brownie points with the queer and trans community.
But that’s not what it is at all, I wouldn’t choose to feel the way I feel about my identity, my body, my appearance, to feel confused and dysphoric and scared. With that in mind, coming into this understanding of myself, of being nonbinary and demiguy, has been in some ways a very positive experience.
4. Learning about what it means to be demigender has been extremely helpful in me becoming more comfortable with myself.
Growing up, everyone always told me how sensitive I was because I cried a lot when bullied—they also called me plenty of other things that I don’t wish to bring up here. In high school and college, I mostly tried to run away from this label of being “sensitive,” since being sensitive without some balance of masculine bravado or pride is looked down upon in most circles of men and masculinity. I struggled with wanting to fit in with other men and wanting to never have to talk to other men again in my life, save for family and close friends. I was already different from many of them because I often let my sensitivity show, since I’ve never been good at keeping a tough front. I felt like identifying as a cis man meant that I would have to sacrifice my emotions and sensitivity for the sake of fitting in.
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That’s why in college I started looking more into and learning more about gender variance and nonbinary identities. It all started to make more sense to me. I would ask myself: what if I don’t identify completely as a man? What if I don’t want to be associated with all of the toxic and gross men that I’ve had the displeasure of meeting in my life? Is there a place or an identity for me that will help me make sense of all of this?
Identifying as demiguy has been that aspects of sense-making that I was looking for. When I think about how I identify now and how I feel about myself in my body, I feel like it’s starting make a lot more sense, especially as a fat person. Being a fat cis man of color really relegates you to a specific grouping of people in the eyes of the masses and it’s hard to find a way to get out of that.
5. Understanding where I stand with my gender identity has allowed me to really question what it means to be masculine and what masculinity actually is.
It’s something that I have always done, in some way or another, questioning masculinity by wondering why it’s so wrong for me to be sensitive, to want to wear nail polish, to want to embrace femininity, to not want to act “like a man.” It’s impossible to quantify the levels of toxic masculinity I have encountered and witnessed in my life, as well as the toxic masculinity I have pushed onto others in my attempts to be a “man.”
Even many of the cis men who claim to be looking for a “new” masculinity are really trying to rehash the same old toxicity and make it just a little more respectful to other people without giving up any sort of sense of dominance or entitlement that prevails in our heteropatriarchal society.
Rather than trying to change what it means to be masculine, I would rather let go of those aspects of masculinity that are toxic and destructive and embrace the other aspects of expression and embodiment that are inherently more respecting, loving, and empathetic—the aspects of femininity and the dissolution of binary gender that I feel I have been searching for all along, even if I didn’t know that’s what I was looking for.
It’s hard to want to come out to my family, to the public, to everyone I will meet in the future who will see me as just a man. But I am doing my best to embrace my identity, embrace the parts of me that are supposed to be held back as a “man,” and let go of the notions that we have to live in a world defined by a false binary of genders meant to oppress anyone who does not wish to obey or appease cis men.
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[Feature Image:A light skinned individual stands outdoors against a graffitied wall. They are wearing a fedora with a short haircut, button-up and denim jeans as they look away from the camera. Pexels.com]