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Image description: a book is laid out so that the pages are fanned out, with two pages folding into each other in the middle to form the shape of a heart.

Hey friends, I’m so excited to bring you this collaborative list of non-fiction books by LGBTQIA+ community members. It’s easier now to find works of literature that center queer narratives, by queer authors, but not as easy as it should be. That’s why Artie and I have teamed up to bring you a fresh list of fantastic queer content! I am especially thrilled to have so many works in this list that center non-binary identities. Here’s to hoping you’ll find something to relate to or learn from, or both! And be sure to visit ArtieCarden’s site for the rest of the list and their other content! (Thanks again Artie for reaching out to me to make this collab happen!) Alrighty, here we go:

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker: “Activist-academic Meg-John Barker and cartoonist Jules Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged. Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what’s ‘normal’ – Alfred Kinsey’s view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler’s view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we’re invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media. Presented in a brilliantly engaging and witty style, this is a unique portrait of the universe of queer thinking.”

Queer Intentions: A (Personal) Journey Through LGBTQ+ Culture by Amelia Abraham: “Today, the options and freedoms on offer to LGBTQ+ people living in the West are greater than ever before. But is same-sex marriage, improved media visibility and corporate endorsement all it’s cracked up to be? At what cost does this acceptance come? And who is getting left behind, particularly in parts of the world where LGBTQ+ rights aren’t so advanced? Combining intrepid journalism with her own personal experience, in Queer Intentions, Amelia Abraham searches for the answers to these urgent challenges, as well as the broader question of what it means to be queer right now. Join her as she cries at the first same-sex marriage in Britain, loses herself in the world’s biggest drag convention in L.A., marches at Pride parades across Europe, visits both a transgender model agency and the Anti-Violence Project in New York to understand the extremes of trans life today, parties in the clubs of Turkey’s underground LGBTQ+ scene, and meets a genderless family in progressive Stockholm.”

A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt: “The youngest-ever winner of the Griffin Prize mines his personal history in a brilliant new essay collection seeking to reconcile the world he was born into with the world that could be. Drawing on intimate personal experience, A History of My Brief Body is a meditation on grief, joy, love, and sex at the intersection of indigeneity and queerness. Billy-Ray Belcourt’s debut memoir opens with a tender letter to his kokum and memories of his early life in the hamlet of Joussard, Alberta, and on the Driftpile First Nation. Piece by piece, Billy-Ray’s writings invite us to unpack and explore the big and broken world he inhabits every day, in all its complexity and contradiction: a legacy of colonial violence and the joy that flourishes in spite of it; first loves and first loves lost; sexual exploration and intimacy; the act of writing as a survival instinct and a way to grieve. What emerges is not only a profound meditation on memory, gender, anger, shame, and ecstasy, but also the outline of a way forward. With startling honesty, and in a voice distinctly and assuredly his own, Belcourt situates his life experiences within a constellation of seminal queer texts, among which this book is sure to earn its place. Eye-opening, intensely emotional, and excessively quotable, A History of My Brief Body demonstrates over and over again the power of words to both devastate and console us.”

I have to mention that this collection of essays has gutted me and hit me at my core in so many glorious ways. Such a profound read, I can’t recommend it enough. There are many poignant and punctuating one-liners too—savor them! Just be sure to be prepared for intense emotions when you start digging into it.

Uncomfortable Labels: My Life As a Gay Autistic Trans Woman by Laura Kate Dale: “In this candid, first-of-its-kind memoir, Laura Kate Dale recounts what life is like growing up as a gay trans woman on the autism spectrum. From struggling with sensory processing, managing socially demanding situations and learning social cues and feminine presentation, through to coming out as trans during an autistic meltdown, Laura draws on her personal experiences from life prior to transition and diagnosis, and moving on to the years of self-discovery, to give a unique insight into the nuances of sexuality, gender and autism, and how they intersect.Charting the ups and downs of being autistic and on the LGBT spectrum with searing honesty and humour, this is an empowering, life-affirming read for anyone who’s felt they don’t fit in.”

