This past December, I decided to come out as genderfluid – an identity on the transgender spectrum that falls under the non-binary category. I was terrified, because I know how common it is for people to lose family and friends over their gender identities, and how prejudice against the transgender spectrum often leads to discrimination and violence.
Since then, friends and colleagues have asked me multitudes of questions, often admitting they had never heard of genderfluid or other non-binary identities. The most common question was “why do you want to be a different gender?” For me, it wasn’t a matter of wanting to be different, it was a matter of needing to explain the dysphoria I experienced on a day to day basis. Some days I feel like a man, other days I feel like a woman, variations of both, or neither.
Non-binary UVU alum Angela Moore told me about their experience growing up outside of societal expectations. Their first memory is telling their mother they were okay with being a girl, because, if they were righteous, they could be a boy in heaven. Moore experienced heartbreak after their mother told them it wasn’t true, which lead to self-loathing and eating disorders.
While they have learned to enjoy aspects of their femininity through performing in The Silver Slippers, Moore still doesn’t identify as a woman. “I put on this girl character. I am a drag queen and I’m trapped in this role because I’ve been playing it so long,” Moore said. “Every time I find a way to allow myself to be gender nonconforming, I feel home, safe and sound for that fleeting moment of true expression.”
For many on the trans spectrum, the decision to transition publicly (by changing appearance, names, etc.) is a choice between the risk of violence from others or violence against themselves. According to the National Victims’ Constitutional Amendment Passage, hate crimes against LGBT people increased by 20% from 2014 to 2015, with 62% of reported crimes committed by someone the victim knows.
“I’m lucky that my appearance is masculine enough that people can tell I’m male without question,” said one student who we’ll call Sam for anonymity. Sam expressed that he would feel unsafe if people knew he was a trans man. The dangers of being openly transgender or nonbinary include being harassed in public or followed by strangers. Both situations have happened to former student Brianna Cluck, who is a trans woman. She also pointed out that intentionally using the wrong pronouns for a person is considered emotional violence.
“It’s important to use someone’s pronouns as a matter of respect,” she said. “It’s not just a personal preference like using Tabasco or Cholula sauce, but an integral part of someone’s identity.”
Being respectful and tactful is the easiest way you can be an ally to people on the transgender spectrum. If you’re not sure what pronouns a person prefers, ask. If somebody corrects you when you say the wrong pronouns, don’t freak out – simply apologize and use the correct pronouns in the future. The most important thing is to remember that, despite our differences, we’re all people.