More Than Two

 

“Be true to yourself, and do what makes you feel comfortable. Don’t let anyone tell you that your identity is invalid or weird.”

Anyone who has been on Tumblr should know by now that there are more than two genders. Sure, the majority of people these days identify as only male or female, but there are also people who identify as what’s known as a non-binary gender. There’s agender, bigender, transgender, gender fluid, demigirl/guy, and a whole variety of other gender identities for people with different ideals of their bodies.

There is a big difference between gender and sexuality. Sexuality is what gender you’re attracted to, such as heterosexual, homosexual or pansexual, whereas gender is what you feel yourself to identify as on a biological or mental level.
Marshall, who’s currently a junior at Thornton Academy, identifies as a demigirl. Her preferred pronouns are she or they. Demigirls are defined as people who are assigned female at birth, but feel the barest association with that identification. They don’t feel dissociated enough to cause physical discomfort or dysphoria. They feel more associated “female” than “male,” socially or physically, but not strongly enough to wholly define themselves as a “woman.”

Marshall is a demigirl, and her parents don’t accept that identity, so to everyone except close friends, she’s a girl. Due to the lack of acceptance from her parents, she’s using an alias. “I haven’t come out to my family and probably will never be able to. However, most of my friends were aware of the identity before, so they were fine with it. Others are still trying to understand, but are accepting of it.”

Despite being accepted by some friends, there are other people who aren’t accepting of Marshall’s identity and view it as a joke. “People assuming that I’m a cisgender [a word that applies to the majority of people who see themselves clearly as male or female, depending on the sex they were born as] female makes me angry. Erasing my identity is something that makes me very uncomfortable,” These people taunt her, use incorrect pronouns, and don’t show respect for her. “It makes me feel dysphoric when people call me a girl or insist that there are only two genders. I feel as if they are going out of their way to make me feel unsafe in their presence.”

In an attempt to feel more comfortable with her appearance, Marshall cut her hair. She doesn’t see clothes as having gender, so that doesn’t really change anything for her. After her shorter hair cut she said, “I feel closer to my identity. When I look in the mirror, I can see myself not only as feminine, but also as more androgynous in appearance.” She still wears makeup, but she’s more comfortable with the way she looks now without long hair.

A large population of people identify as a non-binary gender, but not all of them know exactly how to go about either coming out to friends and family, or how to make themselves comfortable with the way they look. Marshall suggests the best route is to “Be true to yourself, and do what makes you feel comfortable. Don’t let anyone tell you that your identity is invalid or weird. Non-binary exists in history and other languages.” It’s still hard, but you have to do what you can to feel comfortable with yourself.

In 1910, a German physician named Magnus Hirschfeld created the term “transvestite” for people who feel more comfortable in the clothing of the opposite gender. He also believed that men and women could identify as really any gender, whereas most other physicians at the time thought of transvestites as “latent homosexuals.”
People who identify as a non-binary gender realize at different points in their time. Some people realize at a young age, some realize in high school, some people will realize when they’re 45. Everybody’s gender is specific to them, and their experiences won’t ever be exactly the same as anyone else’s. “As a child I was always kind of a tomboy, but I still did stereotypical ‘feminine’ things… Then, when I was a teenager I realized I wasn’t comfortable getting called a girl. Not just in insulting situations, but also normal situations. After looking stuff up I found a definition that I connected with.”
A New York Times article by Julie Scelfo addresses a way of looking at gender identities that are considered non-binary. “For years, writers and academics have argued that gender identity is not a male/female binary but a continuum along which any individual may fall, depending on a variety of factors, including anatomy, chromosomes, hormones and feelings.”

In 2012, researchers at the UCLA School of Medicine began tests to find out if there were neurological variations between transgender citizens and cisgender citizens. The researchers collected MTF (male to female) transgender participants who had no history of hormonal therapy, along with cisgender men to be tested. The result was though the transgender participants regional gray matter characteristics were closer to male than female, they weren’t completely identical. “The current study provides evidence that brain anatomy is associated with gender identity, where measures in MTF transsexuals appear to be shifted away from gender-congruent men,” wrote the researchers. It’s likely that soon enough, scientists will find distinct features of the brain that correspond to gender identity and expression.

The gender identity conversation is expressing itself in many ways in school from debates and lawsuits about bathrooms labeled boys and girls to students at high schools and colleges who are pushing to get one colored graduation gowns for the students. This would give non-binary students to not have to decide which gender to identify with on a very important day in their life, since it would possibly cause some of them to be uncomfortable.

Despite this popular request, there are few schools who have actually gone through with it. For example, Sharon High School in Sharon, Mass. has changed their gown colors to one so that every student can feel comfortable with the ceremony. Thornton Academy has yet to change from the current maroon and gold robes. “I think it would be a cool idea to not separate the robes between genders.” Marshall comments on the matter. “If not just making the robes one color, maybe a mix of the two? Maroon robe and gold cap, or vice versa.”

In terms of public acceptance of non-binary genders, social media sites such as Facebook have added a “custom” option next to where you select your gender, with a box allowing you to insert which gender you identify with and what pronouns you prefer. This is allowing more non-binary people to feel more connected to their identity, and allowing friends and family to know the proper term and pronouns to use. Slowly but surely, the general public is becoming more aware and more accepting of non-binary genders. It may take a while, and there will always be people who don’t accept anything other than cisgender, but some day the public opinion will shift for the better.

Isis Guignard
Isis Guignard

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