As gender is a social concept, meaning it has been created by society to “categorize” people, it can be very difficult for people on the autistic spectrum to understand and use it. It has been observed that there is a higher rate of struggles with gender among autistic people. By struggle, I mean not identifying with the gender you have been assigned at birth.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects a large amount of people all over the world, regardless of their origin, sex, age (as it is a life-long condition). One of the characteristics of autism is a lack or struggle of understanding social cues. This is why gender can be even more problematic for autistic people, as it is impossible to grasp for their brain.
From a very young age, I always struggled with gender, as I could wear anything “male” or “female” and feel good in it. I was supposed to wear pink and dresses with flowers because of what society expected, but anything felt right to me. When I discovered the LGBT+ community, I realized I could have a different gender. It then varied from genderfluid (a person who doesn’t identify as having a fixed gender), to transgender man (a person that has a different gender to what they were assigned at birth, here, male), to non-binary (a person that identifies as neither man nor woman), and more, but I felt like nothing really was me. Now, I identify as agender, as it is the closest to what I feel, which is identifying to none gender.
This article is mainly to raise awareness of the struggles with gender when you have autism, and tell my peers that it is okay if you don’t understand. And that no one can tell you that you have to look a certain way.
Here are some tips to help you in your search for yourself:
(some are for everyone struggling with gender, not only autistic people)
Try different types of clothing, make-up, hairstyles, and see what suits you the best.
Look at the definitions of different genders and see which you feel more comfortable with. (You may find less-known genders that would suit you.)
Ask other people about how they perceive their gender, they may help you.
Remember, no one can tell you who you are.
Also, I recently discovered autigender.
Autigender is a gender that was specially created for autistic people who struggle with identifying as one or other gender (or who don’t care, or don’t understand). The definition is for someone whose autism “affects” their perception of gender. I don’t really like this definition, as it feels as if autism is a problem that prevents us from understanding it. In fact, it is more that society wants us to have a gender defined that is problematic.
You can also identify as autigender, even if it is less known, it is a good representation of how many of us feel!
I hope this can help you.
If you need help, you can always contact a helpline. You may find the numbers for your country on the internet. In Switzerland, the number is 147. In France, it is 3114. Both are free. Overall, most of the countries possess a free helpline number. And if you are in immediate danger you can call the urgencies number.
Growing up I was often unsure of who, or what I was supposed to be. I had a white grandmother, but dark skin. I was fluent in German, but couldn’t pronounce a single word in my mother tongue. During my primary school days, my coiled afro hair felt out of place, while at home my accent, which differed so much from the African tones of the people around me, made me feel like an outsider.
During many sleepless nights I would ask myself am I black enough? and after many more sleepless nights, I finally found my answer- There’s no such thing as “black enough.” My cells produce enough melanin pigment to turn my skin, eyes, and hair dark. End of story.
However, now that I’ve grown a bit, a new question plagues me: Am I queer enough? Sadly, this question can’t be answered using science, but now that I’m a little smarter and wiser, I realise that most of the things that create my insecurity regarding my queer identity are stereotypes.
For those of you who are unsure of the term, stereotypes are conventional and oversimplified images or ideas of a particular type of item or person. An example of a stereotype is: All men are bad at housework. It generalises men and makes it seem as if they are unable to do housework and should therefore not bother doing it. Stereotypes are often wrong, cruel, and demoralising.
For a long time, the LGBTQI+ community has been stereotyped and generalised.
“Lesbians have short hair, Gay men are fashionable, Trans people are gay” and so many more stereotypes exist. As a cis femme woman people have often made me feel as if I didn’t deserve to be a part of the queer community. Simply because I didn’t “ look” queer. Or better said, because I didn't meet any of the stereotypes.
But as previously mentioned, stereotypes are often wrong and oversimplified. So I asked some people here at TWE a few questions regarding their thoughts on queer and gender identity.
Where on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum do you fall?
Caterpie: “Our whole system identifies as queer- two are agender, one is trans, another is demigirl, and so on… Sexuality is complicated.”
J.D: “Bisexual and Gender fluid.”
Astrum: “Panromantic, Asexual, Genderfluid.”
J: “Transgender, Bisexual, and Asexual.”
