I’ve mentioned before that I’m genderless (don’t identify as either male or female, and have no gender at all). There are other names for the same thing such as agender (which my brain automatically turns into agenda so I don’t use it) and non-gendered, but they all mean not having a gender at all. The genderless identity is part of a bigger category of nonbinary (the binary genders being male and female- nonbinary means any genders outside of that, which includes being both, in-between, or another gender altogether) and can also be considered to be transgender (not being cisgender, where your gender identity matches the sex you were assigned at birth). There are loads of different genders that people experience, and some of them have been well known for a long time in the communities they come from (such as two-spirit in many Native American cultures). Gender is separate from sexuality (who you’re sexually attracted to) and biological sex (what your body is). While I have no gender, I’m pansexual (attracted to people regardless of their gender- I sometimes say bisexual if not wanting to explain it as it’s close enough) and my sex is female (I have a female body with female sexual characteristics). I see myself as genderless, nonbinary, queer, and kinda trans (as I’m not transitioning from one gender to another, but I’m also not cis).
Learning that there were genders outside the binary and that being genderless was an option was a major thing for me. Since childhood I’ve felt uncomfortable being called a girl, though I tried to force myself to accept it as that’s what everyone else said I was. In my early twenties I privately experimented with being male (thinking since I wasn’t a woman maybe I was a man instead), but that didn’t feel right either. I didn’t (and still don’t) understand what it means to have a gender on anything but an intellectual level, and to me it’s something other people have and I don’t (in the same category as being able to identify people by their faces).
I’m lucky in that I don’t experience much dysphoria. Changing my first name from the longer, definitely seen as female version to the shorter version everyone already knew me by helped a lot. I like clothes that are perceived as masculine and feminine about the same, and mostly wear what’s comfortable (and probably purple and/or covered in penguins). Most of my clothes come from the “women’s” section as they fit my body shape best, and skirts/dresses are very practical with my set of disabilities. I sometimes don’t like my breasts, but I’m not sure how much of that is due to the amount they hurt me so for now am not planning on doing anything about them, and will reassess in the future when illness stuff has less priority. If I were to wake up tomorrow with a male body, after getting used to the change (change is bad) I’d probably be perfectly okay with it, which I gather is not the way most cis people feel. I do wish I were able to grow a beard, but there are cis men who can’t grow beards so it’s not a major thing. I accept that because I have a female body and don’t try to present as neither male nor female most people will perceive me as female (I do sometimes get gendered as male but that’s less common).
My preferred pronouns are singular they/them. Despite what some people think, it’s grammatically correct and has been used that way in English for hundreds of years, including by Shakespeare. Though these are my favourite pronouns, I don’t get upset if someone uses others when referring to me. I even have an order of preference, which goes:
They/them > she/her > him/his > sie/hir > any others > it/its.
I don’t like the pronoun it for myself as it feels dehumanising, but I know some other nonbinary people who prefer it and I respect their choice and try to remember to use it for them. I personally am terrible with pronouns, and often use the wrong ones for myself as well as other people due to cognitive issues (this is not uncommon in autism and for me has been made much worse due to ME). I find it especially difficult to use the less common ones such as sir/hir, xe/xem and so on. I won’t get upset if someone uses the wrong pronouns for me, I just feel happy every time someone uses the correct ones. I do try to use the correct ones for other people, and will apologise if I’m corrected. As for mine, even Johan gets them wrong sometimes 😛
Similar to pronouns, I have an order of preference when it comes to titles as well. That goes:
(No title at all) > Mx > Mrs > Ms = Mr > Miss
This probably seems like a weird order to some people, but it works with the way I think. Ideally, I try to get away without using a title at all (I’m really happy there isn’t one on my debit card). If I have to use one, then I prefer Mx, as it’s not gendered. If I can’t use that for whatever reason, I use Mrs as I’m married, am used to being seen as female and noticed that official people treated me with more respect when I started using it after getting married (they shouldn’t do, but I look very young for my age and being visibly disabled doesn’t help). Before I got married I used Ms from the age of 13, as I already didn’t like Miss, and I feel it’s just as accurate as Mr is. I’ve never really liked Miss (which is why I started using Ms as a teen) and as I’m married it’s now entirely inaccurate.
