Validity of identity?

Questions and discussions about gender, gender roles and identity.
Raffles
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Validity of identity?

Unread post by Raffles »

Anyone else ever struggled with the idea of not being "non-binary" or "trans" enough? How do you typically deal with that?

For a little context/where I'm coming from: For a while last year, I felt really attached to the agender label. It's not that I don't now; it's more that I've just come to terms with the fact that I won't really be accepted as or seen as agender. It seems like no matter what I do with my presentation, I'll always be read as a woman. I'm afab, so that's just been my whole life so far. I don't want to spend my life fighting people to see me the way I think I see myself.

I definitely don't feel like a man. I feel like a woman to the extent that it's how I function in society. Deep down, I just feel like a person. Not a man, not a woman, and not something else. Just me. But isn't that how everyone feels?

I do feel really guilty about about identifying as agender because I don't feel like I deserve/have earned the label. I feel like it's kind of not worth it for me to identify as agender and just accept myself as cis. Has anyone else experienced this?
Urna
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Re: Validity of identity?

Unread post by Urna »

Hi Raffles,

The question of being "trans enough" or "nb enough" or "gnc enough" etc. is a widespread doubt, and I'm sorry that this has been stressing you out for some time, alongside the horrible misgendering you've been confronting. First: yes, you are absolutely agender enough, simply because agender is how you see yourself, because it's an identity that you find comfortable, and because it is what you wish to be seen as by others. These Scarleteen articles will definitely bring you some comfort and reassurance.

As for everyone feeling like a "person" deep down inside, rather than their gender: I wouldn't be so sure that this is universally the case. For many people (both queer and cis), their gender identity may be essential to how they view their personhood and their selves. The fact that you don't count gender as one of the essential facets of your inner self is all the indication you need that you're fully agender. Embrace it!

Second, gender and sexuality markers are not meant to be earned, they're meant to make you feel comfortable both in your own person and out in public. They're also meant meant to help you explain personal traits, preferences, and experiences that you find don't fit the cishet mold. So there's absolutely nothing to feel guilty about regarding your being agender. No authority is going to come up to you and confer the agender identity upon you as a recognition of your suffering, or whatever. You are that authority for yourself, and you don't need to climb a couple mountains before you feel worthy of being agender.

Sorry I didn't answer whether or not I've felt the same way as you do right now, but I'm sure some of our other users will share their experiences!
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Raffles
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Re: Validity of identity?

Unread post by Raffles »

I think a part of my hang up is that I tend to be a go big or go home type of person. I haven't had great coming out experiences (three accepting people, but two of them are forgetful of pronouns and things, and then one out right "non-binary doesn't exist" person), so I'm not particularly motivated to do anymore coming out. It feels like the pay off just isn't there, like it's just easier to be in the closet/go back to being cis. I guess my question is, does coming out ever get any easier? Is there any way to make it easier?
Elise
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Re: Validity of identity?

Unread post by Elise »

Hi Raffles, I'm so sorry to hear that your coming out experiences have been so disheartening and with people who are either not doing a good enough job at respecting your identity or invalidating it altogether. That is really hard to deal with, and completely valid to feel let down.

With regards to coming out in future, I would encourage you to find spaces in which you can come out safely and find friends and community that will help you feel affirmed and valid, rather than going back into the closet, if that is possible to do and stay safe. Whilst these people so far have been rather sucky in their response, there are people out there who will really love and accept you for who you are. Is there an LGBTIQ Pride group at your college if you're at college, or at a community center that you know of? They can be a great place to start, if you need a hand finding one, there is a great directory for the US here: CenterLink LGBT Community Center Member Directory.

When it comes to coming out, we have a great article about this that also helped me a lot: Becoming Out: a totally non-exhaustive, step by step guide to coming out, in there, you'll find some tips on the conversation and self affirmation, as well as some good tips for making a safety plan and preparing if things don't go to plan.
Emily N
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Re: Validity of identity?

Unread post by Emily N »

Hi Raffles,

I’m so sorry that coming out has been difficult and that some people haven’t embraced your identity the way you deserve. Coming out can definitely be energy draining at times, and you aren’t alone in feeling this! But we also want coming out to be overwhelmingly liberating and validating!

I know you say you like to "go big or go home”, but it’s also okay to choose who you want to come out to, or where you want to focus your energy for coming out - to who, in what situations, on days you have more energy. It’s totally up to you how, when, or if you want to come out and/or explain your identity to others. Do you have any people in your life who you feel like you can get some support from? Having support might help make things gradually easier as you come out to others.

I really like the article Elise shared, it also has a section at the end addressing “When does it get easier?”
Raffles
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Re: Validity of identity?

Unread post by Raffles »

Hello Elise and Emily,

Thanks for you responses. We don't have a queer support group at school which is odd because it's a large university, but I'm graduating college next year anyway, and I'll move to a new area after. I'm really hoping that I can be just be out from the get-go (if I'm in a reasonable accepting area). I think part of what's hard is that I'm coming out to people who knew/know me as a cis woman, and it's much harder to change their mental image of me than it is to introduce myself as a agender person in some ways.

Unfortunately, my support right now is pretty minimal. There is one person who fully accepts me and (presumably) uses the right pronouns, but she lives in a totally different area of the country from me and I haven't seen her in years. I'm pretty used to being my own support system just because of how I've grown up and my situation at home. I'm glad to have found scarleteen, but I understand that it's not really the same as having a real-life support system. It's the problem of "in order to get a support system, I have to come out to people" and that doesn't really feel like a thing I can do at the moment.

