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Coming out as agender?

Posted: Wed Apr 08, 2020 10:37 am
by Raffles
I discovered the term agender back in January. Since then, I've been trying it out and I really like it. The more I think back on my life experiences and what I now understand as dysphoria and euphoria, the more agender makes sense as an identity for me. I'd really love for people to see me as a person (not a woman) and use they/them (not she/her) for me despite my presentation that isn't completely androgynous. However, I'm really scared to come out. I'm so worried that I'm just a cis woman trying to be special, and that I'm making this up for attention. At the same time, every day that goes by, I become more sure of my identity. Due to current circumstances (as well as geography), I can't really come out in person, so I'd have to do it over text/call. Any one have thoughts or advice? I just don't really know where or how to start.

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Wed Apr 08, 2020 11:00 am
by Heather
Welcome to the boards, Raffles, and welcome to finding a framework for your identity that feels right to you! Looks to me like you started here with coming out, so congrats for that!

This is also the gender framework that feels like a best fit for me, in the event you'd like to know some of the company you're in.

I think you need to trust yourself, here: you know how you feel and you know that this isn't about you making things up for attention. By all means, some people's bias leads them to believe that if any of us identity as something other than what they consider "normal" or how they think we should, that it's about special snowflakes and all that garbage. But bias and bigotry have never been good sources of truth: quite the opposite, you know?

I also want to add that looking what our cultures (or even we ourselves) consider androgynous not only just isn't doable for some people <raises hand> no matter what we do, but no one has to look a certain way to have a gender identity. In every gender identity are a wide array of people who look all kinds of ways, including people who look ways that some people might assign a different gender to than is actually that person's. It's not our job to try and "match" how we look with our gender identity unless that's something we want to do for ourselves, and even then, that all is still limited by whatever things it is (money, time, our genetic makeup, what have you). <3

Sounds like you'd like to come out some: any sense of to whom, and what you're looking for in that?

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Wed Apr 08, 2020 1:36 pm
by Raffles
I’ve been thinking a lot about gender expression (and this might turn into its own post because it’s a big topic). There are so many ways to look like a man or a woman, but we tend to have a very narrow definition of what androgynous looks like. On top of that, there’s definitely a pressure to appear androgynous if you’re nonbinary, even though there are people who aren’t nonbinary that present androgynously and people who are nonbinary that don’t. At least for me, the primary motivation for changing my presentation would be to stop the automatic assumptions of my gender. I’d rather people ask than assume, ya know? But that’s a different thread.

As for coming out, I actually impulsively sent a text to my two good friends from high school. The one who’s responded so far reacted positively, so that’s good news! I have another friend I’d like to be out to, but I’m not sure if now is the time. I also worry about coming out down the road. I’m currently studying to be a teacher, and I’m not entirely sure what being out in a classroom as the teacher would look like.

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Wed Apr 08, 2020 1:43 pm
by Heather
If it helps, I know my fair share of out nonbinary/genderqueer/agender teachers and it seems to look like...well, anything else. It's really just a matter of asking for the right words to be used for you, a thing teachers do around a lot of different kinds of identity. Also, when I go and teach in classrooms, I usually manage it just by asking everyone to share their pronouns when they talk (or if it's a smaller group, when we introduce ourselves) and then also sharing mine. More nuanced parts of identity are usually just things that come when and if people get to know me better in that setting.

I agree with you about androgyny. The sad part is I actually think it's gotten a bit better in my lifetime in terms of being more inclusive, but it's still barely so. When I was coming up, we only really had "androgynous" as a term for being nonbinary, and it was pretty literally required you had to have the external expression to match, which nearly always meant whiteness and extreme thinness, at a minimum, two things that people generally can't (and often don't want to) do anything to get. At least now that's expanded a but and there's an understanding that gender identity and gender expression aren't the same thing. That said, I hear you: there is a looooooooong way to go, and I want what you want.

I'm glad your one friend was great about it!

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Wed Apr 08, 2020 2:24 pm
by 0PT1M15T1C
I hope it's okay I add in here a little, when I first came out, I came out as agender. Since then I've found that I identify far more in the binary as a trans male.

