“Re: Shouts Into the void”

By: Andrew Sawyer

I’m coming out as nonbinary. Or genderqueer if you’re feeling flirty.

What this means, to me, is that I reject the classifications of man and woman as the only way to live a chill life. I want to exist in between and also be able to live – travel freely, work freely, and mind my own business – freely.

Claiming ‘they/them’ pronouns felt, for a long time, too big for me because it felt like an assertion of who I am and I needed to be 100% sure and how do I know what nonbinary feels like and what if people reject me, what if I don’t know enough, oh my god what if I misrepresent the community? But I am trying to remember that:

1. There is no self hahahaha.
2. We are defined by our actions.

Coming out as nonbinary is just another act in a long chain of them, the thread of my life.

It is my way of holding myself accountable for the belief that patriarchy is crushing us, killing us, eroding our capacity to breathe. Separating us from our families at a border when all we are looking for is a home. It forces me to have the conver- sation: “Oh, I believe gender is a social construct. Maleness and femaleness are just definitions – categories – and I want to explore the spaces between words…What about my penis? I’m uncomfortable with you asking about my genitalia but what a truly great convo thank you for chatting – if you have questions there is Google. Nope! Nothing to do with my sexuality! Bye!”

Don’t get me wrong, categories are useful ways of bringing definition to the world. But men and women? They’ve been defined! Why not expand the definition? Or rather, include new definitions. That is, new definitions of old ideas. Because gender-non-conforming people have existed as long as humans have been around. In fact, they were often looked to as spiritual
leaders. Indigenous nations have long spoken of two-spirited individuals, people whose internal energy oscillates back and forth between masculine and feminine, like a seesaw. The hijras in India are GNC folks who are thought to be blessed with powers of song and dance, but must also flee their families for fear of abuse, living with chosen families in communities overcome with poverty. In this case as in all cases, poverty not as a sign of lack of will on the case of the individual, not as the result of laziness or an inability to “just get a job” – but of a system that lets people fall through the cracks if they don’t follow the rules. If they don’t dress the part.

What does it mean to fall through the cracks?

Maybe it’s helpful to make a distinction between borders and boundaries. Borders as walls built by oppressors and colonizers defined by rules designed to exert power and control over marginalized communities under the guise of protection. Boundaries as limits we as individuals place on our own bodies and minds based on our universal rights as human beings and defined by our own ability to decide what is and is not safe for us.

In coming out as genderqueer, I’m expanding my boundaries of expression, giving myself more space to discover who I am. It is the first step in an active process – it is not an ending. Unfortunately, I will come up against many attempts to classify me as I try to explore this part of myself. People who will try to end this process, this growth, by dressing me up in heteronormativity. I’ll hear that it’s the only option, that there aren’t enough resources for anything else, that men and women can’t use the same bathroom, what do you think this is, literally every private home space??? That “we don’t have it in that size,” that “this is for women” and that if I don’t accept what I’m given I’ll fall through the cracks. I guess I’m choosing to fall between the cracks. To go to the places that have been neglected, unseen, unloved. And to make a lot of noise until somebody pays attention. Because what do borders protect us from if our own people are already crying for help?

It’s all disappointing, and sad. But worst of all, it’s unsustainable. Because when there is no possibility for growth – for something other than what has already been – there is no future.

Quiz: What is the most renewable resource? Answer: The self. Gotcha! Humans are capable of endless expansion, endless beauty. But this expansion happens inside of us. We must invest in ourselves – in the belief that every one of us is capable, important, vibrant – if we want to build a better future. Sustainability begins with the belief that we already have everything we need, we simply need to learn to cultivateit. Teach that things come back around. Fill in the cracks or, rather, break the foundation so that people can come back at all. Expand the definition. Create the vocabulary. Begin with the idea that learning your boundaries is an act of resistance.

All of this to say I know a twelve year old nonbinary kid and oh my god am I already old, is it too late for me to claim these things, do I just sound dumb why am I writing this?

All of this to say I’m using they/them pronouns now, but I’ll also respond to he or she. Or my name. It takes longer to say, but respect and efficiency are at odds with one another so make your choice. I’ve made mine.

All of this to say I don’t have a plan for my new NB life. Really throwing myself to the wolves here. (Also, acknowledging that I have mountains of privilege as a male-presenting [for now!] person that will keep me relatively safe during this process). Or maybe it won’t. That’s the scary thing about choosing a path with no map that you’ve never walked before. You don’t know how hard it’s going to be until you do it. But the more wool I pull off my eyes the more I see people ahead of me, leading the way…behind me, learning from my mistakes. And I feel okay.

When I’m in times of transition I write myself affirmations: Close your eyes. Take a breath. In, out. Turn away from who you’ve been, and the plans for your life. Breathe. In… loosen your grip… release yourself into the possibility that there isn’t an answer… that we’re all falling into the future..through the cracks… out. In… listen to the wind rushing by your ears… feel it brushing your skin… out… in… out… do you feel that pit… in your stomach?
can I hold your hand?
… open your eyes. Here we are.