Speaking Out While Fitting In


Foto: Ale­na Yanovich 


Pret­ty priv­i­lege. Straight-pass­ing priv­i­lege. Cis-pre­sent­ing priv­i­lege. While it may go by many names, the under­stand­ing is the same: peo­ple are more like­ly to lis­ten to what you have to say when you occu­py one (or more) of these groups. Although pret­ty priv­i­lege is sub­jec­tive, there is a gen­er­al under­stand­ing of society’s base­line for attrac­tive­ness. For straight- and cis-pre­sent­ing priv­i­lege, the require­ments vary. I iden­ti­fy as a non-bina­ry les­bian, but I’ve been open about sleep­ing with and dat­ing men in the past and this con­fus­es peo­ple. Espe­cial­ly those who don’t iden­ti­fy as Queer or non-cis. In some instances this works in my favor, how­ev­er in most cas­es it just real­ly piss­es me off.

Despite the fact that no one wants to admit it, we all have an inter­nal check­list that’s imme­di­ate­ly called up when inter­act­ing with some­one new. We check to see if this per­son is like us, if we can trust them, which top­ics to dis­cuss. What we might not be so will­ing to accept is that this check­list also auto­mat­i­cal­ly deter­mines whether we decide to accept what the oth­er per­son is telling us. For me, my check­list seems to inher­ent­ly dis­miss any­thing a cis, white, het­ero­sex­u­al man has to say. This is an inter­nal bias I have to con­scious­ly work through in order to deter­mine my own thoughts and feel­ings about the mat­ter that’s being discussed.

As some­one who loves fun make­up, the col­or pink, and wear­ing dress­es, I am the stereo­typ­i­cal exam­ple for an uncon­scious mind to reg­is­ter ‘FEMALE.’ While I don’t blame oth­ers for hold­ing these inter­nal bias­es, I won’t accept bla­tant igno­rance in a time where pro­nouns are avail­able in social media bios and Google is still free. Because I fit so many items on the check­list that we so wrong­ful­ly align with what it means to be a woman, I have no short­age of uncom­fort­able inter­ac­tions in which I am referred to as ‘girl,’ ‘queen,’ ‘girly,’ or the likes. Every time with­out fail when I respond to such a com­ment with, ‘I’m actu­al­ly non-bina­ry, please don’t call me girl,’ the igno­rant par­ty responds with imme­di­ate defense. ‘Sor­ry I just saw your out­fits and—’, ‘Omg I had no idea, I just assumed because—’, etc.

This is exact­ly the point in the con­ver­sa­tion where I have to make a choice. I have to make the choice of if I’d rather shoul­der an uncom­fort­able con­ver­sa­tion about my own iden­ti­ty for the poten­tial bet­ter­ment of fur­ther non-bina­ry/­gen­der non-con­form­ing indi­vid­u­als said igno­rant par­ty comes into con­tact with in the future, or I let it go at the expense of my men­tal health. Because I occu­py a space between what this per­son knows and how they think XYZ should look, I hold an inter­est­ing type of pow­er. They’re more like­ly to lis­ten to what I have to say because I look like them. Don’t get me wrong, I inter­nal­ize this all the time—in the form of, ‘Should I do XYZ to present more androg­y­nous­ly?’, ‘If I changed my pro­nouns to they/them would they be more like­ly to be respect­ed or am I set­ting myself up for (even more) failure?’

How­ev­er, occu­py­ing this space doesn’t always grant me a free pass from a headache. Some­times it opens me up to even more ridicule, absurd ques­tions, or—in extreme cases—violence. Because I blend in with what these peo­ple know, they feel enti­tled to use me as their per­son­al guide on a trip through Pro­noun Town. They think I can pro­vide them with a crash course that they then can dan­gle in front of oth­er igno­rant friends, claim­ing ‘wok­e­ness’ and reflect­ing on how dif­fi­cult it is to get pro­nouns cor­rect. What’s most frus­trat­ing is that now I have some­how become a spokesper­son on behalf of all peo­ple who iden­ti­fy the same way that I do. No, I don’t know what it ‘feels like’ to be non-bina­ry, because that means some­thing dif­fer­ent to each non-bina­ry indi­vid­ual. While I’d love to be a famous les­bian, my jour­ney out of the clos­et is not the same as that of every sin­gle oth­er lesbian’s.

Despite know­ing that I owe no one an edu­ca­tion that they could get on their own, I feel a sort of respon­si­bil­i­ty in tak­ing on the bur­den so that it doesn’t get passed on down the line. Who knows what fur­ther igno­rant com­ments lie in wait­ing? What if the next per­son doesn’t have the men­tal capac­i­ty to han­dle such a con­ver­sa­tion? So long as I check these box­es, I’ll con­tin­ue to shoul­der the edu­ca­tion for those who are seem­ing­ly unable to google.


More by Claire:
Express­ing Pla­ton­ic Love as a (Clos­et­ed) Queer Per­son
Future Nos­tal­gia