There is definitely someone who would support me (I think, but I'd been wrong before), but it's a quasi-professional relationship so it wouldn't be proper for me to ask for that kind of emotional support from that dynamic. I also hardly ever see this person (again, a different area of the country), so it's not ideal even if it were a friendship.
Sam W
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Re: Validity of identity?

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Raffles,

You're right that coming out to people who already know you poses some unique challenges when compared with introducing yourself in a new context. Hopefully as you move into the next phase of your life, you'll get more chances to for people to meet you as you are. Speaking of which, when you think about moving on after college, do you have a lot of ability to choose where you go? If so, it could be a nice exercise to look at communities that seem to be more accepting and see which ones you might like to move to.

It's sound to recognize that asking for this kind of support in a professional relationship is a potentially sticky way to go. I wonder, would visually displaying your identity (assuming it's safe to do so) make you feel more out or valid at all? You mention being a go big or go home kind of person, so maybe wearing colors, words, or pins that indicate this part of your identity would let you be out without having to come out.
Raffles
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Re: Validity of identity?

Unread post by Raffles »

I do have quite a bit of choice where I end up, so that's good.

In terms of presentation, that's been sort of a big struggle for me. I don't necessarily want to fit a stereotype of non-binary in order to be seen as valid. There are some things I do that probably read as more "androgynous" like clothes and hair, but there are some things that I prefer that make me look more like my assigned gender. I do have a pronoun pin, but I'm not really ready to wear it yet.
Raffles
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Re: Validity of identity?

Unread post by Raffles »

Hey, y'all. It's me again.

I've been working with a teacher this semester as a part of my training, and on the first day she asked me what my pronouns are. I saw the "everyone is welcome" rainbow sticker on the board, so I told her that I prefer they/them and was delighted when she used them in front of students. It was great for the first two weeks.

Then I wore a dress. Since then, she's only used she/her for me. A friend asked why, that this was my teacher's response: "Oh yeah, she (Raffles) told me that her pronouns are they/them." I feel like it's my fault that I ruined my chances of being seen as valid by wearing a dress. I tried dressing the way I did on the first day (button down and dress slacks), but it didn't make a difference. I'm only with this teacher for another 6 weeks so it's not really worth it for me to bring it up since I only see her an hour a week, but I'm pretty bummed.

It's starting to feel like I'm doing it wrong, or maybe I am wrong, like everyone knows I'm cis except for me. It's also confirmed my belief that coming out isn't worth it for me, no matter how woke or accepting someone seems.

Would anyone be willing to share any positive and gender affirming coming out experiences that they've had? I'd really like to hear that it's possible and not just complete fiction.
Sam W
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Re: Validity of identity?

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi raffles,

I'm so sorry someone you thought was accepting your identity without weirdness suddenly switched back to the wrong pronouns. For what it's worth, you wearing a dress isn't the problem here; your identity is valid regardless of how you dress, and frankly I'm disappointed in this teacher for jumping straight to dress= only she/her (especially when you'd made your pronouns explicit).

I can't speak to your last question, but I left a message in our staff channels so members of our team who can have the chance to chime in (and hopefully some fellow board users do as well)
JJthedogman
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Re: Validity of identity?

Unread post by JJthedogman »

I absolutely agree with Sam W, sounds like a teacher problem not a you problem!

Here are some positive coming out experiences/gender experiences. For context, I am a trans man, been out/transitioning since I was 14.

Age 14ish, shortly after coming out, my PE teacher ALWAYS called me "young man" to make a point to everyone around me of respecting my gender, and to demonstrate gender-respect in general.

Age 15ish, when I told someone I'd had top surgery, she squealed "OMG! So you're really you!" which was affirming, if also confusing and kinda not the point. I count it as affirming because that was the vibe/overarching feeling, even though I'm still not super sure she knew what top surgery actually means.

Age 15ish, my mom, who believes "teenage boys are for carrying heavy objects" made me carry in a bunch of heavy things from the car. She always made me carry heavy stuff before, but at once point she explicitly articulated that I was a teenage boy and that is why I must carry heavy objects.
Mo
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Re: Validity of identity?

Unread post by Mo »

Something that was really validating for me, when I first came out, was that I had a couple friends who didn't know a lot about trans issues at all (this was in 2005, when mainstream awareness of trans people and the finer details of trans identities was minimal), but were 100% on board with using the right language for me and being supportive. There was something really sweet about knowing these folks whose reaction was basically "I don't know much about this, but good for you!"

While I didn't have an immediately positive coming-out experience with my parents, they did a lot of small things to show they were being affirming once the immediate conflict settled down. My mom used to always buy me some nice clothes as a holiday gift and the year I came out she picked out a really nice shirt and tie for me. Clothes are pretty complicated for me, honestly, but it was a very sweet gesture from her and I knew it was a way for her to signal acceptance.

I struggled a lot with folks being clueless or unaccepting right when I came out, and I spent a lot of time thinking "I must not be doing this right" or "I must not have earned these pronouns yet." It's really easy for me to see now, with several years' hindsight, that it wasn't a problem with ME at all, but I get that it's so much harder to feel confident in that when it's happening to you.
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