Trans Teen Survival Guide by Owl and Fox Fisher: “Frank, friendly and funny, Trans Teen Survival Guide will leave transgender and non-binary teens informed, empowered and armed with all the tips, confidence and practical advice they need to navigate life as a trans teen. Wondering how to come out to your family and friends, what it’s like to go through cross hormonal therapy or how to put on a packer? Trans youth activists Fox and Owl have stepped in to answer everything that trans teens and their families need to know. With a focus on self-care, expression and being proud of your unique identity, the guide is packed full of invaluable advice from people who understand the realities and complexities of growing up trans. Having been there, done that, Fox and Owl are able to honestly chart the course of life as a trans teen, from potentially life-saving advice on dealing with dysphoria or depression, to hilarious real-life awkward trans stories.” 

Life Isn’t Binary: On Being Both, Beyond, and In-Between by Alex Iantaffi: “Much of society’s thinking operates in a highly rigid and binary manner; something is good or bad, right or wrong, a success or a failure, and so on. Challenging this limited way of thinking, this ground-breaking book looks at how non-binary methods of thought can be applied to all aspects of life, and offer new and greater ways of understanding ourselves and how we relate to others.Using bisexual and non-binary gender experiences as a starting point, this book addresses the key issues with binary thinking regarding our relationships, bodies, emotions, wellbeing and our sense of identity and sets out a range of practices which may help us to think in more non-binary, both/and, or uncertain ways.A truly original and insightful piece, this guide encourages reflection on how we view and understand the world we live in and how we all bend, blur or break society’s binary codes.”

Nonbinary Lives – An Anthology of Intersectional Identities by Jos Twist: “What does it mean to be non-binary in the 21st Century? Our gender identity is impacted by our personal histories; the cultures, communities and countries we are born into; and the places we go and the people we meet. But the representation of contemporary non-binary identities has been limited, until now.Pushing the narrative around non-binary identities further than ever before, this powerful collection of essays represents the breadth of non-binary lives, across the boundaries of race, class, age, sexuality, faith and more.Leading non-binary people share stories of their intersecting lives; how it feels to be non-binary and neurodiverse, the challenges of being a non-binary pregnant person, what it means to be non-binary within the Quaker community, the joy of reaching gender euphoria.This thought-provoking anthology shows that there is no right or wrong way to be non-binary.”

Yes, You Are Trans Enough: My Transition from Self-Loathing to Self-Love by Mia Violet: “This is the deeply personal and witty account of growing up as the kid who never fitted in. Transgender blogger Mia Violet reflects on her life and how at 26 she came to finally realise she was ‘trans enough’ to be transgender, after years of knowing she was different but without the language to understand why. From bullying, heartache and a botched coming out attempt, through to counselling, Gender Identity Clinics and acceptance, Mia confronts the ins and outs of transitioning, using her charged personal narrative to explore the most pressing questions in the transgender debate and confront what the media has gotten wrong. An essential read for anyone who has had to fight to be themselves.” 

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe: “In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.”

Transgressive: A Trans Woman on Gender, Feminism, and Politics by Rachel Anne Williams: “How do I know I am trans? Is trans feminism real feminism? What is there to say about trans women’s male privilege? This collection of insightful, pithy and passionately argued think pieces from a trans-feminist perspective explores issues surrounding gender, feminism and philosophy and challenges misconceptions about trans identities. The book confronts contentious debates in gender studies to alleviate ongoing tension between feminism and trans women. Split into six sections, this collection covers wider issues, as well as autobiographical experiences, designed to stimulate the reader and encourage them to actively participate.”

Trans Voices: Becoming Who You Are by Declan Henry: “Imagine what it must be like to feel you are a woman ‘trapped’ in a man’s body. Or a man ‘trapped’ in a woman’s body. And what happens if you decide to reject your birth gender and become a trans man or a trans woman? Drawing on over one hundred interviews with individuals, this book is a compilation of the voices of those who have decided to undergo transition – both male-to-female and female-to-male. The book details the diverse experiences and challenges faced by those who transition, exploring a range of topics such as hormone treatments; reassignment surgeries; coming out; sex and sexuality; physical, emotional and mental health; transphobia; discrimination; and hate crime, as well as highlighting the lives of non-binary individuals and those who cross-dress to form a wider understanding of the varied ways in which people experience gender. This powerful book is an ideal introduction to those keen to understand more about contemporary trans issues as well as those questioning their own gender identity.”

