A couple of months ago, I joined a bunch of Facebook groups for gender-nonconforming individuals. If you’d asked me at the time why I was doing this, I would not have been able to give you a clear answer, other than maybe mumbling something about being an ally. To be honest, I wasn’t sure why I was doing it either, other than I really, really wanted the other group members to like me. And, for the most part — barring an incident where I made an unfortunate joke about helicopters that was deemed not okay (long story) — they did. And that made me happy, and that was enough.
Anyway, one day I was driving to a pizza place on my lunch break and (ironically) singing along to This Is Me, and idly wondering why the opinions of a faceless horde of non-binary social media adherents mattered so much to me. And that’s when world-weary Inner Me, tasked once again with the impossible mission of saving me from myself, seized the opportunity and spoke the fuck up:
It’s because you’re non-binary, pootieheart.
“… Oh,” I replied.
And so I ate some Italian food and went back to the office, and sat through a staff meeting, and I listened to financial advisers argue about annuities and investment strategies, all while having a grand mal gender identity crisis, because I am a fucking multi-tasker.
Fun Fact: When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a girl. I played with dolls and wore my pajama bottoms on my head so that I could have long hair, and I wasn’t particularly drawn to traditional “boy” toys or activities (with the exception of Transformers, which I guess shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, really). My parents, Lord love ’em, did their best to gently but firmly steer me in the male direction, and by adulthood, I had concluded that it was all just an early manifestation of my sexual orientation, as understood by a pre-schooler: I liked boys, so therefore I must be girl. And even though I was bullied as a child for effeminacy, as a grownup I was perceived as masculine by other gay men, so I didn’t really question my identity any further. I mean, yeah, sometimes I still wanted to be a girl, but didn’t all gay guys play with dolls when they were kids? And attempt experiments with cosmetics? And actually have to put effort into presenting as male and sometimes wish they’d been born in a different body? I mean, we’ve all been there, amirite?
I used to go to this men’s AA meeting, and I remember somebody once sharing about how, before he quit drinking, he identified as a guy, but when he got sober, he was able to see himself as a man. I really latched onto that. It was easy to call myself a guy, dude, bloke, etc., even if the concept of true manhood always seemed somehow unattainable. But hey, if all I had to do was stay sober and learn to be responsible, I too would one day be manly. And so I stayed sober, and I learned to be moderately responsible, and I patiently waited for that feeling of cohesive manliness to kick in.
It never did. And here we are.
I do need to own that embracing a non-binary gender feels a little appropriative. Like, I’ve never experienced full-blown gender dysphoria, so identifying as something other than a cisgender male equates to co-opting somebody else’s struggle — although this might be a holdover from my years in the Neo-pagan community, where More Persecuted Than Thou is a competitive sport. And, as I’ve poked my head into online gender-variant communities, there is certainly some of that to be found. (“I’m a hieracosexual, tyranogender-rex unicorn, and I am very oppressed.”) But I also found people who were like, “I’m sort of male, but not really,” and “I’m comfortable with my sexual orientation and don’t feel the need to transition, but I also don’t click with being a man.” And it was a huge relief to read these things, not only because I related to them so closely, but because other people were like, “Welcome! What you’re experiencing is legitimate, and there’s totally a word for it.”
The word, as it turned out, was demiguy: “a gender identity describing someone who partially, but not wholly, identifies as a man, boy or otherwise masculine, regardless of their assigned gender at birth.” And I love that there’s a word for it, because if they don’t have to name it after me, then I’m not the only one going through it. And I also love that I no longer have to feel like a failure for not achieving a state of 100% manly-man, because I’m simply not 100% man. And I was never meant to be.
Maybe, had I been raised in a more hands-off, wahoo environment, I would’ve gone full genderqueer by high school and landed in an entirely different life of self-acceptance. And maybe, by the time I’m in my sixties, I’ll have thrown off all social conditioning and become a fey, androgynous creature in a brocade kaftan and showstopping eye makeup, doling out sage advice and love potions to those who come a-calling. For now, though, and despite the technical term for whatever the hell I am apparently being agenderflux, I’m settling into the demiguy label. It feels like an old pair of jeans. I’m comfortable wearing it.
So… hi. I’m a demiguy. My pronouns are he/him or they/them. My rising sign is Cancer. And you know what else? No matter what direction my gender decides to take, I will always be a unicorn.