While I'm not entirely sure what things are like where you live when it comes to issues around being trans (however you define it), I know for me, it really helped to have an inclusive space finally. In my school we have a teacher who identifies as non-binary, they also run my school QSA. For me, I was able to see an adult that did it and feel supported by those around me, which is something a lot of young people don't talk too much about, but it does come up. I was able to kind of look at this teacher and say "well they're happy, they seem really normal and no one thinks differently of them for it", it also led me to the point where I could say "I can actually do this and be okay." - that was a big deal for me.

I also don't know how open you'd be willing to be about it, but really, I'd say highschool is when a whole lot of kids start questioning that, but not a lot of them have a safe space to do it in (I'm speaking from experience and from those I've talked to), so having an adult that they can trust won't be mad at them and will respect them no matter what, is incredible. I think most trans kids in highschool have that one teacher that really kind of made it okay for them, and I am so grateful those people exist, mine was my 6th grade teacher and my 7th grade social teacher, my friends was their middle school science teacher, another friends was I believe one of the drama teachers. But for all of us, if we didn't have that person, school was absolute hell, where you were being misgendered, disrespected, teased and not heard by others.. it was those teachers that at the end of the day made us think "Maybe I can be okay." So more than anything, if you're going into teaching, PLEASE try to be that person for someone.

Personally, I loved when teachers would do the things that Heather mentioned in their post. When a teacher gave me that option to say "I go by he/him" and know that if anyone had an issue with that, the teacher would help me out a bit. At my school, we also go by last names on roll call unless the teacher has had time to write down all the preferred names which aren't in the system, which just felt freeing that no one would hear my name (granted, now it's the name I go by, but I hated it for a while).

Also, with that teacher, they still go by "Mr." but use they/them pronouns, just to give an example of choices that are up to the person.

Really, though, the point of making this, was to say from a highschool student's perspective, it helped a great deal to have a teacher that I knew would respect me no matter what and somewhat understood what I was going through. It allowed me to feel safe, which when kids are being bullied for it or even just exploring, is honestly one of the best things ever. When you can look at an adult and say "well, they did it, they're okay, maybe I can do that too", it's a really great thing.

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Wed Apr 08, 2020 3:25 pm
by Raffles
Helping students is what teaching is all about. I went to a small private school, and I did not have a single teacher of color from 6th grade through graduation. I had two gay teachers. That was it, and that lack of representation was really difficult for me as a young, queer, person of color. I felt like there was no one I could turn to who would get it. If I can help a student feel less alone, I absolutely will. I'd like to be out for the students, but I'm more worried about all the teachers, administrators, and parents who might not be accepting.

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Wed Apr 08, 2020 3:49 pm
by 0PT1M15T1C
I'm sorry you didn't feel you had anyone and that there was such poor recognition. That really sucks.

At my school, I feel we have quite good representation of a whole variety of things from cultures, to teachers who are people of color, teachers that identify as LGBT and more. There's multiple gay teachers, that trans teacher I mentioned, as well as we actually have a cultural liaison and starting next year, my school starts teaching Cree! I'm so beyond grateful to be at the school I am that has resources (although the majority of the other trans students at my school hate me...long story..) that they do, it makes a difference for sure.

As far as other teachers, I don't know what to really say on that and Heather might have some better information. I always admired the way the teachers handled things with the comments that came up about them, it was a good way for me to see how they properly handled things, but also, I go to an inclusive school...My sister was a highschool physics teacher for a year in Tennessee (I'm surprised she made it the whole year, honestly) and the way she was treated, let alone paid was disgusting to hear about, she was hardly treated as a person so she had kids that were major problem students with no backup from the school. I always admire teachers for the amount of BS they put up with on a daily. Really though, coming out depends so much on where you are, right down to to the school you're in, and I really wish you the best with that. I wish I could say all schools are a safe place, but sadly that's not the case, I really hope you're able to find a school you're able to be yourself at.

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Sun Apr 19, 2020 11:23 pm
by vlad
Hi, this is my first post in the message boards! I am agender and I came out to my partner last month.

