“I recently accepted my identity as genderqueer and have asked my closest friends to use they/them pronouns for me. However, I didn’t realize how complicated this could be because so many things are gendered in our world. Am I still a lesbian? Can I still participate in girls’ night? Can I be somebody’s girlfriend? How do I deal with the weird feeling I get from being on a women’s intramural team? Help!”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Red Davidson as a part of Everyone is Gay: Second Opinions.
Hi! Congratulations on coming out to some of your friends, that’s a huge step. Gender is really confusing and can be hard to talk about with people, so asking your friends to use they/them pronouns for you is a huge accomplishment.
Gender is complicated, and non-binary people identify in a wide variety of ways. Because of this, figuring out how other aspects of your identity or labeling change—and even how you relate to yourself and others—can indeed be really hard to figure out. Gender is deeply personal, and everyone defines their gender in different ways, which means that everyone will have different responses to how they choose to change how they identify after coming out as trans or non-binary.
Regarding your specific concerns, I think the biggest question to ask yourself is: Is being a woman or girl a part of your gender? Though I usually find it easier to try not to label my own gender, the word that comes closest to fitting for me is “demigirl,” which means I consider being a woman part of my gender, but it is not the only or even always the most important/dominant part of my gender. However else I identify mostly falls within the range of “agender,”—which is to say that “maleness” is not at all an aspect of my gender, even if I sometimes present in a more “masculine” way. All of this is to say that being a woman makes up a significant enough portion of my gender to mean that I still feel directly impacted by misogyny/sexism, and that when people read me as a woman the discomfort I experience is not so much about them being wrong,but that I consider that reading to be incomplete.
If all or most of that resonates with you, then I think it makes more than enough sense for you to still consider yourself a lesbian. If not, then you might need to do some digging for yourself about what feels best to use as a label, if you feel like you need one. For you “queer” might suffice. “Bi” and “polysexual” also allow you to articulate an attraction to women and non-binary people—or otherwise any formulation of “not men”—if lesbian no longer feels like a good fit for you. (Bi is now commonly defined as “attraction to two or more genders” and there is absolutely no reason why “men” has to be one of them. Polysexual means “attraction to many genders.”) As for whether you can be someone’s “girlfriend,” that is entirely up to you! If I were in a relationship right now I would probably prefer “genderfriend” (though I understand that sounds very informal) or “partner.” I have a friend that uses “datemate.” But you can use literally anything you want that feels comfortable to you. Here’s a list of some gender-neutral titles, relationship titles are featured toward the middle.
As for “girls’ nights” I would imagine that’s something to bring up with friends who are having a girls’ night. Chances are if you’ve had girls’ nights with these same friends for a long time, that whether or not you are in part a woman, they will be used to you joining in on those gatherings. However, if your friends have more complicated feelings about including someone who isn’t a woman in those activities, you should respect that. You can obviously still hang out with all of those people on other occasions. Also, if you don’t feel comfortable including yourself in that space, then that is obviously something to share with your friends. Both you and your friends’ feelings on this may change—it may constantly change, so for something that is so interpersonal, you might have these sorts of conversations more than once.
Why exactly do you feel uncomfortable on the sports team you are currently on? If you aren’t out to your team, does it feel like you’re lying? Remaining in the closet to keep yourself comfortable or safe is not deception. Do you feel like you’re lying to yourself or that your presence on the team is inherently misgendering to you? If that is the case then that team may just not be the place for you to be. Is there a mixed gender team for the sport? You could consider switching to that team. If not, and if being on a men’s team feels more uncomfortable/unsafe than being on the women’s team, then you might just need to stick that weird feeling out for a bit. Talk to the friends that you are out to about how you’re feeling, and if one of them is on the team—or if there is someone on the team you trust to come out to—talk to them whenever you might feel like you need reaffirmation or reassurance. I think this question might be the hardest one, because a team both includes many other people, and is also more structured than a friend group. I will admit that I don’t know the best ways to go about addressing this particular problem, but when in doubt, communicating with people tends to be the best choice.
I hope this has helped at least a bit, and please know that your gender is allowed to be complicated. It is allowed to change. You ultimately have more right to self-determination about how you identify than others, because you know yourself and your gender better than anyone else ever can (even if you knowing yourself just means you have a more sophisticated understanding of how confusing everything is—being confused is completely valid as well).
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"I am a feminine-appearing person who recently realized that I am genderqueer. How do I strike a balance between wanting to be open about who I am (pronoun preferences, I don’t like to be referred to as "miss" or "lady", etc) and not wanting to have to explain my admittedly confusing gender identity to every family member, friend, and co-worker?"
- Question asked by Anonymous and answered by Red Davidson as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
I‘m going to be 100% honest with you: these are things I am also currently struggling with, down to finding my own gender confusing. So first I’d just like to say: coming out to yourself is just as hard (if not harder) as coming out to other people. So good job and congratulations.