Transition Denied: Confronting the Crisis in Trans Healthcare by Jane Fae: “Trans people in the UK currently face widespread prejudice and discrimination, from how they are described in the media to the lack of healthcare support they receive. This institutional bias is illustrated by the tragic case of Synestra de Courcy, who died following neglect and rejection from the NHS, leading her to sex work to fund her transition and dangerous self-medication. Charting Syn’s life from childhood through to her untimely death aged just 23, Jane Fae exposes the gross institutional and societal discrimination trans people experience on a daily basis and its impact on the lives of trans people young and old. Promoting honest discussion and bringing these hidden issues into the light of day, this book is a must read for anyone interested in trans rights, and NHS accountability.”

Trans Power: Own Your Gender by Juno Roche: “‘All those layers of expectation that are thrust upon us; boy, masculine, femme, transgender, sexual, woman, real, are such a weight to carry round. I feel transgressive. I feel hybrid. I feel trans.’ In this radical and emotionally raw book, Juno Roche pushes the boundaries of trans representation by redefining “trans” as an identity with its own power and strength, that goes beyond the gender binary. Through intimate conversations with leading and influential figures in the trans community, such as Kate Bornstein, Travis Alabanza, Josephine Jones, Glamrou and E-J Scott, this book highlights the diversity of trans identities and experiences with regard to love, bodies, sex, race and class, and urges trans people – and the world at large – to embrace a “trans” identity as something that offers empowerment and autonomy. Powerfully written, and with humour and advice throughout, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of gender and how we identify ourselves.”

Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Autism: Voices from Across the Spectrum by Eva A. Mendes: “Bringing together a collection of narratives from those who are on the autism spectrum whilst also identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and/or asexual (LGBTQIA), this book explores the intersection of the two spectrums as well as the diverse experiences that come with it. By providing knowledge and advice based on in-depth research and personal accounts, the narratives will be immensely valuable to teenagers, adults, partners and families. The authors round these stories with a discussion of themes across narratives, and implications for the issues discussed. In the final chapter, the authors reflect on commonly asked questions from a clinical perspective, bringing in relevant research, as well as sharing best-practice tips and considerations that may be helpful for LGBTQIA and ASD teenagers and adults. These may also be used by family members and clinicians when counselling teenagers and adults on the dual spectrum. With each chapter structured around LGBTQIA and autism spectrum identities, Gender Identity, Sexuality and Autism highlights the fluidity of gender identity, sexual orientation and neurodiversity and provides a space for people to share their individual experiences.”

I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities by Audre Lorde: “The internationally acclaimed author challenges homophobia as a divisive force, particularly among Black women.”

A reviewer writes: “Originally published in 1985, I Am Your Sister is a short yet insightful essay regarding the homophobia and heterosexism in Black communities and how it is used as a silencing tool to divide and further oppress Black women. This is a critical read for all feminists, anti-racists, and/or LGBTQIA advocates.”

You can read this pamphlet for free within the text I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde here. Instead of purchasing, consider donating to The Audre Lorde Project!

Spectrums: Autistic Transgender People in their Own Words by Maxfield Sparrow: “Written by autistic trans people from around the world, this vital and intimate collection of personal essays reveals the struggles and joys of living at the intersection of neurodivergence and gender diversity. Weaving memories, poems and first-person narratives together, these stories showcase experiences of coming out, college and university life, accessing healthcare, physical transition, friendships and relationships, sexuality, pregnancy, parenting, and late life self-discovery, to reveal a rich and varied tapestry of life lived on the spectrums.”

Thanks for taking a look at these great publications! Again, be sure to visit ArtieCarden’s site for the rest of the list!