My first advice is to start with explaining all the words that someone who has ZERO knowledge of LGBTQ+ stuff needs to know to understand what you're experiencing (like agender, nonbinary, etc.). I started with saying that I'm agender, then I defined agender, then I explained how nonbinary is an umbrella term that agender fits into, and then I explained how transgender is an umbrella term that nonbinary fits into!

Secondly, think about how your coming out will affect your relationship with whomever you're coming out to and focus on what that person can do to support and affirm your identity. They will greatly appreciate your guidance in this. For example, I explained that my partner could still refer to me as his "girlfriend" but that gendered language (https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/gender-inclusive-language/) generally made me uncomfortable.

Sorry for the late reply! Best of luck.

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:49 pm
by Raffles
I recently heard someone refer to me with they/them pronouns for the first time. It wasn't the huge gender euphoria moment I was hoping for. In fact, it made me feel more like a fraud. Because I didn't experience euphoria, I feel like I'm not actually agender. On the other hand, every time people refer to me as she/her, I silently correct them in my head. Anyone else have a problem adjusting to new pronouns?

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 4:39 pm
by Mo
I don't think you have to experience euphoria, or that not experiencing it "means" anything about your identity. Sometimes hearing the right pronouns used for you feels weird or like a bit of a relief or like something else entirely, and any of those reactions are valid and just fine to have. I know that when I've changed pronouns there have been instances where hearing the right ones has felt amazing and instances where it was just fine and didn't feel like much of a big deal, good or bad.

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2020 6:34 am
by Raffles
Hey y'all, it's me again with coming out struggles.

I started classes this week, and the professors have been really great about introducing themselves with pronouns which is great. But having to do introductions in front of my friends that I'm not out to is nerve wracking. It feels like I have to pick between outing myself or misgendering myself, both of which aren't good options. I understand the importance of pronouns, but I feel like this isn't the best way either. I wish there were a better way to do that, or just let people do it on their own terms.

Anyone else in the same boat?

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2020 5:02 pm
by Mo
Those sorts of introductions can be tough; I think they come from a good place, and in some environments they can be super affirming, but in a situation where someone might have to make the choice you're making, to out yourself or misgender yourself, they can add additional stress that I'm sure the professors don't intend to pile on anyone. Not intending it doesn't make it not suck, I realize, but I assume this is coming from a good place. I wonder if, since these are presumably people who care about getting pronouns right and helping students be comfortable, you could give some feedback about that privately. Do you think the professor asking students to email the name and pronouns they'd like to have used during the class directly to them at the start of the semester would be a better way to do it? If you had another suggestion on how to handle it, it could be worth throwing that out to see if any professors are receptive.
I realize that doesn't help you right now, sadly, but it still might be worth thinking about.
I have definitely had times where I didn't provide the pronouns I wanted people to use because I was worried about someone making a big deal about it, or about what I'd do if people didn't use the pronouns I asked for. I honestly didn't have any great strategies for dealing with it; I was very hesitant to rock the boat or ask for what I wanted at that time.

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2020 5:46 pm
by Raffles
It's alright. I ended up emailing professors that specifically asked for pronouns as a part of our first day introduction. I am studying to be a teacher, and this is definitely an experience I'll continue to think about even when I'm in the field. Sometimes we do things to be more inclusive and they backfire, so I think it's important that we keep putting ourselves in other people's shoes (though I know I'm probably preaching to the choir here).

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:11 pm
by Raffles
I'm back once again.
I had a pretty bad coming out experience recently. I've got another friend who often greets me with "girly," and that's a tad dysphoric for me (because I don't really think I'm a girl). She's maybe a little more accepting (has a history of accepting binary trans people and asking people she wasn't sure about for pronouns), but I'm really hesitant to come out given how poorly it went the last time. I just feel like it's not worth the emotional labor. If I have to choose between rejection and someone constantly misgendering me, I guess I'll choose being misgendered? I don't feel as pressured with other people because if it's just pronouns I can put up with that. But one of the things that made me think I was agender if the first place was the uncomfy/weird feeling I get whenever people reduce me to a gender ("hey girl, "you ladies," ect).

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Sun Sep 20, 2020 7:56 am
by Alexa
I'm really sorry that you had such an awful experience. That's not fair and you didn't deserve it.

