I have come to a bit of a wall, maybe not one of those entirely immovable sold brick walls, but a wall nonetheless.
I am “out” as a queer non binary guy to most people. To my mum and sister, my partner and close friends, my work colleagues at my part time job which is very open and LGBT* friendly. However, in just over a year I will be getting married to my partner and I will be getting married as LJ. Not as a wife, or husband. In a gender-neutral ceremony. I will be wearing a suit, not a dress. And that means I have to come out again.
It’s not unusual. In fact it’s damn well ordinary for queer people to have to come out again and again and again and again and again…When a cis, straight person takes home a new partner they don’t need to give a warning *this is out of the ordinary*…cos it’s not. But queer kids have to pre-warn the family, the parents. They have to come out. That’s not equality. When I talk about my fiance, people assume I am with a guy, until I say otherwise. That’s not equality.
I’m tired of the cis / hetero normative assumptions that erase queer identities. The assumption that the person you are talking to is straight, or cis. And I’m tired of coming out and having to fight for it. Yesterday in a group conversation, I was lumped in with “girls”. I spoke up and said “I’m not actually a girl”….*pronouns etc blah blah etc….*. The response was:
“well whatever deary, it doesn’t really bother me anyway, I always use the wrong words for people, I call gay men girrrl and queen”
EXCUSE ME??!! Undoubtedly this is not a unique or one off event, most trans people will have come up against this sort of pig-headed imbecile before. But the point is, I specifically stated that the language this person was using bothered me. I told them that I do not use female pronouns or language to describe myself and therefore, neither should they. I became momentarily vulnerable, I came out, and I was shoved back inside. I left the conversation at that point, to protect myself and look after myself.
But the point is this, the language we use everyday can oppress people. The language we use towards a group of people may be erasing someone’s identity. If you see a group of people you perceive as female and address them “hi ladies”, you have erased the gender identity of the non binary person in there. When you address a room with “ladies and gentlemen” you forget the entire spectrum of gender that lies between or outside of those binaries. The language and assumptions we make can force people into coming out over and over again, and believe me it is not something most people wish to repeat.
So what can we do to help? What can we do to be more inclusive? Start with something simple like removing gender from your hellos. Instead of “Hi ladies” or “Hi girls and boys”, how about “hey there folks?”. Instead of asking the woman you work with if she’s bringing her boyfriend to the Christmas do, ask if she’s bringing her partner. Instead of welcoming “Ladies and gents” welcome EVERYBODY!
So the moral of the story is this folks, life as a queer person is tough, and even worse for some than others. If you want to be a good ally, well that means helping and making this easier where you can. That might be petitioning your workplace to include gender neutral terms of address (Mx for example or “customer” instead of “Sir/Madam” in writing). It might mean rethinking how you address you next classroom full of pupils. It might mean asking someone’s pronouns before deciding how you will gender to them. These may feel unnatural, uncomfortable and unusual….but not nearly as painful as being misgendered constantly.
Think before you speak peeps.