After a lot of soul searching and reflection I came out as non-binary in 2018. I had always known my gender was anything but conventional but finally had the language around gender identity that worked for me. I spent about six months after coming out filled with a huge sense of liberation. I wanted to dance down the street! I knew who I was. I had my own unique identity and was taking exciting steps to understand and explore it.
And here is a note on the difference between gender identity and gender expression. Identity is how you feel about your gender – how you identify and understand yourself. Gender expression is basically how you look. How you look and how you feel may be quite different things. You might feel masculine but wear clothes which are seen as feminine by others. Things like skirts, dresses, some jewellery and high heeled shoes are considered ‘feminine’ where I live and things like trousers, checked shirts and work boots are seen as ‘masculine’ clothes. Of course this is silly because clothes and shoes do not have a gender. They are just fabric with no sense of identity. However, the way people express their gender in the clothes and accessories they wear can mean people get their gender identity wrong and make unhelpful – and often hurtful – assumptions.
Back to my story… When I was a teen and young adult my gender expression was usually considered masculine. I was very thin and had no visible boobs and wore ‘boy’ clothes. I often got called ‘mate’! But flash forward a few decades and my expression is more assumed feminine. That being said, I feel that my expression is very much ‘me’. While I wear jewellery, almost everything else I wear is gendered androgynous or masculine. However even for me my ‘girly’ expression got me puzzling for a while. I felt very much non-binary and agender in my identity but my expression had lots of people making the assumption that I was feminine. I started to doubt my oh so lovely identity and thought ‘maybe I am not trans enough?’ This became a challenging thought and one which haunted me for some time. Thankfully after a while I had an epiphany – gotta love a good epiphany! I realised that if I felt trans that I was trans – simple as that. I realised that my expression was my own and people should not make assumptions about people’s gender based on simply looking at them!
I have a lovely friend who jokingly says about my outfits things like ‘love your non-binary pants’ or ‘loving your transgender dress’. And of course they are absolutely right for if I am wearing something it is non-binary expression because I AM non-binary!
So wear whatever you like I say and people should not be assuming people’s gender identity based on how they express themselves. And I can wear a skirt or pants or anything else I want and it has no bearing on my gender.