I would hate to set up a dichotomy where you expect to either be rejected or misgendered by the people you come out to. I know that our bad experiences can make us fear that those are our only options, but they aren't and you deserve better. You should be able to tell any friend how they can respect and care for you, and people who don't accept those terms are probably not good friends to keep around in the long run.

That being said, I know that coming out is scary, especially with a history of bad experiences. Do you have supportive people in your life who you're already out to that could support you in the process with this friend?

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Sun Sep 20, 2020 10:00 am
by Raffles
I'm only out to 4.5 people (the .5 is the person where it didn't go over well and I don't think he thinks of me as agender). All of them are out of state/country. The only friend we have in common is the one who rejected me. This was a very long and convoluted way to saying that I don't really have anyone that could support me. If I wanted support, I'd have to come out to other people which is kind of where the problem is in the first place. I think I'll probably just leave it because it's only a few more years and I'll move away when I'm done with school.

It does make me wonder about the future, though. I don't think I'm gutsy enough to be out to people from the moment I meet them, but I also don't want to establish relationships on a lie. On the other hand, I don't want to lose friends when I come out. I'm still in touch with the friend who rejected me, so that's hopeful I guess. We just continued on like it never even happened. I suppose I could keep doing that, but it really sucks no matter what.

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2020 7:27 am
by Sam W
Ooof, that's a rough coming out situation to be in. There may be some ways to test how coming out would go with those people who are closer by without quite coming out yourself, so if that's something you want to try we could brainstorm ways to do it.

It really is crappy to feel like your options are "be misgendered" or "come out and have that go badly." Even more so because that dichotomy isn't something you created, it's coming from other people's weirdness around any non-normative genders. If what feels like the least crappy option is to not come out to any more people right now, then that's an option you get to choose. It may not be the ideal option, but when we talk about coming out safely, that includes emotional or mental safety, so you get to prioritize those in whatever way feels best to you.

With thinking about the future, that might be a place where it's helpful to think about all the different circumstances under which we meet other people. Odds are there will be some situations where you can signal your gender without having to have a big coming out conversation (for instance, situations where people are also introducing their pronouns; even if they/them doesn't immediately communicate agender specifically, it should clue people into not making assumptions about your identity).

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2020 11:00 am
by Raffles
Also, when I've tried to be open, people just... forget? In an introductory email, I signed off with they/them pronouns. We met today, and he was like "ah yes Miss. Raffles, she/her." This has happened a few other times with a few other people too. So it's like even when I'm out, it doesn't matter and I get misgendered anyway.

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Tue Sep 22, 2020 6:52 am
by Sam W
Oh my god, that is so frustrating! I'm sorry you're dealing with that even after you come out to people. I know that's why some folks do things like wear pronoun buttons, but that comes with it's own set of risks/rewards, so it may be something you've already considered. When those incidents happen, are those times or places where you feel like you can correct the person? Or does it feel more like one of those instances where it feels like you'd rather let it slide?

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Tue Sep 22, 2020 7:51 am
by Raffles
This particular case was a teacher that I'm observing (I'm studying to be a teacher so we sit in on their classes). I'm only working with him for about a month, so it's not that big of a deal. I wonder if asking people for different pronouns (or even identifying as agender) is worth it at all. I'd almost rather people misgender me because they just don't know rather than misgender me because it's just not important/on their radar. It's like I'd rather people touch my back (even though I hate it) because they don't know that I don't like it compared to the people who know but just don't care. It's really just back to the original problem but with an added option: be misgendered, be rejected, or both.

Sorry this is such a downer, but it's really just a struggle.

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Tue Sep 22, 2020 8:14 am
by Sam W
No need to apologize, it really is a downer of a situation and you deserve space to talk about it. Would it be helpful to just use this space to vent or process for a bit? Or would you like to keep brainstorming potential ways of addressing this situation?

Re: Coming out as agender?

Posted: Tue Sep 22, 2020 8:52 am
by Raffles
I think I'm venting because I don't see a great solution. I understand that the solution is probably standing up for myself, but I don't always have the energy to do so or know if it's safe. Any and all recommendations are always welcome!