Where do I fit in when I identify as nonbinary?
This is a question I have been asking myself for a while now, especially since the last time I wrote here it was about my gender identity. I identify as demiguy (he/him or they/them), which is on the nonbinary spectrum of gender identities, and last time I wrote about identifying as so, I was worried about the idea of coming out.
I still haven’t come out to my family or most of the people I know, but I am learning to slowly be more open about my identity with more people and testing the waters when I say “I am nonbinary/demiguy.” So far, the reactions have all been very positive and supportive, as I’ve opened up only to people I know would be more accepting. I know, though, that this isn’t going to be the case for everyone, especially with folks who are already resistant to accepting gay and lesbian identities as valid.
Yet, I’m especially terrified of coming out to other folks in the LGBTIA+ community.
Part of this is because I am still having a hard time convincing myself that my identity is real and valid. I do my best to not give off any impression that I identify as nonbinary around my family and coworkers, almost to the point that it seems like I forget about my true feelings about my gender.
Constantly performing the cis-male role in some ways just feels easier, because I am not raising any questions about my gender, but it also feels extremely dysphoric to the point sometimes where my heart starts to race and I get extremely anxious. I end up shutting down at my desk for long periods of time, feeling trapped in my racing mind, until someone snaps me out of my haze with a task I probably don’t want to do, but at least it keeps my mind moving.
The other part of my fear of coming out to folks in the LGBTQIA+ is that I’m afraid I’m not nonbinary or demiguy “enough.”
I don’t know where I would fit into the community, or if I should even try to fit in due to the fear of being called out as just some imposter, just someone trying to co-opt the community, or just some cis dude overstepping his privileged boundaries. It doesn’t even make sense to me, but it feels like I just don’t “look” the part, that I wouldn’t be “convincing” with my current appearance. I know that there isn’t supposed to be any set “limits” on “how nonbinary” you are—which is somewhat noted in the identity itself by not adhering to the rules of a binary gender—but that doesn’t quell my worries about being rejected by people who have, in some cases, gone through the same struggles as me.
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After such tormented bouts of self-questioning and anxiety, I wonder to myself, “where does that kind of fear even come from? Are these fears even valid?”
They’re hard questions to answer, but the most prominent answer I come up with revolves around my identity as a mixed-race person. My whole life has plagued with questions of fitting into neat racial boxes, feeling like I’m not white enough to be white, but too white to be a person of color. My gender identity hasn’t been a question on my mind for nearly as long as my race but I still have the same issues of worrying that I don’t fit in a specific category or community.
Then there is the fact that I look at so many trans and nonbinary people who are loved within their own pockets of the LGBTQIA+ community and I want so badly to have the confidence they seem to have. I know very well that it does not come easily by any means, they have spent years and years working on their confidence and style that I admire so much. The work that someone like writer, artist, and activist Alok Vaid-Menon does, for example, is so incredibly important for so many people within the trans and gender non-conforming communities, and that wasn’t accomplished through simply willing it to happen; they have had to work hard to get to where they are and to earn the respect in their work.
Therein lies my biggest challenge, and one that I feel any person in this situation has had to deal with: putting in the work to find the confidence I need to be proud of who I am and to eventually come out on a larger scale.
The way our society currently treats trans and nonbinary people does not leave much room for folks who are struggling with their gender identities to develop that confidence in a public sense. But when you don’t feel comfortable opening yourself up to the LGBTQIA+ community, where does that leave you in terms of being able to work through your gender identity and dysphoria?
When I did confide in a few queer and gender non-conforming people about my gender identity exploration, it has been short conversations about how I identify, my preferred pronouns, and that I don’t want anyone else to know. The fact that I don’t want anyone else to know leaves very little room for a deeper discussion about what my identity as nonbinary and demiguy really means to me. Not only have I been holding back from my friends, the people I have trusted with such sensitive information about myself already, but I realize I have been holding back from myself as well. By being unwilling to share my thoughts and struggles with the open, supportive ears of my friends, I am not giving myself the proper chance to work through my gender identity and dysphoria myself.
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I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I don’t want to feel confined to my mind in a near-constant state of dysphoria, trying to negotiate my gender and my performance of gender to the point of getting migraines. I don’t want to worry about impressing anyone, and I don’t want to worry about fitting in. I just want to be free and open about who I am and how I identify. I want to be able to dress how I want, do my nails, put on lipstick, and give a resounding double-middle-finger to heteropatriarchy and transphobia.
I want to love myself enough to not worry about “being enough” for any group or community, other than being enough of a good friend and lover to my friends and partner. I am nonbinary and demiguy and my gender is valid.
So maybe I don’t need to worry about fitting into the LGBTQIA+ community, at least not yet. Maybe I should focus on the people that have already accepted me who also identify as queer, trans, or nonbinary who have experienced similar struggles and have found a better footing in negotiating their identities within the community. Most importantly, I should focus on myself and my identity, and I should work on accepting myself for who I am despite the performance I have to put on around my family, coworkers, and other friends.
I know that I am capable of radically loving myself in the face of scrutiny and rejection because I am worthy of that love and self-acceptance. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to let the world in and show everyone that they should love and accept me and my identity as nonbinary and demiguy, too.
[ Feature Image: A dark skin individual sits outdoors amongst a field of flowers while wearing a grey hooded sweater and glasses. Pexels.com]