Piper: “Lesbian, Non-binary & Aroace (Aromantic Asexual).”
What does being a member/ an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community mean to you?
Melissa: “It means I have an identity & (that ) I can feel safe with my sexuality and not ashamed.”
Caterpie: “Being open-minded and supportive.”
J.D: “That I'm not afraid to be who I am.”
Astrum: “A community that will support me even when others may not.”
J: “(It) Means knowing I'm not alone in what I feel and go through.”
Piper: “It means being a part of a community in which I can express myself and feel a little less alone with how I feel and what I go through in regards to my sexuality and identity.”
How, if at all, do you represent your sexuality?
Melissa: “I am very open about my sexuality, if anyone asks if I like girls etc. I will just say yes.”
J.D: “I'm open about my bisexuality.”
Astrum: “I like to wear flags.”
J: “I'm very open and chat a lot about my experience being ace (asexual).”
Piper: “I'm quite open about my sexuality, depending on who I'm speaking to. I express it much more online than I do in person since it feels safer that way.”
How, if at all, do you represent your gender?
Melissa: “Just normal day-to-day things.”
J.D: “I’m open about being gender fluid.”
Astrum: “I like to wear flags.”
J: “I tell most people my preferred pronouns and ask theirs. I have a trans flag on my laptop and phone case.”
Piper: “I tend to represent and express my gender identity a lot more online, but I also like to do it through the way I dress and carry myself. I often associate my gender with certain styles or interests I have.”
Do you feel as if there’s a reason for your queerness?
Caterpie: “We’re autistic so we don’t understand gender”
J: “Yes, men and woman existing”
Piper: “I think the main reasons for my queerness are community and self-expression since those have always been a big part of my life. I also think that it allows me to support others through their journey by discovering who they love and how they identify.”
Do you feel a part of the LGBTQI+ community?
Melissa: “Yes, I do.”
Piper: “Most of the time! There are moments where I see a lot of discourse and disagreements around my specific sexualities and those in correlation with my identity, which sucks. But finding the parts of the community in which people listen and accept one another is always so wonderful.”
These answers, just like the people who provided them, are diverse. Spanning all throughout the LGBTQI+ spectrum these answers highlight how complex and yet simple being queer can be.
All of us don’t express ourselves in the same way, and neither do we need to. To answer the original question: No, you aren’t queer enough. Simply because it doesn’t give such a thing as queer enough. We’re all just people who despite our differences all feel a part of this wonderful rainbow community.
I hope that this article helped answer some of your questions, and if you’d like, you can answer some of the questions above and share your answers with the rest of us, through the comment section below.
We‘re all bigger than our labels (or lack thereof ).
If you ever need to talk to someone don’t hesitate to contact-
We’re here for you Now – The Trevor Project
If you’ve read any of the previous TWE chest binding articles then I’m sure you’re already aware of what binding is, but for those who are new to the website, ‘binding’ is when a transgender person (usually someone who identifies as a trans-male, genderfluid or non-binary) compresses their chest to minimise their body dysphoria.
Binding isn’t only for people in the LGBT+ community, binders can be used for individuals who have Gynecomastia. This is a common condition in men which causes breast tissue to swell, Gynecomastia often occurs when a man has unbalanced hormones.
Binding is an excellent way of reducing body dysphoria and improving mental health. If you or someone you love is a part of the transgender community and don’t have a binder, it would be worth asking them if they require a binder. Body dysphoria can be distressing and uncomfortable, so the most beneficial thing you can do for someone who is experiencing this would be to acknowledge their preferred identification (for example, their pronouns) and understand how they’re feeling.
I started to bind at a very young age, I was around 13 years old and didn’t realise how dangerous binding can be. Then, I wasn’t out to my family and the opportunity to come out wasn’t there either so asking my family to help was not a choice that I could take. Thinking back, I see myself considerably lucky to have such amazing, supportive friends during secondary school because they would always buy me new binders when I needed them but the issue with that was they were cheap! Buying cheap binders is an absolute no go for a transgender person, please do not buy binders that are under £20. They can cause a lot of stress on your body and in bad cases, binding can send you to the hospital if not done correctly. As time went on for me, I was able to fully comprehend how poorly I used to bind and how much it had changed my body, this is when I decided to consult my doctor. Once I spoke to my doctor she informed me that she was unsure about what to do but kindly referred me to the GIC (Gender Identity Clinic) in London. From that day, I’ve only ordered binders from Underworks (not sponsored!) and I can finally breathe while maintaining a much smaller chest. I still look in the mirror and smile every day. Thankfully my family is now very supportive and helps me look for new binders online, Underworks seem to be the binders that work well for me.
