We currently live in culture trying so desperately to figure out how to be human and humane that there is a disturbing backward trend that results in people clinging so desperately to ignorance and fear that there is an acceptance of inhumane treatment and actions, to the point it is celebrated and stoutly, and violently, justified to act in such a manner. Somehow, somewhere in this painful growth spurt in humanity, any thought, existence, idea that makes an individual uncomfortable is automatically wrong and that person is justified to act in any manner they see fit to address it and that action should be automatically accepted because said person is just acting authentically, and well we should accept all people for who they are…
I call bullshit.
In my many conversations with my family regarding my gender identity, I’ve seen this issue pop up time and time again as a rebuttal to my existence and the changes occurring as a result of it. But there is one question that has come up time and time again that stops me in my tracks (or some similar derivative of the question).
“Why do I have to change what I call you just because you don’t like it?’
It may be one line, but there is so much being said with this that tears right through me.
“I don’t like what you are becoming.”
“I don’t like that you make me uncomfortable.”
“I don’t like that you are making me think outside of what I am used to.”
“I am angry”
“Them/They/Their is just stupid and I don’t want to have to think about this.”
“I don’t want to take the time.”
“God, this gay thing is just going to a new level.”
“I already accepted you were gay, what else do you want?”
“Well, you look like a girl so that is what you are.”
“Just another feminist social-justice warrior trying to force change where change isn’t needed.”
“First you’re a lesbian. Then you are pansexual. Now you are non-binary. What’s next?”
“You are just doing this for attention.”
“I don’t understand this and I resent you for making me do something I don’t understand.”
“But Faith,” you say, “that is not what they said. This is just stuff you are coming up with within your mind.”
Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that only a few of those sentences have not been said to me concurrently with the original sentence. But just because something wasn’t said explicitly doesn’t mean that thought wasn’t created, or inferred. The dangers of advanced thought mixed with intense emotions. The darkest fears coming to the surface that are then reinforced by the actions of those closest to us. No, because people who claim to love and accept me, in the same breath, have said these words to me.
I grew up when homosexuality was acknowledged, but still not talked about. Coming out as a teenager was automatically belittled and denigrated because of age, economic status, race and crippling fear. The age of information and technology was just advancing, but with any jump in civilization, fear-mongering was attached to the rapid change. At 15, coming out as a lesbian was the ultimate rebellion in my family. Something that had to be rapidly addressed, and then to make sure it was buried with the rest of the family skeletons, it was mocked, belittled, and stripped of any semblance of power or grace. I was accepted because it would look bad on a family that touted family first, to cast off a family member. I then became the exception. I had good grades, played sports, and followed the family motto. Being gay was just an oversight and something to be joked about at the holiday tables.
I was just (insert dead name). They didn’t see gay or lesbian. They just saw me and being gay was just whatever. Yay right? Except not, because being blind to my sexuality was thought to be a form of acceptance…when instead it became a cage I raged against while outside of it my captors congratulated themselves for accepting me with such openness.
Do not mistake me, I know I am loved and I do truly love my family back. My beautiful, blind family taught me how to love, how not to love, how to fight, how to be a diplomat, the differences between right and wrong, and what family truly means. I just don’t think they meant for those lessons to be turned on them. I don’t think they meant for me to turn a critical eye on them as I continued to grow and fight for the person I was meant to become.
But blind acceptance is just that, blind, and leads to the battles I face today as I continue to navigate my own awareness and experience with my gender. I placated my family. I made it okay to be blind out of fear of being kicked out, my safety, and my own ignorance. I allowed myself to be caged because I didn’t know I was being led to one until it was too late. I didn’t know I could say that it was not okay to make jokes, to belittle my sexuality. I was afraid to say it hurt because I was afraid of my family. Afraid that they would turn on me if I didn’t make it easy for them to shove my sexuality aside. As if it was my responsibility to make life easy for them because I dared to challenge their status quo.
And none of this was said outright, but like most forms of gas-lighting and emotional manipulation, have been implied. Do I think this was done to me maliciously? No, not by everyone. But whether the intent was there or not does not matter. Just because you don’t mean to hurt someone does not undo the damage, it just allows for a different conversation surrounding forgiveness and future action.
I am digressing, but at least it’s applicable to my current situation. Because now, 15 years later (interesting coincidence not lost here) I stand before my family as a human being who IS a non-binary, androgyne pansexual. And I’m getting a lot of pushback because, unlike my 15-year-old self, I am not bending to the pressures of my family (and friends because they are family to me) to make “acceptance” simple. Because it wasn’t acceptance before. It was barely tolerance, and I am done simply being tolerated.
