Meeting Orwell in the break room

Another one who claims to be both femme and afab but also non-binary – or did claim, since this is from 2014, and with any luck there has been some maturing since.

So, what with being called out for being fake and a pretender by both myself and others, I sometimes get the desire to prove myself as non-binary. Especially since I am someone who was both assigned female and birth, and presents as largely female.

I did go through a phase where I tried to present as androgynous. I failed hopelessly at it. Why? Two reasons.

1. I’m a 34DD. Let that sink in. Try to hide that under a binder. It doesn’t work. A sports bra flattens them down a bit, but they’re there, and they’re always going to show.

2. I’m a feminine person. I just am. I like pretty earrings and make-up, which is something about me that has nothing to do with my gender identity, but when paired with an afab (assigned female at birth) body, distinctly marks me as female. I didn’t like having to give up being pretty, wearing make-up, wearing clothes and accessories that weren’t all bland muted colours.

So why the perceived need to “prove myself as non-binary”? Why all this struggle over a superfluous label? Why not just get on with life? Why not rejoice in the greater freedom women have to wear all different sorts of clothes (while still if you like working to make it so that men have more of that freedom too) and just be a woman with a varied wardrobe?

The truth is, you can’t win at being androgynous. Not unless you’re willing to give up your own personal style to fit into society’s incredibly narrow and limited idea of what androgyny is. So fuck it.

Hm. I’m not sure society has any idea, narrow or broad, of what androgyny is. I’m not sure society thinks about it enough to have an idea of it. It’s not a mass-popular subject.

Yeah, I wear make-up, and earrings and breasts. You know who else does? Drag queens who still identify as male. And that’s the real point here: gender identity and gender presentation are two completely different things. I am a non-binary person who presents as female because it fits with my style, and because it’s convenient for me, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am non-binary.

What fact? What fact is that, exactly? What fact are you talking about? How do you know it?

I don’t think there is such a fact. I think there are lots of facts of the type “X doesn’t like to be confined by silly arbitrary rules about what women / men can wear” but few if any facts of the type “this person who was assigned female at birth and presents as largely female is non-binary.” What this blogger is calling a fact is actually a decision – and that’s fine, people can decide to be non-binary or gender nonconforming or whatever they like, but a decision to be something doesn’t always translate to a fact that one is that something. It’s a complicated verb, that one – Bill Clinton wasn’t only ducking and weaving when he pointed out that “is” can mean different things. The blogger is non-binary if she / they wants to be, but that’s all for her / them to decide, it’s not a separate fact that can’t be changed by external reality.

Or to put it another way, it’s not clear what the blogger means by “I am a non-binary person who presents as female” when all these labels seem to depend so very heavily on getting confirmation from others. It’s also not clear what the point is.

I go to work every day as a female. I’m read as female, and I introduce myself as a female, and it’s fine. Then I come home and I take off my costume. I go back to being myself. But the breasts won’t come off. I go online and present myself as non-binary –

Ahhh yes, now I know where we are. Of course you do. Online is like that. I present myself as non-grumpy, non-boring, non-sullen, non-all sorts of things that show up in meat space but don’t online. Don’t we all. And that’s just it: we all do, to varying degrees. It’s not a new discovery of Today’s Kids that what the world sees does not perfectly match up with our sense of ourselves. It’s a newish or intensified discovery of everyone who lives partly online, one that people just didn’t have a medium to make before the internet. Maybe a few people did – I bet George Orwell felt a difference between the self who wrote the essays and the one who had colleagues at the BBC.

So that’s how it is – we all go back to being ourselves. It’s not so much non-binary as non-public or non-social or non-external.


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