If you’re in a situation similar to my own then you’ve already had your first gender clinic appointment and are currently waiting to see either the NHS clinic or waiting to have your second appointment. For those of you who are still waiting for their initial appointment, I strongly recommend preparing yourself, they will do a physical examination of your chest area. This will feel daunting and uncomfortable but these examinations are necessary to ensure that you are staying healthy while binding.
Here's the fun! Choosing your binder. The most common websites to buy a binder is either gc2b.co or underworks.com, my personal favourite is Underworks but a lot of transgender people go to gc2b for their binders. The only difference between these two websites is that gc2b binders are specifically designed for trans people whereas Underworks is for those with Gynecomastia. GC2B has so many different styles and colours to choose from so take your time while browsing the online store, remember to use a tape measure to accurately measure your chest and get the correct sized binder. GC2B has lots of great advice on their website on how to measure properly. Please do not guess or get a size too small, this can cause major health issues, both short and long term but no not be scared off by this, just be safe. Binding is safe when done properly!
Tips on binding, I have scoured the internet for the best tips on chest binding so you don’t have to:
If you wear a binder and you get nausea, bruising, panic attacks, claustrophobic feelings, sharp pains in the chest, very fast heart pace, not being able to breathe, dizziness or fainting take off your binder and consult a doctor. These are not normal so please don’t ignore it if you have any of those symptoms. Binders can make you a little sore and feel somewhat tight but that is completely normal as long as you’re wearing the correct sized binder.
Remember to stay safe while binding and to discuss your options with a close family member or friend, this is so important as you will have someone to talk to if you begin to have any issues with your transition. If you have any further questions about binding, feel free to get in contact by selecting ‘Contact Us’ at the top of the website.
Stay home and stay safe.
Discovering who you are can be a tough journey to go on, but it is one that is needed to accept yourself. For me, it was a scary path to walk but it brought out my true self.
Seeing the pride events over the years that have been held worldwide has motivated me to be who I truly am. Seeing all the people who attend these pride events just opens your eyes to how many people are like you!
When I first came to terms with my sexuality of being bisexual, I thought it was just a phase. But, it was not! I’m proud to be bisexual and if anyone makes a negative comment towards me then I’ll just stick up for myself.
My first pride event that I attended was in London. I met up with my friends and we got all glammed up: makeup is done and colourful outfits on! We wanted to express who we were through our looks! But it was all about making new friends and enjoying ourselves.
At the pride event, I made lots of new friends that I class as my close friends now! Just being colourful is what I love and the friends I made loved that too! We connected on so many levels and we accepted each other, that’s what mattered most to me!
But how has pride helped me? It’s allowed me to discover who I am, it’s built my confidence and also let me accept myself for who I am. 5 years ago, I was a completely different person; I disliked who I was and I didn’t accept myself.
If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self I would give them this advice, ‘Never let yourself be dragged down for who you are. Your sexuality is what makes you and if people dislike that then you need to cut contact with them’.
Pride has shown me that acceptance is the key to happiness. Like I said before 5 years ago, I was a different person but now, I realise that I am me for a reason. No one else can be you, no one else has your characteristics or talent the way you do.
It’s given me the chance to try new things and rediscover my identity. I’ve done things that pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Doing what I love once again, after years of punishing myself, I can finally just let it go.
The LGBTQ+ Community has gained more attention and exposure over the past few years. An important part of this community which I find is still often misunderstood and is still discriminated against by many is the B: bisexual.