Because being tolerated leads to conversations where I’m being told that I hurt someone’s feeling because I said I’m not a girl and that I should accept being called female because someone feels I am one. That I should give time for people to adjust but also accept that my pronouns and identity won’t be accepted because it’s just hard. That I just make it hard, because I’m like these other kids who just change everything on a whim, and are social justice warriors wanting everyone to get a participation trophy and what’s next? People identifying as trees?
Please take a moment to chew on these comments…they’ve all been said to me. Some as a “joke,” some in exasperation and frustration, and some literally screamed at me.
I’ve been told that I’m confused. I’m messed up. I’m killing someone’s fun because I asked for my name to be used. So no, I just have to accept what people call me because I’m the one who is problematic. I’m the 15-year-old who fell head over heels for a girl in their English class. I’m a girl because I have boobs and a vagina, and I can’t be a guy because I have those body parts and I have to stop playing pretend…
Because it is just too hard and they don’t want to do it, and if someone has to accept me then I just have to accept them.
I know it was like, 1300 plus words ago, but remember that disturbing trend I started off talking about? It sucks being on the receiving end of that smoking gun. But we are a world who learned to shoot someone who outdrew us… and so many people under the LGBTQ+ umbrella draw too fast.
I should be angry, and bitter, but I find myself sad. I guess it’s why I write. So others know they are not alone. Even if only 1 person reads this, they are not alone.
Because it isn’t okay. It isn’t okay for my family to tell me that I have to accept their ignorance and refusal to truly see me, simply because it’s hard. Existence is hard, that doesn’t make it okay to misgender me, or use the wrong name, simply because it’s what they are used to. Because they don’t want to stop and think about why I’ve come forward and revealed who I am as a person. Because they don’t want to think about how much harm has been done to me all these years because I was afraid of them. Because they don’t want to contemplate being something that is feared. That, as accepting as they are, they are part just like those people on the news, spewing hate simply because they feel they have a right to that hatred. Intention my friends.
Humanity is fighting to grow, to evolve, into one where love and acceptance replace fear and hatred. Where self-compassion replaces self-hate. Where a person isn’t judged instantly based on their sex, or who they are or aren’t sleeping with. What is so wrong with living in a world where we treat each other with grace and dignity?
It’s what I love so much about being queer. I get filled with this, almost overwhelming, sense of understanding and acceptance. That I feel that I actually understand what it means to look at someone, and see all of them, and love them because all of those aspects of their being matter. That being queer taught me to celebrate the smallest techniques that created a work of art, and also be able to step back and be awed by the big picture that that technique helped to create.
Does anyone else understand that? That it isn’t acceptable when you say “oh I don’t see you being non-binary, I just see Faith,” because being non-binary is a part of my big picture and it’s important and it’s visible.
It’s important now, right now. Today. For me, and for so many other people. It isn’t a new trend. It isn’t cool or fashionable to be non-binary. To be genderqueer. To be transgendered. Or gay. Or straight. Or everything else under humanity’s umbrella. It is existence. It is breaking down the big picture and appreciating the small pieces because right now the big picture is hurting. Because the big picture is mocked, and feared, and hated because so many don’t want to accept it because they don’t see themselves in it. But they are there. They are heard and loved.
But hatred, ignorance, violence, and cruelty are unacceptable. We get families belittling generation after generation, and infighting within generations and social snobbery and self-entitlement which leads to everyone talking, but no one listening.
Like no one listened to that 15-year-old kid who chose coming out as a lesbian over talking about how they didn’t feel right in their own skin. That female was wrong. Because they were afraid. Because they chose “the lesser of two evils” because they were taught that they were deviant. That they were wrong. That it was their responsibility to ease other’s discomfort for simply existing.
(Deep breath. Slowly let it out.)
I keep asking how did someone like me come out of my family. How did I happen? A friend told me that I was just living proof of nature. That no matter all the nurture (brainwashing) my family and society threw at me, nature found its way through me. It’s a nice thought. I exist because this is how humanity is supposed to be. I don’t know if it’s true but, in the end, it doesn’t matter. At 30 years old I’m terrified to ask for what I know is the right…is my right…to ask for. For acceptance. For respect. To be heard. For love.
I don’t need to demand it. I am human. I will love back even in the face of that ever smoking gun of hatred, and fear of the unknown, that is running rampant in today’s society. I love my family through the drowning fear and pain. I love this world too much to not fight against the backlash we are seeing across all communities that are considered “other.”
I’m learning to forgive those who taught me to shoot those who outdrew me. Learning and forever growing.