When it comes to family relationships, I mostly stick to simplicity. I like spouse and partner, but don’t mind being called Johan’s wife. Sammie calls me Mum and I see it as more as a role than anything, and it’s what’s most comfortable for her. I prefer sibling to sister, but will only correct occasionally 😛 (my siblings are trying hard to get it right.) My mum has called me her offspring which I quite like 🙂
What really makes me uncomfortable and anxious is being referred to as a lady or similar terms, especially as a group (like saying “us ladies”). I think it’s because I know it’s inaccurate, and I’ve never really felt part of a group of women. When it’s someone I feel comfortable with I might ask them not to say it regarding me, but sometimes I’m not able to.
Like many identities, coming out is a process, not a one time thing. There are some people I’ve told (such as my social worker and people online), and some I haven’t yet (like my GP because I forgot the last time I saw her). I have to weigh up each time whether it’s worth the hassle to explain what being genderless means, and there’s the risk they will think it doesn’t exist or I’m making it up to be a “special snowflake”. I told the care home last time I was in because it would have some impact on my care (specifically being referred to as a lady or similar causing anxiety that I can’t hide while staying there) and other than the extra paperwork they weren’t expecting (as though I’d told my social worker it was the day before so after he’d last contacted them) it went really well. I also have to deal with the fact the vast majority of organisations just aren’t set up for anything other than the binary. Ideally I’d like to have identity documents such as a passport that reflect that I’m neither male nor female (other countries use an X marker for this, in place of M or F) but that seems quite a way off yet. Things are slowly improving though and I’m hopeful that in the future my identity will be more well known and accepted. On my important information sheet I used when going into hospital, I had it listed as gender: none and then sex: female, as in a medical setting my biological sex is more relevant.
Luckily, most people I’ve told have been very supportive. Johan has been amazing (the odd pronoun mistake is understandable) and is happy to support me however I need it. My social worker reacted well and asked me how he could help with it. Most of my family and friends have accepted it, even those who may not understand completely what it means. Unfortunately I’ve had a couple of people who have made it clear they won’t accept it, and that hurt a lot, but they’re in the minority. I try not to be too preachy about it, and much of the time I don’t even think about it as it’s just part of me and unless I’m filling in forms or similar, it doesn’t really affect my day to day life.
At the moment I’m not receiving any kind of therapy or treatment to help me deal with my lack of gender. Right now I’m too ill for any kind of counselling and I don’t want to even consider hormones or similar until I’m doing better. This might change in the future, and I’m looking to see if there’s an accessible support group or similar I can join in the meantime. Some people decide they need to change their body to more fit their gender (or lack of), some people are okay with how they are already. It’s hard for me to tell how much my dislike of certain parts of my body is due to being ill and in pain and whether any of it is due to a mismatch in gender and sex. Hopefully my physical health will improve enough for me to explore things further, but for now I’ll stick with my rather broken body.
All the definitions and thoughts on this post are my own, and are probably different from most other genderless or nonbinary peoples (I’m weird and have cognitive issues that mean it’s hard for me to explain what I mean). While learning about this, I used some of the resources at Nonbinary.org. I also recently saw this video which explains things pretty well (I can’t find it anywhere but Twitter and Facebook): This Is What Nonbinary People Want You To Know (Twitter) This Is What Nonbinary People Want You To Know (Facebook). If you know any decent resources about trans issues then please tell me as I want to learn more 🙂
3 thoughts on “My Identity, Pronouns and Titles”
My 13yo daughter describes herself exactly the way you do, pretty much word for word. I totally support her in whatever identity and orientation feels right for her. Kiddo lets people use “her”, just for ease of communication. Pronouns have no importance for kiddo, but she respects other people’s choices of pronouns and identities.
I’m an old school lipstick lesbian, with a rare occasional interest in men. I’m mostly attracted to people I find interesting, regardless of the package they come in.
I raised kiddo to ask what people prefer to be called, and to make a point to remember it. Some of kiddo’s dark skinned friends are Black, some are African American, some are Temani, and others are Ethiopian. For me, pronouns are trickier, because I learned grammar 50 some years ago, when it was drilled into my head that they/them was only used for plural. When you think that way, it makes noun/verb agreement tricky! I do try my best, though, to keep up with the times. 😉
Binary genders are masculine and feminine, surely (but what about neuter?). Male and female are sexes, not genders, and depend on x/y chromosome difference.
OK, I know I’m a pedant, and I should try harder to keep my pedantic urges under control.
Like most things in life, it’s complicated. Unfortunately I’m not able to explain it properly- it was hard enough explaining my own stuff. Most people see the binary genders as male and female.