I am a cisgender biseuxal woman. This means that I was born as a woman, identify as a woman, and am attracted to both men and women. For me, this also includes trans men and trans women as well as nonbinary people. This can be different for all bisexuals though. I have always known I am cisgender but I haven't always known I am bi. For around 12 years of my 21 year life, I thought I was 100% heterosexual. I found women pretty but I didn't recognise that as sexual romantic attraction to women. The first time I actually fancied a girl was in school when I was around 12/13 and I freaked out. I went through a phase of asking out every boy I found even remotely attractive just to make sure everyone thought I was straight and only attracted to boys. Of course that wasn't true, but I still didn't actually acknowledge that I was bisexual until I was 15. Now, at 21, I have no problem with my sexuality. I am happy with myself and who I am, as are most of the people I love.
But I do notice that anyone who I tell tends to have questions. Sometimes they are personal questions like how did I know I was bisexual or have I ever been with a woman. Other times, they are general questions like what is bisexuality or what is the difference between bisexual and pansexual. I always try to educate people as much as I am able to when they have questions. So I thought I'd compile a list of some of the most Frequently Asked Questions I get about bisexuality and being bisexual and answer them for you, in case anyone reading this article is questioning their own sexuality or would like to find out more.
1) How do you know you are bisexual if you have never been with a women?
The way I always respond to this question is 'how do you know you're straight if you've never been with a member of the opposite sex?' The answers I often get include things like finding them attractive, fancying someone of that sex, feeling arousal towards certain people, fantasising about someone of that sex etc. etc. Well it is the same for bisexual people. We know we're bisexual because we find both sexes attractive. We fancy both sexes. We can feel aroused or fantasise about someone of either sex. The way you know you are straight is the same way we know we are bisexual.
2) Does this mean that you date men and women at the same time?
No. Being bisexual doesn't mean that we date men and women at the same time or that we are likely to date more than one person at once. Bisexuality and polygamy are not synonymous with one another. Some bisexual people may be polygamous and date more than one person at any one time, but other bisexual people, such as myself, may be monogamous and only ever date one person at a time. It just means the person we date can identify as a man or a woman or none of the above.
3) What is the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality?
The difference between the two is a topic which is quite widely debated and very misunderstood. Different people define it differently. One pansexual person I have spoken to said 'bisexuality is when you are mostly sexually attracted to two or more genders whilst pansexual is when you are attracted to people regardless of gender.' but another pansexual said 'pansexuality is a branch of bisexuality in which spans across all genders nonwithstanding and equally.' From my understanding, pansexuality is more about the personality than gender. So a pansexual is attracted to the personality of the person regardless of their genitals whereas a bisexual is attracted to the gender first and the personality second.
4) Aren't you attracted to everyone then?
Again, no. Think of it this way. Because you are heterosexual, does this mean you are attracted to every single person of the opposite sex? No, of course not. The same goes for bisexual people. Though we can be attracted to any gender, we are still only attracted to certain people, regardless of them being a man or a woman or any other gender. We are attracted to those we find aesthetically or emotionally attractive, just like anyone else is.
5) What do people mean when they talk about bi-erasure? Is it a real thing?
The term 'bi-erasure' refers to the act of ignoring, explaining away, or otherwise dismissing bisexuality in culture, media, or history. It can also relate to someone denying that bisexuality exists or saying it isn't real in its most extreme form. Unfortunately, it absolutely is a real thing and absolutely still exists today in modern society. Sometimes bi-erasure comes from heterosexual people but sometimes it even comes from other members of the LGBTQ+ Community. Bisexuality can be seen as being greedy, hiding somewhat so we can still enjoy 'heterosexual privilege', blurring the lines between gay and straight or trying to weaken the lesbian or gay movement. This just isn't true at all - we're just people looking for love and it's as simple as that to understand.
If there are any questions that you have which I haven't answered, please feel free to comment below or send me a message and I'll be happy to answer them for you. Please remember that being bisexual is completely okay. There is nothing wrong with it. It isn't weird. It isn't abnormal. You aren't wrong or abnormal either. You don't have to pretend.
You are perfect just the way you are - just be you.
