Socialization As A Child: Binary vs Non-Binary

So, I’ve read several posts out there in the netherworld of the internet written by binary trans* people talking about socialization and assigned at birth gender. Specifically, about how cis people will assume that, for example, a trans man who was assigned female at birth knows what its like to be a woman because of how he was socialized as a child.

All of the posts I’ve read refute this as being a cissexist assumption because a trans man was always male, even as a child and even though society may have been directing female socialization at him that doesn’t mean that he was receiving it. Instead he was being socialized as male because he was identifying with and emulating male roles even as a child, he was absorbing male socialization even if it was not directed at him and ignoring female socialization because he knew himself to be male and knew which socialization was appropriate form him no matter what other people said. As a non-binary trans* person, these posts by trans men and women about people making cissexist assumptions about them based on their assigned sex at birth and corresponding socialization were enlightening because the same thing does not hold true for me. I think this is one of the places where the experiences of binary and non-binary trans people diverge.

Growing up, I was socialized as female, and I accepted that socialization. I only had two options and I didn’t identify with male roles or the adult men in my life so, hey, they must’ve been right about me when they told me I was a girl, right? It wasn’t until I got my hands on books and zines about trans* issues and gender identity, specifically stuff with a radical politic, that I had the words to describe things that I’d felt all my life. I think that’s the difference, as a binary trans person, you have access to examples of what your true gender looks like, you have access to socialization that you identify with.

However, as a non-binary trans* child all you have access to are two genders that you don’t identify with, but you are told that these are the only two genders in existence and you must be one or the other. I think this is why it took longer for me to come to a conclusion about my gender and why for me and many of my friends who are also non-binary our genders are still very much a work in progress, we didn’t know that our genders existed, because we were brought up believing in the false dichotomy of male and female. Now, we’re constructing our genders pretty much from scratch, we have few or no examples to look to for how to live out our genders, except, of course, each other.

This is one of the reasons that I feel like access to information about non-binary gender identities is so important, because I feel like I’d have continued to identify as female indefinitely, despite being uncomfortable, if I’d never become part of the radical community in my city and had conversations about gender and trans theory. Even now, I’m not entirely sure which non-binary gender fits me best, I’m still just defining myself by what I’m not. I suppose I feel as though maybe that wouldn’t be the case if I had had access to examples of non-binary identities when I was younger.

Physical vs Social Dysphoria

via Reader Ramblings: Physical and Social Dysphoria « Neutrois Nonsense.

Question

i just wanted to tell you that i’ve been reading a lot of your posts and that they have helped me immeasurably. there is very little online about non-binary trans people and their body/social dysphoria; that makes me feel a little lonely, sometimes. so your blog is awesome!

i’m having trouble with my chest, i guess. not when i’m naked, not when i’m alone (or alone with my partner). i only have trouble with my chest when i’m in public. i consider top-surgery now and then, but i know i’d miss my breasts when naked and alone. when i’m naked and alone, i feel whole.

i think you’ve been in a place similar to this place. i guess this message is asking for reassurance that this place is real, that real people have gone before me.

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So this is from the blog Neutrois Nonsense by Maddox and this question that one of their readers asked, and the subsequent answer from Maddox are both really good. I wanted to re-post it on here because in some ways this is an issue that I struggle with.

Like the reader who sent in the question, when I am alone, or naked or with my partner my chest doesn’t bother me, in fact, my chest in and of itself never really bothers me because I’m actually quite fond of my breasts. I like having them, I just don’t like being read as female and having breasts is seen as a rather obvious indicator of femininity by people who believe that gender is binary. I know I could never get top surgery because I know I would miss having breasts, but at the same time I also kind of like the idea of being flat chested sometimes. Really, binding should be the best option for me, but I’ve tried it several times (with ace bandages) and it’s been too uncomfortable to do for very long because it impedes my ability to breathe. I suppose I could get a chest binder, but I’m not sure I’m willing to drop that kind of money on this just yet.

I also like that Maddox points out the difference between social and physical dysphoria, because a lot of the dysphoria I experience is social. Most of the time I feel very comfortable and at home in my body, especially  in spaces with friends and allies where I know that my gender identity is respected, but when I leave that bubble, certain social situations make me very uncomfortable. The problem is, that the only real way to rectify those situations that make me uncomfortable would be for me to alter my body/appearance which is something I’m not sure I want to do because I like my body and I like the way I look. Plus, I’ve just never been particularly big on changing my appearance for the sake of others or to influence their perception of me and so to start doing so now would be… weird.

Assigned Gender

I’m kind of conflicted about whether or not to reveal my assigned gender on this blog. On the one hand, I really like the fact that, on the internet, I can actually make a space for myself where I don’t feel gendered or misgendered, it’s something that’s practically impossible in the real world and it’s really a relief to be able to express myself without constantly battling people’s perception of my gender.

However, on the other hand, I really can’t fully explain most of the things I wanted to be able to write about on this blog without revealing the gender I was assigned at birth. There’s really no way for me to talk about my dysphoria without giving it away, and I want to be able to talk about dysphoria, among other things.The whole purpose of this blog was to provide another non-binary trans* perspective about personal experiences because I really feel like there aren’t enough personal accounts from non-binary people that are widely available on the internet. I suppose the crux of it is that I feel like I can’t really provide the personal perspective I would like to without revealing my assigned gender, but I’m kind of loathe to open up one of my few truly genderless spaces to the possibility of gendering/misgendering.

I suppose its really somewhat of a foregone conclusion, I cannot extricate my perspective and experiences from my assigned gender,(as it is the way most people perceive me and therefore affects how they treat me and how I experience dysphoria, oppression and privilege) and I can’t allow that to prevent me from doing what I set out to do with this blog, which is to share my experiences as fully as possible. So, decision made.

Polkadot

Polkadot is a gender non-binary children’s book series written by Talcott Broadhead and illustrated by Rae Ludwig. They just met their fundraising goal on kickstarter and I’m really excited to see how this project is going to turn out because it looks really promising. I think I saw mention of a project blog on their kickstarter somewhere, but I haven’t had any luck finding one, which is kind of a bummer as I’d really like to be able to keep tabs on the project as it progresses.

Philly Trans-Health Conference

So, a first post to get this place up and running, my partner and I are planning on going to the Philly Trans-Health Conference at the end of May/beginning of June and I’m really excited.

Originally I was skeptical about what I might get out of it as a non-binary trans person and an anarchist, but after looking over the list of seminars/lectures I’m actually really enthusiastic. Never having been before and being somewhat of a pessimist, I was expecting a space that catered to white liberal binary IDed trans people in their 20’s and 30’s, instead I found something that was actively and intentionally inter-generational, anti-racist, not particularly assimilationist and even had a few seminars specifically for non-binary IDed trans people. In short, the variety of seminars and lectures planned for the three days of the conference have surpassed my expectations in a positive way, and that has been a fairly rare experience of late.