Disclaimer: “on the spectrum” is generally very disliked in the autistic community, though not everyone abides by that consensus. Identity-first language is preferred, i.e. “autistic person” not “person with autism” or “they’re on the spectrum”.

Featured image description: A comic of a cartoon brain with eyes and a mouth fills the top left box. The context is Childhood. The brain says, “Why do you keep wishing you were a boy?” To the right of the brain box is a box of a person lying in bed with their eyes closed, saying, “It’s probably just crushes. I can’t be a boy.” The bottom left box has the context of the year 2021, and the brain says, “You can be a boy.” Next to this box is the last box in the comment, with the same person lying bed, their eyes wide open in a panic. The room is dark, so their eyes really stand out.

A dear friend of mine recently sent me an incredible article, full of stories about queer kids who had the opportunity to fully embrace themselves at Camp I Am (closed in 2018). I only made it past a couple of the kids’ stories before I found myself sobbing.

Why am I crying? Am I not ecstatic for these children?

It wasn’t a question of if I was happy or not for these kids. Instead, my body was recognizing my grief before my brain could figure out what was happening.

While my parents did what they thought best, and I was provided for, my upbringing wasn’t entirely supportive. That is to say, I was supported, but my parents only supported their ideal version of what they wanted me to be, and not who I actually was. In fact a lot of the time I was punished for who I was/wanted to be. After reading about how these young queer people had the opportunity to experience a piece of the world free of the bullshit—sexism, homophobia, transphobia—and had the resources to build a healthy support network to explore themselves within…something just broke down within me.

. . .I’d probably be a fully transitioned “boy” today.

While allowing children to take hormone blockers (and then hormones after puberty) as gender-affirming healthcare is relatively, to my knowledge, a newer practice (and thank the gods at all!), part of me wonders what life would have been like had I had the supportive environment I needed growing up. If external culture and internal familial life had been aligned with less judgment, more understanding, and more dismantling of the patriarchal structures society perpetuates, I’d probably be a fully transitioned “boy” today (hormone therapy, and top surgery if needed).

Socially speaking, I wanted to be a boy. Growing up I hated dolls, skirts and tights, and socializing the ways little girls do. Everyone was so cliquey, and most of them often didn’t want to play sports, get dirty playing in the woods, or include me in general (I was a weird, awkward kid). My peers always found ways to let me know that I was an outsider and did not belong. I always got along better with the boys and loved what the boys got to do, but once gendering really set it, I wasn’t always welcomed with them either.

I never cared about physicality until puberty hit. By then, I was deeply conditioned to accept that I was a girl—any attention I got from the boys was good attention, even though it felt wrong. It felt wrong because I was taught any of that was sinful, but at the same time, there was always something more that I just couldn’t put my finger on.

Another friend just today relayed the idea (from a repost on Hank Green’s TikTok) that gender is like a non-Newtonian fluid. What is a non-Newtonian fluid, you ask?

A non-Newtonian fluid is a fluid that does not follow Newton’s law of viscosity, i.e., constant viscosity independent of stress. In non-Newtonian fluids, viscosity can change when under force to either more liquid or more solid. Ketchup, for example, becomes runnier when shaken and is thus a non-Newtonian fluid.

– Wikipedia

I guess my gender is ketchup now 😂 [laugh-cry emoji].

But in all seriousness, as a child and into adulthood, I adopted “womanhood” because I was told that was my only option based on my physical sex. There was (and is) all this pressure to conform to the binary and not question why. But even as a kid I didn’t believe in it. I didn’t see its validity, as all humans are capable of so many things, men and women alike. And come to find in my late twenties, there are more options outside of (and within) the binary! Everything started to make sense once that knowledge was attained. I am a non-Newtonian liquid. Once I relieved myself of the pressure (brainwashing) of the binary, I came back to my fluid self.

