JKBC // 2 March 2011
[Image shows two blond Playmobil people, one in blue and one in red, separated by a wall of wooden blocks on a black background]
I’m very bad at intro posts, so this is just going to have to stand alone. Suffice to say, I’m JKBC and I’m honoured to have been invited to guest blog at the F-Word.
It took a long time for me to understand, accept and embrace myself. My late childhood and early-mid teens were spent in a zigzag between the two binary genders – I would think myself to be and express myself as one and then the other, alternating every year or two with dramatic changes in appearance and physicality.
A relatively short time ago, I decided to stop bothering ‘presenting’ as any gender because it was too much hard work. It was soon after that that I learned about feminism and anti-kyriarchism and became socially aware, noticing the biases rampant in the world around me. Feminism was a sphere that felt right, especially when I learned about intersectionality. After that, it wasn’t long before I found out that being outside of the gender binary of man/woman was possible.
It’s hard to describe what a freeing notion that was for me. It finally made sense, this niggling feeling that something was wrong. I didn’t get it right at first – started off identifying as genderqueer as a gender identity in itself, before realising that it wasn’t that I had a non-binary gender. It was that I had no gender.
The realisation simultaneously made things easier and harder for me. I’ve always been a person who likes words, and I finally had a word that I felt described me; agender. Armed with that knowledge, I was able to put a name to the body dissonance that had niggled away in the corner of my mind for a long time. I was able to understand why I felt the way I did, why I was uncomfortable with my name, why I was uncomfortable with the gender binary. The knowledge gave me the courage I needed to request a name change socially.
All that was countered by the bad. Now I had a name for the body dissonance, I found it harder to stick it in the back of my mind and ignore it; I had demolished the walls that told me I shouldn’t be feeling it, which made it feel more immediate and painful. I also found myself noticing all the myriad times I was gendered, day in, day out, incorrectly and nonconsensually. And coming out has brought with it a host of problems.
Binarism, the prejudice against those outside of the gender/sex binary (very much intertwined with cissexism), is incredibly normalised. It’s so normalised that in many spaces, until a dialogue is created it will go totally unnoticed. No matter how low its profile, though, it has an impact. It hurts. For me, it is a constant bubbling of lava underneath the crust of my life, and I never know just when or where it’s going to break through.
I do not know how binarism is to be ended. It will fall when the kyriarchy falls, but until that point all I can do is try to fight against it in the individual circumstances in which it crops up. To urge anyone making surveys and questionnaires to either avoid the ‘gender’ or ‘sex’ box entirely, or to allow it to be an open text field. To urge people to try to understand others as people rather than as genders. To urge people to refrain from the belief, expressed in phrases such as ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ that the world is made up of only men and women. To urge people not to assume gender or pronouns based on self-expression. To fight cissexism. To urge people to work against their other kyriarchal attitudes, since all kyriarchy, all oppression, is bad and affects all of us.
It’s going to be a long struggle, as long as that against any part of the kyriarchy, against the whole of the kyriarchy. But it’s worth it. It’s always worth it. And hopefully one day we can exist as ourselves, without lines in the sand or baseless prejudice dividing us, able to grow into and exist as our true selves without condemnation.
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