I’m so glad that you know you don’t have/want to explain everything about your gender to other people. Because you really don’t owe an explanation to anyone (not even yourself, remain confused about your gender for however long you please). Assuming you are surrounded by nothing but wonderful, accepting people, the way you come out doesn’t have to involve anything beyond saying “I don’t identify as a girl, and I’d prefer you use [your pronouns] to refer to me.” And you can also specify what sort of gendered (or non-gendered) language you’d like people to use for you (here’s a list of gender neutral/queer titles!) As long as people are respecting you, and referring to you using the language you prefer, you really don’t need to worry about whether or not they know the complexities of how you identify.
Of course, not all people are wonderful. I would brace yourself for invasive and insensitive questions—even if you’re surrounded by well-intending people. In that case you can direct them to trans 101 resources online (or just tell them to google it themselves). A quick Google search pulled up a “Tips for Trans Allies” article on GLAAD’s website. I obviously don’t know your family, friends, or co-workers, and I definitely hope that they will at least try to be accepting, but if there is a chance someone will react with outright transphobia and hate, please know how to prepare yourself for that. Is it safe to come out at work (physically, emotionally, and for job security)? Is it safe to come out to all of your friends and family, or will you need to make some difficult decisions about who you come out to and who you don’t?
Also know that you can come out to different people at different times and in different ways. If you know a few people who are likely to respond really well, tell them first so that you have a system of support in place in case coming out to other people goes poorly. If it’s easier to come out to some people via written words, send e-mail or write a letter. If you want a large group of people to know at once, you can make a Facebook status about it. Maybe try buying or making a pin with your pronouns on it. I occasionally write my pronouns on my wrist in sharpie, although that’s something I do more for myself than for others. And if you want to give a more detailed explanation to some people, do!
Also know that if the way you identify and think about your own gender might change over time, and that’s okay! It might mean you are asking for different things from people, or that the way you come out may change over time. Gender (and sexuality) can be just as much of a process as coming out is.
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"So I’m agender, and I’m going to a wedding. I need formal wear, but neither dresses nor suits work for me. I was thinking of just wearing a waistcoat over a dress shirt and pants, along with a tie, but I’m worried that it won’t be formal enough. Are there any other formal clothing options that might work, or should I just go with the possibly informal outfit and hope for the best?"
- Question asked by Anonymous and answered by Anita Dolce Vita as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
Your question really hits home for me because my partner is currently in the same boat as you. While she identifies as female, she presents as androgynous. (Gender identity and gender expression are two different concepts. They can be related, but do not have to be.) She is filled with dread whenever we get an invitation to a wedding, graduation, or any other event that calls for formal attire because, like you, she does not want to wear a dress, but also feels that suits are too masculine. Conversely, I get super excited for formal events because I love dressing up and I can never turn down a good excuse to shop for a new dress. While I’m happily pursuing stores in search of the perfect dresses and stilettos and chandelier earrings, my partner is following me around, depressed that she cannot find anything to wear. Sometimes, she gets so stressed that it takes the joy out of attending formal events for both of us, because I feel sad and worried when she’s unhappy at the event and the days leading up to it.
Recently, she and I have been throwing around the idea of having a commitment ceremony. Once again, the issue of what she could wear reared its ugly head; It is truly frustrating that clothing options are so limited, narrow, and binary!!! She and another reader inspired me to write a piece on androgynous wedding attirefor dapperQ. This piece may be a good starting point for you. But, as I mentioned to the reader who submitted a similar question, providing individualized wedding attire recommendations is a bit challenging without knowing the general theme of the wedding (colors, setting, flowers, etc.), the level of formality (black-tie, casual, etc.), location (outdoor, indoor, beach, ballroom, city, country, etc.), season (winter, summer, etc.), and your personal style (preppy, street Goth, hipster, etc.) I’m going to give you a few options based on style. I’ve also created a Pinterest mood board to give you a ballpark visual idea of these recommendations, as well as some pattern, color, and texture inspiration.
You mentioned you were going to wear a vest. However, in my opinion, a good blazer or sport coat can be just as formal and gender-neutral as a vest. (Check out dapperQ’s post on the difference between a sport coat, blazer, and suit jacket.) The typical preppy uniform might look something like a button-down shirt under a navy blazer, paired with tan dress trousers and brown dress loafers. But, you can infuse your own personal style in this traditional, preppy template by adding unexpected touches. For example, if you’re comfortable going bold, wear a button-down with a unique pattern or interesting color, like plaid or hot pink, under your navy blazer. Additionally, instead of wearing a necktie or bow-tie, I recommend affixing an eye catching brooch or collar bar where your collar buttons at the top-center of your shirt. An anchor brooch could really drive home a preppy, nautical theme.
There is much debate about what exactly constitutes heritage style (think tweed, corduroy, patterned knits), but the aesthetic is definitely popular now and one you can use as inspiration if you want to stick with a vest rather than wearing a jacket. Opt for a herringbone vest and, as I suggested above, let interesting patterns and colors tell your style story. I personally really like the combination of tweed vests and red or burgundy colored dress trousers. You can go sans tie and add some cool accessories like a vest pocket chain/watch, collar chain (antler collar chains are a fun option for a heritage ensemble), or a stylish lapel pin. Oh, and socks! Don’t forget that you can get a lot of style mileage out of a good pair of patterned socks.