If you would like to learn any more about bisexuality or anything addressed in this article or need any support, here are some useful websites:
Bisexual.org - https://bi.org/en
#StillBisexual - http://stillbisexual.com/
Stonewall - https://www.stonewall.org.uk/
The BeYou Project - https://thebeyouproject.co.uk
Bustle '5 Myths About Bisexuality Which Contribute To Bi-Erasure' - https://www.bustle.com/p/5-myths-about-bisexuality-that-contribute-to-bi-erasure-2418689
~ Kenzie x
If you are new to LGBTQ+ identities or queer theory, or you are struggling to label your own sexual or romantic orientation, this article is for you! I will go over several major LGB+ identities, beyond their dictionary definitions. Most of these terms are perceived as being black and white or having very strict definitions, but many are much looser than what people perceive, and none exclude or differentiate people based on whether or not they are transgender. If more information on any given label is desired, it is always best to look specifically to people who identify as such and are willing to talk with you about it. Many LGB+ accounts exist with admins who are more than willing to explain their identities and experiences with their sexualities and labels they use, or their posts about the same information may be enough.
A note before reading - for some people, their gender is not the same as their sex. Non-binary people and identities are real. The following definitions of sexual and romantic orientations are completely trans-friendly, regardless of whether an individual person who uses any of these labels is transphobic or not.
ASEXUAL: feeling no sexual attraction. Many people commonly believe that asexuality is the same as lacking a sex drive, but this is not true. Many asexual people, or “ace” people, do have sex drives, and may participate in solo, partnered, or group sexual activity. They simply do not feel sexual attraction to people. Asexuality is also commonly confused with AROMANTICISM, the lack of romantic attraction to people. Asexual people can be aromantic, or “aro,” but not all are, and same with aromantic people being asexual. Both identities are valid. A black ring on the right middle finger is often worn by aces to show their identity, and a white ring on the left middle finger by aromantics.
ALLOSEXUAL/ALLOROMANTIC: a person who experiences sexual or romantic attraction. This term refers to anyone who is not ace or aro, and is commonly abbreviated as “allo.” On the ASEXUAL SPECTRUM, a concept that sexuality is experienced on a spectrum of strength, attraction, and drive, allo people would mark the opposite end of ace/aros.
BISEXUAL/BIROMANTIC: feeling sexual and/or romantic attraction to two or more genders and sexes. Many people unfamiliar with LGBTQ+ identities often mistake bisexuality as meaning “male and female,” but that is simply not the case. Many bisexual people, throughout history, experience attraction to people of all genders or sexes. Bisexual does not exclude trans or non-binary people. This is also the most common non-straight orientation within the LGB+ community.
DEMISEXUAL/DEMIROMANTIC: only feeling sexual or romantic attraction after forming a deep, emotional bond. These identities are often seen as being in the middle of the ace-spectrum.
GAY: a term to express same sex / gender attraction. Often perceived as homosexual male, many other LGBT+ people describe themselves as gay even if they do not fit that exact description. Some use it as an umbrella term to describe all forms of same-sex/gender attraction, although that usage sparks controversy within the community, especially concerning potentially negative effects of erasing bi identities and experiences.
HETEROSEXUAL/HETEROROMANTIC: Attraction to the “opposite” sex or gender.
HOMOSEXUAL/HOMOROMANTIC: feeling sexual and/or romantic attraction to mainly or exclusively people of the same sex or gender.
LESBIAN: a homosexual woman or person who is connected to womanhood, attracted to people who are connected to womanhood. A very common misconception is that a lesbian is strictly a cis-woman who is only attracted to other cis-women: this is both historically and practically inaccurate. Many GNC, non-binary, and trans people identify as lesbians, and lesbians often find themselves attracted to or in relationships with such people.
OMNISEXUAL/OMNIROMANTIC: attraction to all genders / sexes. Many people who identify as omni describe that their attraction to a person is influenced by their gender, sex, and gender expression. Though this experience is not true for all, it is important to note as many use that experience to distinguish omni identities from other, similar identities that include attraction to more than one gender or sex.
PANSEXUAL/PANROMANTIC: attraction to all genders / sexes, most commonly attraction without regard to gender or sex. This definition is not used by all people who identify as pan, and there is some overlap with other labels. Such flexibility with these definitions must be accepted. One cannot “diagnose” another person’s sexuality.
POLYSEXUAL/POLYROMANTIC: attraction to many, but not all genders / sexes.
QUEER: an umbrella term, of sorts, that is non-specific to sexuality or gender. Any person who is LGBTQ+ in some manner can use this label. The word, originally a slur, was reclaimed by the community in the 70s and 80s, and only recently has there been an increase in thought that using this label is homophobic in such manner. Take caution when describing others with this term, however. Some people do not want to be labelled as queer, and that wish should be respected.
