I came out as nonbinary two years ago. It was a long time coming, and being able to express my true self felt amazing . . . at least at first. Not long into my transition, I found myself at a dead end. How could I accurately present my nonbinary-ness without necessarily presenting towards the masculine?
This might sound confusing at first, and it is. I was assigned female at birth (AFAB), but very quickly realized that the designation wasn't quite right. Phrases such as "tomboy" or "nonconformist" didn't fully capture who I was either. When I finally heard the term "nonbinary," something inside me responded immediately. I'm not a man or a woman — I'm both and neither and something else entirely. Once I realized this about myself, I was excited to explore what it could mean to me and what it could mean to other people as well.
I'm nonbinary not because I'm estranged from my body but because I transcend the current descriptions of what my body means. Nonbinary and masculine do not equate.
I'm extremely fortunate that I was not fighting against body dysmorphia. I considered taking hormones or pursuing surgery but ultimately decided against it. I realized that the difficulties I had been struggling with had more to do with language, clothing, and physicality rather than my actual body. Because of this, my transition has largely been an internal one.
Which is where I come to an impasse. I like to wear dresses and skirts just as much as I like to wear pants and bow ties, but inevitably whatever I wear or however I present myself, I'm gendered as a woman. I believe this is in part due to the existence of what I'll call the masculine neutral. The masculine neutral surrounds us all whether we're conscious of it or not. You don't have to look any further than the Declaration of Independence and the phrase "All men are created equal" to know what I mean. It's understood that "men" refers to everyone, trapping us in a world where to be a man is the default state.
In this world, any step outside of the masculine automatically incurs the classification of "female." If masculine is the default state, then it makes sense that to be nonbinary would require at least something of "masculine" presentation, but obviously this is a self-defeating logical fallacy. When I say I'm nonbinary, it's because the two boxes — the selection of either/or — does not represent me. I'm nonbinary not because I'm estranged from my body but because I transcend the current descriptions of what my body means. Nonbinary and masculine do not equate.
Only when we overcome the confines of a male default will there be true gender equality. Only when we free ourselves from the stranglehold of binary gender will we be able to embrace the full spectrum of human existence. And this won't happen overnight. This might not even happen in my lifetime, but I remind myself every time I put on a dress, every time I wear makeup, every time I'm again misgendered that it will happen. I'm fighting against the binary norm every day, and I'm proud and grateful that others are too.