Musicians, artists, and cool hunters can be pretty good at bucking classic styles. If you are bold, fashion-forward, and like to draw outside the lines, you can get really creative. How about a black blazer or vest paired with a leopard print button-down, teal trousers, a collar chain, a homemade lapel pin, and studded dress shoes? Or, go all out power-clashing in a long, tailored black vest, a pair of plaid dress pants, and a polka-dot or stripped button-down? After all, it’s a wedding…not a funeral.
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"I’m pretty comfortable with myself and my genderqueer-ness when I’m alone, but as soon as I find myself around other people, I start to question my gender roles. I find myself constantly asking, "Am I more masculine right meow? Or feminine?? What am I trying to convey to the world?" Getting dressed in the morning is a nightmare. How do I DEAL."
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Erika Lynn as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
First of all, I’m a dog person, so I would have said “masculine right woof.” But, more importantly, I can relate. For much of my adolescence, my gender presentation and roles were determined by the people around me. Sometimes, I’d try to be really masculine to fit in, and other times I’d try to be incredibly femme to stick it to my parents. But most of the time, these changes were unconscious, and I’d only notice them after the fact, when someone pointed out to me that my behavior changed in different settings. I used to think of this as a bad thing, as a sign of inauthenticity, but as I got older, I realized that having your gender role and presentation informed by those around you is actually fairly common, and can be really good and important.
Gender, I like to think, isn’t so much something we are, but rather something wedo. And we all do gender in different ways. Cheerleaders in layers of makeup, all trying to wear skirts shorter than each other, are doing gender one way. Football linebackers (they’re the big ones, right?) trying to bulk up more than the others are doing gender their own way. Drag queens trying to out-fabulous each other are doing gender their way. To each group, doing gender can mean very different things, and someone existed in all three circles, as a cheerleader, a linebacker, and a drag queen (maybe a character on Glee?), then they would be doing gender in different and equally valid ways, depending on the situation and the people around them.
Now, it does seem like this is causing you discomfort, so I would suggest that when you’re in different settings, look for specific ways that you do gender that you dislike. If you want to change your gender presentation to something you feel more comfortable with, then identifying those specifically gendered things you do in different situations allows you to know what you might want to change; that is, it allows you to know how you can do gender differently.
As for the clothing question, many people, myself included, have very fluid gender presentations, and it seems like you might as well. That question seems to haunt you in the mornings, but actually I do something similar myself. I usually ask myself how I’m feeling, and what I want to do (in terms of gender) today. And from that, I pick out an outfit—sometimes a cute frock, other times a ripped, tye-dyed t-shirt. Either way I’m doing gender differently.
One thing that might help ease any discomfort is to stop labeling different actions as “masculine” and “feminine,” and to think of doing gender in terms of specific action sets and behaviors. For example, “Today, I want to be perceived as rough-and-tumble and tough,” or “Today, I want to be dainty and passive,” or “Today, I want to be tough, dainty and assertive.” These are all ways of thinking about how you want to do gender outside of the gender binary. Sure, the first two could be lined up with “masculine” and “feminine,” but by stripping them of that context, they can be perceived more as socially constructed, as something we create.
As someone who’s genderqueer, you have the privilege of getting to define what gender is for you. Thinking of gender as different sets of actions, behaviors or perceptions rather than as a combination of masculine and feminine traits might give you more personal freedom and alleviate any discomfort you feel with your presentation. It also allows you to look more specifically at actions you do in different groups, and, as I said earlier, this can help you determine which actions and behaviors you like doing around certain people, which you don’t, and which you want to get rid of.
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“I’m currently doing the hand holding kissy thing with the cutest girl in the world ever, but we have a problem. She is my girlfriend, but because I identify as non-binary we don’t know what to call me! *gasp shock horror* Because her calling me captain sexy pants in public isn’t exactly acceptable (IDK why tho) much love from the cap.”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Tyler Ford as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
First of all, I’m really excited for you because finding the cutest person in the world for you is a really lovely thing.
Now, your situation is actually pretty cool because ultimately, YOU get to decide what you want to be called. If you haven’t already, you and your girlfriend can have a brainstorming session in which you throw around the most creative names you can think of to figure out what resonates with you.
I’m a pretty big fan of “babefriend” or “babe” at the moment, because it makes me feel like the babe that I am. I also like to be called “heart,” as in “this is my heart, Tyler.” For me, it really depends on the relationship I have with a person – I wouldn’t want someone I’d been dating for two weeks to call me their heart, but it’s a totally individual choice. Half of the fun is just experimenting with terms and names. You could even end up with a few that you rotate with!
I’ll leave you with a few more examples just to get the brainstorming session started: “person” (if you watch Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll get the sentiment, but if you don’t it may sound too informal), “love,” and the ever-popular “partner.”
Good luck, Captain,
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