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“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.

Red Says:

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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