The never-ending process of coming out as genderqueer

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Alison Evans

The author Alison Evans identifies primarily as genderflux.

The author Alison Evans identifies primarily as genderflux.

Coming out is never easy. Coming out as genderqueer is its own ordeal.

The main challenge I've found is that many people have no idea what it means to be 'genderqueer'. I generally follow my 'coming out' with "so I guess what that means is" and, with varying degrees of awkwardness, I try to explain myself.

An explanation I often lean on is that to be genderqueer means that I don't identify as a woman or a man. This is a slightly reductive way to describe how my gender feels, but I figure not every person needs to know the gritty details. It's also important to note that, while this is my definition for genderqueer, this doesn't mean everyone who identifies as genderqueer feels the same way. In this article, I use the word 'genderqueer' as an umbrella term for all non-binary genders.

My gender identity is complex and it can be frustrating trying to explain something to someone when I don't exactly understand it myself. I tend to stick with the label 'genderqueer' because it can be as vague or as specific as I want. A lot of the time, I just don't want to talk about my gender.

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I think a more accurate label for me is 'genderflux', which means I experience different intensities of gender. Sometimes I feel devoid of gender, sometimes I feel like a girl, sometimes a boy, sometimes a mix of different genders. It took a long time for me to admit it to myself, because it took a long time to figure out that just because it fluctuates doesn't mean it's a phase.

When I first started coming out to people, I continued using the 'she' pronoun because that's the ones I'd been using up until that point. I then shifted into using both 'she' and 'they', and then to just 'they'. This all took about two years, and now I am shifting to using they, she and he pronouns.

I wanted to change my pronouns from the start, looking back, but I didn't want to draw too much attention to myself. I didn't want to stick out. And I'd seen all the arguments against using singular 'they' as a pronoun. It is an odd experience, listening to someone try to invalidate my existence using grammar.

But I adopted new pronouns anyway, and am lucky enough to have a lot of people around me who know how important it is to use people's pronouns correctly.

Since shifting pronouns, I'm unsure of who I've come out to. Is this person misgendering me or have I just not told them yet? It's also something I tend to forget and if I organise coffee with a friend who I'm out to and a friend who I'm not, trying to navigate this can be a bit of an issue. Do I come out to the friend or do I wait until they've gone to the toilet and tell the friend I'm out to that it's OK?

But being genderqueer generally means you're misgendered every day of your life. This might seem like a cynical thing to say but there is little room in our culture for people like me. If you're cisgender (not transgender), it's easy to overlook how deeply gender is ingrained into almost every action in daily life. Every time I order a coffee, I am called Miss or Ma'am. Clothes, children's toys, toilets, everything is sorted into men's and women's.

Tiny steps are being taken – gender neutral toilets are being introduced in universities, toy aisles are becoming less divided – but this still leaves me in some kind of limbo feeling like I don't quite exist just yet, and I'm sure there are other genderqueer people who feel the same way.  

These small things – being forced to choose gendered toilet cubicle, being called a girl – might not seem bad or even hurtful. And, alone, they're not so bad. But when it's a constant stream of assumptions and misgendering (whether intentional or not), it wears me down.

There is a myth that we only need to come out once. But, in all honesty, queer people have to come out to every single person we meet.