I finally got around to watching the Bruce Jenner interview which is now available for viewing on Hulu. I echo the praise that has been made about Bruce’s courage in revealing the truth about himself and look forward to the time when he wishes to be addressed as she and herself. I also think Diane Sawyer did a good job with the interview and the side pieces that were part of the special.
I was struck by one exception to the otherwise comprehensive overview, (which was understandable given time constraints). At one point Diane Sawyer stood in front of a large video backdrop with all the identities that fall under the Trans umbrella. Right there on the top shining back at me through the television screen was the word Agender and nearby was the term Non-binary. I thought, oh great those identities are going to be included. That, alas, was not the case and it seems we got honorable mention in that trans identities word montage alone.
I do think that a discussion inclusive of other trans identities needs to occur. I think what people understand about transgender people is set in a binary gender construct. For most people it is the narrative that transgender means you are either a woman who’s core sense of self tells that women that he is actually a man or a man who’s core sense of self tells the man that she is actually a woman. That was my understanding for decades as well and is why I didn’t think there was any name for what I felt.
All that changed relatively recently for me when I first heard the term genderqueer and then the term agender. The only reason I learned of that identity was because an agender youth had their skirt set on fire while riding a bus in the Berkeley/Oakland, California area, (Just put Sasha in my search to find the stories). Now agender is a very specific non-binary gender identity. Agender is quite literally the absence of gender – being neither male or female. You can read more about agender in this previous post.
In addition to agender and genderqueer, (which is used as an umbrella term for non-binary genders), their are bigender, neutrosis, demigender, (demiboy/man or demigirl/woman), androgyne, epicene, intergender, gender fluid, pangender as well as the numerous terms used to describe a third gender by aboriginal/native people’s around the world. There is an overview of these non-binary identities and other terms here.
It quickly becomes apparent that educating the general public about all trans identities – about everyone whose gender identity doesn’t match their gender designated at birth – is a major task. In the days, months and years ahead the stories of more trans people will be told. Some of those will be people with non-binary gender identities. Telling those stories will be more and more imperative as more Millennials enter the work force. Why? Well, if you enter any one of those non-binary gender identities listed in the previous paragraph, (or the term non-binary), into a search field on tumblr, (a blogging platform disproportionately used by Millennials), you will soon see why. There are tumblr blogs devoted to nearly all gender identities; often several per identity. You will also see many posts by individuals sharing their own unique non-binary gender stories. Right now the majority of individual stories are from people designated female at birth (dfab). Why there aren’t more stories from those of us designated male at birth (dmab), I could only speculate. I will leave that as a topic best handled by having a discussion within our communities. What I will say is, it’s my belief that as more and more people, who don’t feel comfortable in their designated gender, discover a name for who and what they are, the ranks of people identifying with a non-binary gender identity will continue to grow.
A discussion has begun about being trans in this country and indeed around the world. That is a very positive development but it is imperative that we keep the discussion growing. Each of us will face a choice to add our story to that discussion. Inevitably their will be a well-known person who comes out as non-binary and that will increase the number of discussions taking place. Some of the issues raised by non-binary gender identities will complicate the politics of Trans rights. It will, I hope, broaden the bathroom debate to push for more gender neutral restrooms in addition to the right of trans men and trans women to use the bathroom appropriate for their gender identity. It may also look at increasing the number of sports open to all genders. Sure the discussion will get a bit messy but that’s life.
We who claim non-binary gender identities are challenging the notion that every thing is either male or female, just as bisexual and pansexual people challenge the notion that sexual orientation is either gay or straight. We are saying to society that the experience of being human is a fabulous mosaic. Basic human dignity tells us that all of us are deserving of equality but we are not all the same. We are the human equivalent of a fabulous quilt, each of the panels is unique and beautiful in its own right, but see us all together and WOW do we make a fabulous work of art!
– Fairy Jerry aka Agender JerBear