I hope that this short guide is able to provide some insight and help you better understand different sexual and romantic orientations, or help you understand your own. Years ago when I was questioning my own identity, I found that seeing these different labels and definitions layed out helped me get a better sense of what I experienced and what I did not, allowing me to get a better sense of what labels I most identified with. If you are questioning, feel free to try different labels to see what fits, or to not use a label at all. You are unique, and only you get to decide which label describes your experiences best.
Many LGBTQ+ circles hate to admit it, but navigating non-binary identities in a binary gendered society can be difficult and confusing - especially if you are new to the whole idea of non-binary genders. Not only is understanding a non-binary gender identity difficult but showing support and acceptance can also be a challenge. First and foremost, someone else’s gender is not up for debate, even if they appear to be a certain gender to you. Gender presentation is not the same as gender identity, and androgyny is not equivalent to being non-binary. Binary people can be androgynous and non-binary people can be feminine or masculine presenting. So, even if you do not understand someone’s identity, that is perfectly alright so long as you respect it. Since every non-binary person and gender identity is different, I will solely focus on ways to respect a person’s non-binary identity and show acceptance and support of non-binary people in general.
Like many other transgender people, non-binary people coming out may have a different name or set of pronouns that they identify with. If someone comes out to you as transgender or non-binary and does not tell you anything about pronouns - it is always best to ask. In fact, one common practice that provides great social support for trans and GNC (gender non-conforming) people includes introducing yourself with your pronouns and asking for others’. Many non-binary people (myself included) use they/them pronouns, but not all non-binary people use them, and not all people who use they/them pronouns are non-binary. Some non-binary (as well as binary trans and cis) people use multiple pronouns as well, so be sure to understand what that person’s specific pronouns are. Use their chosen name and correct pronouns, even when they are not around.
When I first came out, my mother struggled to understand they/them pronouns. As someone who learned English as a second language, and who’s native tongue, Tagalog, does not have gendered pronouns, it was confusing for her to use plural pronouns for a singular person and she did not understand the significance of the gender of pronouns. Hearing the people that love me most refer to me by the wrong pronouns for years, and feeling like I could not do anything about it, hurt so much. Part of the pain came from knowing that she did love and accept me, but I could not get her to support me in the way I needed. Only now that I have finally been able to get her to understand why it mattered so much do I see how heavy of a burden it was all those years.
One thing my family was able to do for me was start using gender neutral language when referring to me. Instead of referring to me as their “daughter” I was their “child.” My mom even changed her silly embarrassing pet-name for me from her “baby-girl” to her “baby-doll.” Using gender-neutral language in all settings is one small and easy act to support any non-binary person who could be listening. Many people with binary genders tend to not realize it, but most - if not all - of society is structured around binary gender. It is evident in products for sale, language, bathrooms, and is only heightened in media and entertainment. Non-binary people live in a world that refuses to acknowledge that we exist. So by simply using phrases that make room for us, that alone makes a big difference.
A word of caution: though it is important to support and acknowledge people’s gender identities, it is even more important to not out them. I have heard many stories of people trying to show their support and accidentally outing someone to a person they had not come out to. Coming out is a process, and just because a person came out to you does not mean they are out to everyone. Sometimes, someone who may seem out and proud in public needs to hide their identity at home, and sometimes it’s just the opposite. To ensure mishaps don’t occur, ask them if they are out in general and if there are specific people they are or aren’t out to.
Finally, the most important thing to do is to affirm their identity. When I first came out to my family, they never acknowledged the fact that I am non-binary - at least not that I was aware of. Since there was a fight when I came out, I assumed their lack of acknowledgement meant that they did not support me, and was surprised to hear years later that they accepted me all along. Don’t let this happen to the people in your life. Don’t only tell them you accept their identity when they first come out, remind them regularly. Not too much to the point of obsession, but don’t let them forget or doubt your support. In a world where most people refuse to acknowledge we exist, each person counts.
Best of luck!
Coming out is not a one-time thing, but a process LGBTQ+ people go through throughout their lives in a million different ways. Sometimes coming out is simply correcting someone for misgendering you or explaining that the person you live with is not just a “very good friend.” Others it is far more serious.
