I am a cisgendered woman who feels deeply comfortable in the gender I was born into. I love being female. I loved being a little girl in the 70’s, part princess, part “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar”. And I love being a mother, loved having two kids, one boy, one girl, the perfect match.
So it threw me for a loop last year when my 14 year old told me they were bi-gender. I’d met transgender people before — in fact a 12 step sponsor had moved from being one of the most kick-ass women I knew to one of the most kick-ass men I knew. I thought I was pretty open minded and accepting, for someone from Kansas City. People are people, I loved to say. Flesh is flesh.
But hearing that my kid felt genuinely not one gender or the other, and strongly gender fluid kind of–well, blew my mind. I tried to demonstrate my understanding: “Do you want me to use male pronouns?” I asked. “Because I can totally do that.”
“I’m okay with all pronouns,” they told me.
I asked if they wanted to change their name.
“I don’t know,” they told me. “Not right now.” And as they spoke and read and thought more and more about it, they came more into their own power about their gender fluidity.
“I’m not bi-gender actually,” they told me a year later. “I’m more like — well, I guess you could call it ‘pangender’.”
As a mom, I really wanted them not to be gender atypical. I was keeping my mouth shut, and trying to be supportive. But if I had spoken what I really felt?
It’s such a hard life, I would have said (the same thing my mom said to me when I told her I had a girlfriend). People don’t understand. I want you to be safe.
I want you to be safe. I recognize the fear in that statement, masquerading as concern. I recognize the hypocrisy of working for a sex positive world, yet wanting my kid to be the gender I thought they were.
Fortunately, the world around me is moving fast. It won’t let me sit still in my ignorance. While fearful people try to criminalize authentic identity, a wave of identity positive people try to protect the human rights of transgender people, and often nonbinary gender people, although they are more invisible.
Why must everyone be labeled male or female? Why must anyone identify so strongly with gender at all? In a more equitable world, shouldn’t it be more important whether a person is kind, loving, creative, active, effective? Shouldn’t it matter more that the person is a whole human being with rights inherent by birth no matter what gender they are or aren’t?
Today the Kansas City Star published an article on gender. Both the states of Kansas and Missouri have introduced “bathroom bills,” bills that would force transgender people (and by extension, nonbinary people) to use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate. Kansas has introduced a bill allowing people who see a transgender person using the “wrong” bathroom on a college campus to sue the school for $2,500 per incident, essentially putting a bounty on transgender people.
But today the Kansas City Star published an article asking “What does it mean to be nonbinary or genderqueer?” and looking at three people’s experience with their nonbinary gender identities, and adding a video focusing on them.
Way to go, Kansas City Star and kudos to reporters Cindy Hoedel, Robert Trussell, Dawn Novascone, and videographers Keith Meyers and Monty Davis. Also, heartfelt gratitude to the three courageous people who share their stories: Hannah Holloway, Kasimir Hazlemir, and V Rogers.