Now that I understand myself to be autigender nonbinary, I can say with certainty that if I must be a human, having a penis and no breasts would suit me better than having what I was born with. I have a deep desire to look like a cis man, meaning I technically desire to be on testosterone. But there’s no chance of me seeking hormone therapy because I cannot risk losing my vocal range and tone quality. I’ve waited all my life to have the singing voice I have now, and I’m too scared of taking T because it’s almost guaranteed to change my voice. I’m also too scared of getting surgery because what if I don’t actually like the change? It’s taken me a long time to get accustomed to the sensitivity of the bits I’ve got. I don’t want to lose that now, even if I don’t like having the bits themselves. Honestly I wish I could just be bitless. No genitals or secondary sex characteristics. Just a plain human body, full of nothing but ambition and love. But all that being said, even with a “transitioned” body, I would still identify as nonbinary. I have no desire to actually be a man.

So to answer the question the title purposes, no, I am not a boy. And generally speaking I don’t have the desire to be a boy, though I do sometimes prefer the “masculine” pronouns he/him. Had things been different growing up—where people would have understood there are more than 2 genders and gender-affirming healthcare is appropriate—I’d probably have no breasts, a deeper voice, and more regular use of he/him pronouns, but I still wouldn’t be a boy. If anything I’d be a *nonbinary* boy.

In this timeline though? I’ll settle for the knowledge that I am perfectly valid the way I am, and will continue practicing self-compassion and acceptance for the things I cannot change. Oh, and get some new ink. That helps.


…Care to help with my dysphoria? Add to my “new ink” fund —> @thequeercult on Venmo and queercultcoaching@gmail.com on PayPal. Many thanks and much love 💜

CW: mentions su*c*de

Caption for the image above: The many faces of Dissociation by @what.is.mental.illness; Derealization, feeling disconnected from the world around you; Identity Confusion, inner struggle about one’s sense of self/identity; Amnesia, memory loss often described as “losing time”; Depersonalization, feeling disconnected from your own body, mind or self; Identity alteration, sense of acting like a different person some of the time.

What do you do when your soul detaches from your body, and you lose touch with reality? The following is my interpretation of what I call “nihilism attacks,” and how I combat them.

To start, this is (for me) a form of dissociation. It is visceral at the base level, as in it’s impossible to stop once onset takes place, just like my autistic meltdowns. But because I continue to grasp meta awareness throughout, I can’t say it isn’t partly intellectual still.

It goes like this:

Wave after wave of information floods my consciousness to the point of overwhelm. In the case of my nihilism attacks, and not regular dissociation, this overwhelm is always brought on by compounding thoughts about world suffering on all levels—suffering in my own personal life, to suffering external to the identities I hold (this includes friends and strangers alike), to suffering the Earth is facing everyday as global warming increases. There is no order to it, but each thought compounds the others.

Then I will feel a shift in my chest and gut—that feeling when you just barely avoid a crash on the road—and my mind will take on a lucid dreaming effect. That’s really the only way I can describe it. It’s like lucid dreaming but while awake: The shift increases until at last my mind perceives my soul to be 6 inches out of my body. Or in these particular episodes, it’s 6 inches within, too condensed, watching my life play out as if I were at the movie theater taking in a feature film.

a gif of a white individual with long hair in a ponytail and circular glasses looks anxiously at the TV and drops the popcorn in their hand

I can make decisions and witness my body doing them, but it doesn’t feel like I’m the one calling the shots or experiencing the consequences. I can look at my hands and put pressure on different parts of my body, but they don’t look or feel like mine. I detach from my humanity and reality.

The attack that inspired this post consisted of me rocking back and forth, hugging my knees, and wailing without consent—all very common in this next step of an attack. Literally my body will need to shriek and wail and cry to relieve some of the stress it’s under, and it won’t let me say no. I’m learning that even though this kind of wailing does stress my body out physically, and I’ve gotten sick from it in the past, it is necessary to allow this energy to come up and out. This is where meta awareness comes in.