I know this from experience, or, better put, experiences. After realizing my sexuality in the 7th grade and my gender the summer before high school, I have come out in at least a hundred different ways in the last five to six years. One thing I realized is that no two coming out experiences will ever be alike, even with the same people.
The first day of my freshman year in high school, I was asked something no one has ever asked me before: what are your preferred pronouns? I figured out my gender identity over the summer, and I was so excited to finally be able to tell people. I had lost my voice the night before, so I wrote on a piece of paper “my pronouns are they/them.” For the first time in my life, I was in an environment where people would see me as the genderfluid person I have always been.
As soon as I got home, I dropped my bag on the floor and left it there open for hours as I got to work on my assignments. When my mom looked for me to ask about my day, she found the paper instead.
Suffice to say, she did not react well. We screamed at each other for almost an hour. I barely recall any of it, except for one thing she said: “you do something like this again and I’m kicking you out.” I doubt she remembers this, but I will never forget it. I can never be the daughter my parents wish I was.
The next few years were terrible for my mental health. I got through it, but my relationship with my family never fully recovered. I turned to my peers for the support and acceptance I could never find at home. A friend from school gave me a binder for my birthday. My parents gave me a card addressed to “our favorite daughter.” I don’t have many regrets in life but leaving my backpack open is one of them.
I wish I could’ve come out to my parents properly, or that evening went over as well as when I came out as bi in the seventh grade. I would’ve sat them down, explained gender theory over time, and once I felt they finally understood, tell them who I am. Sometimes I blame myself for being careless with that bag, but my actions did not cause the poor reactions of my parents, nor my suffering. But I can’t control how someone reacts to my queerness, no matter how much I prepare for the moment. That part of coming out is not on me.
I almost never give concrete advice about how to come out, just vague specifics informed by the numerous occasions where coming out was no problem and this one moment where it was. Always be sure to understand what the other person is familiar with or what their views are. Go slow, and come out on your own terms. Ask them to listen first, then ask questions when you are finished. Explain the identity before coming out. Most importantly, only come out if you think it is safe. After that, there’s not much else you can do.
Just as I learned the rough way, I hope that any LGBTQ+ person reading this realizes that you are not responsible for other people’s feelings and actions. As a general rule this can be difficult to accept, and in terms of coming out, it’s only harder. And if you ever come out and find yourself feeling alone, know that you aren’t. If not in body, then in mind and in spirit. Millions of people like you, like me, are all over the globe. We are here for you, and we are in this together.
For those who may need it, below are sites with international lists of hotlines and numbers for any LGBTQ+ or mental health related support you may need.
The Trevor Project — Saving Young LGBTQ Lives
Suicide Hotlines - Suicide.org! Suicide Hotlines - Suicide.org! Suicide Hotlines
Support Hotlines | PFLAG
List of LGBT Friendly Helplines Worldwide | Lives in Transition
Crisis Text Line | Text HOME To 741741 free, 24/7 Crisis Counseling
If you are new to LGBTQ+ identities or gender theory, or if you are struggling to label your own gender identity, this article is for you! I will go over several major gender identities and terminology, beyond their dictionary definitions. Most of these terms are perceived as being black and white or having very strict definitions, but many are much looser than what people perceive. If more information on any given label is desired, it is always best to look specifically to people who identify as such and are willing to talk with you about it. Many LGBTQ+ and transgender accounts exist with admins who are more than willing to explain their identities and experiences with their gender and labels they use, or their posts about the same information may be enough.
SEX: Defined purely by biology, typically male or female. Sex is determined by the sex characteristics a person has. Most frequently it is clear to determine, and these characteristics are the result of XX or XY chromosomes, but there are instances of chromosomes not matching someone’s sex - such as women who have XY chromosomes but are insensitive to testosterone and therefore never develop male sexual characteristics or organs.
GENDER: An identity that is culturally and socially influenced; often matches the person’s sex, though not always. Someone’s gender is not always obvious by their appearance, and only you can determine your gender identity.
GENDER BINARY: The social theory that gender is either male or female, and that everyone must fall in one category. The gender binary is still the most dominant theory of gender perpetuated in modern society.
