I am a bisexual, a trans woman, an agnostic, a spiritual person, someone who enjoys the sunrise, non-binary, a woman, a pansexual, masculine, feminine, a proud Eagle Scout, and an evening person.
There are so many contradictions in my identity. How can I be a proud Eagle Scout and yet a woman? How can I be a night person and yet still enjoy the sunrise? Yet the issue I have been struggling with most lately is how can I identify as a trans woman and also non-binary?
For my entire young life, I knew I was transgender. I used to wait until the dead of night when my mother was asleep so I could sneak on a computer and look up information on trans women. Finally finding the terminology and identity within the transgender and female worlds gave me a freedom of expression because I was able to exactly define who I was.
After finally coming out, I drew strength from my identity as a woman and trans woman. There is a certain strength that comes from being a woman, both from an internal place and from an external place of having to deal with the harsh world that women (and especially trans women) find themselves in within our society. As a result, hearing someone use female pronouns to refer to me was one of the most empowering moments of my life.
Yet, I many times feel so entirely uncomfortable with being a woman. Some mornings I don’t like it when someone calls me “she.” It doesn’t seem to quite fit who I am. I have started to realize that I am indeed someone who is nonbinary and gender fluid, someone who falls in-between being a man and woman. My identity is never static, but ever-shifting.
Yet that part of my identity, the idea of being a trans woman and being a woman has been such a strong part of who I am. It’s part of me now and I never want to lose the power and sense of self-understanding that it gives me within myself.
So, I am a trans woman. And I also am nonbinary. How the heck does that contradiction work? How can I be both?
It perhaps can best be expressed in one of the simplest forms of gender identity. Pronouns.
When I started feeling both a comfort and a discomfort with the pronoun "she," I started to think about why I wouldn't prefer the pronoun “they.” To me, it feels cold and antiseptic. It feels empty of identity instead of expressing the vibrancy that exists within myself. This isn’t to disparage or insult the amazing people who I know use the pronoun “they.” Many of my genderqueer friends are some of the most vibrant people I know. Yet for me, personally, “they” isn’t a good way to express who I am.
My dearest and close friend, instead of using “they,” likes to have people alternate between using male and female pronouns when referring to him. Ever since she told me this, I have always thought that this was the most exquisite expression of identity I have ever heard. To flow between pronouns feels like a beautiful way to show the swirling patterns of an identity within a person.
It truly pains me to see her feel like this identity is sometimes confusing or hard for people to grasp because, for me, it seems like the most basic expression of the shining light that is his soul. It is such a simple way to express yourself yet implies and compliments the vibrancy of her identity. Yet, even this type of identification doesn't always seem to fit me either.
I’m still trying to navigate my own contradictions. Yet, in exploring it, I have realized that maybe there doesn’t have to a specific answer to the contradiction. This is because I’m starting to realize that contradiction is the natural state of human existence.
We so try to put ourselves in contained little boxes that make sense. I’m an introvert. I’m a nerd. I’m a morning person. I’m a creative person. Yet, existing as a human means existing within contradiction. Is someone who doesn’t identify as creative not able to have a unique thought? Is someone who identifies as a night person not able to revel in the beauty of a sunrise? Is an introvert not able to feel the joy of having companionship or an extrovert unable to enjoy the solace in being alone?
Identity should not be a struggle. It should not be a static thing. Identity is a dance within our very soul. A dance that constantly is changing rhythm, tempo, genre, beat. Our journey through life is an attempt to explore this dance, sometimes by ourselves and sometimes with others. If we ever actually fully understand our identity, then our dance has ended. What point is there in remaining on the dance floor after that?
JESSIE EARL is a video producer for The Advocate. Follow Jessie on Twitter @lostrekkie.