Pissed off by the daily negation of my existence

My experience of being genderqueer, non-binary

Almost every day people deny me my existence, but here I am, and I exist. But yes, I’m pissed off, pissed off by this almost daily negation of my existence, of my identity as a genderqueer, a non-binary person. I’m pissed of by people putting me into their binary boxes – man-woman – boxes in which I don’t fit, boxes that impose on me the binary system of sex/gender, and nobody ever asks me if I do agree with this. How many times when someone greets in a supermarket as “sir” I would lime to respond “fuck off! I am not a man, and you don’t have any right to impose on me this identity!”. But I don’t do it. I don’t have the strength to every time when someone imposes on me how they read me (without asking me) to correct them.

Since quite some year I new define as genderqueer, as a non-binary person. For me, genderqueer means situating myself outside of the binary gender system – I don’t see myself on a spectrum between the masculine and feminine, but rather completely outside of this system. I don’t understand gender as a spectrum (which seems to be a bit in fashion right now, the mainstreaming of gender diversity), but rather like a constellation in which there is some space for the masculine and feminine, and for a spectrum, but in which there are a lot of identities which do not form part of this spectrum.

I got to my genderqueer identity after decades of struggling with different masculinities with which I never felt comfortable. I have never been able to identify with hegemonic and dominant masculinities. But neither with masculinities of resistance, or of the working class, with their emphasis on physical strength. And neither did I ever feel comfortable with gay masculinities. In the end, they are still masculinities.

On the other end of what is supposedly a spectrum are the femininities, and neither did I feel I would fit in. I don’t feel myself a woman – as none of the respective definitions or identities.

Getting out of this system and defining myself as genderqueer was an act of liberation, of empowerment. It was also a political act, of rejecting patriarchy, of rejecting the masculine privileges it offers me (and some of which it still assigns me when I’m read as a man). Since then I am no longer fighting against masculinity, and neither am I trying to fit in. At the same time, it was the beginning of other struggles – above all a permanent struggle against the negation of who I am, against the invisibility of non-binary gender identities. A permanent struggle for the recognition of non-binary identities – or, better maybe, for getting rid of gender altogether.

For sure, when I told the people around me that I am genderqueer, neither man nor woman, I was not really aware of all the problems. I also did not insist too much. In English it is sufficient to change some pronouns (they instead of he/she, their instead of his/her), and some other things (such as titles – we now have Mr, Ms, and Mx), and that is sufficient to refer to a person without assigning a specific gender to that person. In addition, using they as third person singular is grammatically possible. In Spanish (and I am living in Spain) the problem are not only the pronouns (el, ella) – everything is gender. It is extremely difficult to refer to myself without assigning myself a specific gender. Almost all adjectives – to explain how I feel, for example – end on the letter a or o according to a binary gender. Because of this in Spanish the changes to the language needed to respect non-binary gender identities are much broader. It means to introduce a third grammatical gender – a neutral gender – ending on the letter e.

Because of these difficulties I initially did not insist in the use of the pronoun elle or a neutral gender, not even in my close circle. In some circles people are used to using the neutral gender – it’s quite common in queer circles, or in other circles that respect non-binary genders. In other circles it is less common or non-existent. And now I have to say that I am pissed off. Every time when a person – a friend or not – refers to me as he, or as man (or woman), it hurts. It hurts because it negates who I am. It hurts because of the ignorance. I suffer it as a form of violence – the imposition of something that I am not.

Now I am going to insist, at least in my closer circles, in the use of elle and a neutral gender. I do already have more than enough struggles...

Last year I finally got a (German) password which no longer identifies me as man, and which has an X in the field ‘sex’ (‘X’ for indeterminate). But that doesn’t help me much in the State of Spain. My bank (ethical!), Social Security, the tax office, and all the different authorities refer to me as man. It always hurts me when I have to choose between the two boxes “man-woman” in some form, and web forms no longer allow me to draw a third box on the side and tick that one. Until today, the supposed right to freely determine me gender identity hasn’t been useful for anything. Where? The Health Service of Andalucia also does not refer to me outside of the binary. They offered me to change my name – but that doesn’t interest me.

Everything is gender. To fill in almost any form they will ask you to identify as man or woman – and the alternative world is not much better in this regard. Shop online? Which online shop does not ask you for your binary gender to register? Air travel? They will ask you for your binary gender, even though it is not necessary (they could put an X, but not in the State of Spain).

In everyday life it is not better. In a shop or in a bar they will greet me as “Mister” or “Sir” (or sometimes “Miss”). Buy clothes? There are shops or departments for male or female clothes (clothes are clothes. Male or female clothes do not exist!), and where do I go? Go to a public toilet or the toilet of a bar? Man or woman – there are no other options. So, if I go to the women’s toilet the people inside who read me as a man might have problems. And even worse in the male toilet – queer or trans people or not regarded well, and the risk of abuse is pretty high. So I prefer to avoid public toilets…

I am thinking about starting hormonal treatment to “demasculinise” my body. But would I really get out of the problem of my invisibility with a queerer (stranger) body? I doubt it. I already now notice that sometimes people have problems putting me in one of their two boxes, but nevertheless they do so. They don’t know anything different. For sure, a stranger (queerer) body might make that more difficult – but even if it would be more difficult, people would do it. In addition, even though in Andalucia a psychological report is not needed, it would be difficult to explain that I have not intention to pass as woman… The good practice guide of the Health Service of Andalucia limits itself to recommendation regarding the transition male-female (or female-male). The queer, the non-binary, is not envisioned...

Elliott Jensen says in an article published in the journal Gender, Race & Justice: “But what these efforts cannot fix – not without society taking a good, hard look at its gender structures, anyhow – is access to vital resources that are hopelessly gendered. Access to public bathrooms is a constant frustration, gendered locker rooms and gyms can make improving one’s health and fitness a near-impossibility, and having a legal sex designation that cannot and never will reflect one’s identity can be a source of confusion for others at best and a source of dysphoria or systemic violence toward the non-binary person at worst. These are common, everyday problems that non-binary people find ways of navigating.

And it is clear, as also Elliott Jensen concludes, “The greatest challenge that non-binary people face is not just in gaining minimal acceptance for genders outside the binary, but rather that respecting non-binary identities asks for nothing less than for the restructuring of gender in society as it currently exists.

In the meantime, I’m pissed off. I feel made invisible, ignored, invalidated. I’m pissed off, and I feel every time more rage towards this binary gender system. But also every time more rage towards those people who make me invisible, who ignore me, who negate me. My patience has worn out. Fuck off!