GENDER SPECTRUM: The theory that gender is not a binary, but a spectrum between male and female, and that people can fall in the middle, shift around over time, encompass multiple areas of it at once, or not be on it at all. This theory is widely accepted in gender studies academia, yet some parts of the LGBTQ+ community do not believe it goes far enough.
PRONOUNS: The gendered pronouns we use to refer to a person have become increasingly more noticed as the transgender community gains greater mainstream acceptance, yet there are many who incorrectly assume that pronouns only apply to LGBTQ+ individuals. However, everyone uses pronouns - it is just that anyone who is cishet rarely needs to think about it. Typically those who are male/masculine aligned use he/him, female/female aligned use she/her, and those who do not feel more of one or the other use they/them (with plural conjugations for verbs: ex. They are kind). However, there are dozens of alternative gender/neutral pronouns, and pronouns do not always dictate a person’s gender. What pronouns one uses is a personal decision.
CISGENDER: Using the latin prefix cis-, which means on the same side as, this term is used to describe those whose gender identities align with their sex, i.e. a biologically female person who identifies as a woman.
TRANSGENDER: Using the latin prefix trans-, which means across, this term describes anyone whose gender is not aligned with their biological sex, and is an umbrella term for both binary and non-binary gender identities. In fact, the white stripe in the transgender flag is meant to represent anyone who does not identify with a binary identity. Many trans people physically transition or present outwardly as their gender identity, but some do not and their lack of outward presentation does not invalidate their identity.
ASSIGNED GENDER AT BIRTH (AGAB): Essentially, refers to the F or M on a person’s birth certificate. Most people’s AGAB aligns with their sex, however, individuals with unclear sex-characteristics also have an AGAB. It is common to see the abbreviations of AMAB (assigned male at birth) and AFAB (assigned female at birth) within LGBTQ+ accepting communities.
GENDER NON-CONFORMING (GNC): Anyone who’s outward expression of their gender identity does not conform with expectations of their gender. This term is inclusive of trans people.
MtF/ TRANS WOMAN: Anyone who was male or assigned male at birth and identifies as a woman/female. Likewise, FtM/ TRANS MAN refers to anyone who was female or assigned female at birth and identifies as a man/male.
NONBINARY: An umbrella term for anyone who does not identify as strictly male or strictly female. Many non-binary people simply identify their gender as nonbinary, wheras others use more specific labels. Non-binary genders have existed in many cultures across the world. Many individuals who are non-binary (such as myself) may also find a more specific label that describes their gender identity, but all can use non-binary as the label is intended to be encompassing of anyone who is neither male nore female, not as an androgynous third gender.
AGENDER: A term to refer to someone who feels no connection with any gender identity, or feels that they have no gender. Agender falls under the non-binary umbrella as it is neither male nor female.
BIGENDER: A term to refer to someone who feels their gender identity encompasses multiple genders simultaneously. Also falls under the non-binary umbrella.
GENDERQUEER: A non-binary gender label that is often used by people who feel their gender is not neutral between male or female and cannot be pinned down on the gender spectrum.
DEMIGIRL/DEMIBOY: A gender identity that describes someone that somewhat identifies with a male or female gender, but not wholly.
GENDERFLUID: A label used to describe people whose gender identities are inconsistent and changing. Some genderfluid people are fluid only between two genders, some the whole spectrum. Genderfluid people can have both binary and non-binary genders, but do not need to have both. The rate of change for people’s genders is not set in stone. Some genderfluid people use multiple pronouns to reflect what gender they are at the moment, others use only one set of pronouns. I myself am genderfluid, but often do not use this label and instead opt for the more encompassing term “non-binary.”
INTERSEX: Someone who is not born with clearly defined male or female sexual characteristics. As many as 1% of the population are intersex, and many are unaware that they are. Intersex people can be cisgender or transgender, and have a binary or non-binary gender identity. PERISEX is the opposite term, used to describe people who are clearly male or female.
Hopefully these explanations helped you better understand the transgender commmunity. There is a lot of information online about gender identities, and unfortunately a lot of it is not helpful for people still trying to wrap their heads around what is what. If you want to learn more about a specific part of the transgender community or a specific issue that trans people face, feel free to reach out to us at TWE. We can direct you to some resources, or do an article of our own about a specific topic!