Before meta awareness is helpful, it harms me. This stage is the ugliest of all, even though I’m not a pretty crier. It’s within this stage of attack that my mind has a conversation with itself about the meaning of life, how everything leads to suffering because the world is suffering, and how I should just give up. It is in this stage where not only am I detached from my humanity because I’m detached from my body, but I genuinely feel like I’m in the wrong place/plane in time. I feel like I’m not human at all, only a consciousness held captive within a human avatar. In this awareness, I am very attached to the idea that the world is a simulation strictly designed to torture us until we die, just so we can come back in a different body and be tortured again.

Even though this is a scary thought, and it does compel me to consider unaliving myself for a moment, it’s also my saving grace. Because if this nihilistic attack is going to make me consider that all of everything is pointless, that this is all just a simulation that repeats itself, then I might as well continue forward with that knowledge and make this reality one I can be proud of. If there is so much suffering, then why not become a conduit to less suffering while I’m here, to the best of my abilities?

Over time, with practice, my meta awareness has allowed me to:

  • hold space for the wailing, but also give soothing reminders to my system that I need to stop or it will hurt me more
  • understand that even if it’s all “fake,” I have autonomy and get to decide how I show up as who I am to any circumstance (i.e. I no longer solely exist in a reactionary state)
  • understand that who I am is love, compassion, gentleness, gratitude, joy, truth, and a whole list of qualities such as these (I believe everyone has the potential to see themselves and others in this way)
  • embolden my compassion and empathy, to use as a foundational tool to continue forward

All is not lost, because WE decide it so.

To be vulnerable is to allow the winds of life to blow freely over your soul.

Maria nemeth

Now this isn’t to say that depression isn’t real, or that people who do unalive themselves are selfish, weak, cowards, failures, etc. No. In my life coach training, we use this particular definition of vulnerability: “To be vulnerable is to allow the winds of life to blow freely over your soul.” And sometimes people get swept up in those winds, and lose themselves. How can we fault them for wanting an out? We can’t. Period. The whole point is that they decided for themselves what the next best step was for them, in the time/circumstances they found themselves in. It is not selfish to be so consumed by circumstances and brain chemistry that you find a way to quiet the winds permanently. Maybe if we had better healthcare and a more compassionate, understanding, and accommodating society, less people would unalive themselves. But right now these are the circumstances we have, and I refuse to blame anyone for doing what they thought best for themselves. (And I am speaking out of my own grief of losing friends this way, as well as from my own dark places where I’ve considered unaliving myself more than a few times.) Blame the failing infrastructure? Yes. Blame the individual? No.

However, it’s important to note the end of the quote I just used: “To be vulnerable is to allow the winds of life to blow freely over your soul. To let life in, on life’s own terms. To be vulnerable means you realize there is nothing to protect.” This is what encourages me to push forward. If there’s nothing to protect, why not give life your all and say yes to the future while you’re already here? I choose to flip that nihilism on its head. I don’t always get it right, but practicing the notion of reverse nihilism truly does inspire me to continue living. I choose to continue the work I’ve set out to do while I’m a physical part of this timeline, even if the physical form I have can be a living hell day to day.

Quick aside: I say reverse nihilism instead of optimism because I don’t approach this concept from an optimistic perspective; optimism is merely a side effect of flipping nihilism on its head. I am not optimistic because my attitude reflects “a belief or hope that the outcome of some specific endeavor, or outcomes in general, will be positive, favorable, and desirable” (Wiki). Rather my attitude simply reflects a commitment to seeing things through, whether perceived to be good or bad, in spite of my nihilism.

Welcome Back!

So how do I come back to Earth? My attacks can last anywhere from 3 minutes, to 3 hours or longer. There’s really no way to tell how long they’ll be, which is why practicing grounding techniques outside of crisis moments is so vital. You have to be prepared.

The attack that elicited this article from me lasted only 20-ish minutes, which is pretty damn good for me. Normally they’re much longer (I think I’ve only had 3-5 min attacks twice out of many). For this one, my defense strategy was this:

  • let my body wail a bit, but hold onto meta awareness
  • push out thoughts of suffering by redirecting my attention to what’s around me; things I can hear, see, smell, and touch (I save tasting for the end)
  • GET OUTSIDE and BREATHE; focusing on breath is HUGE (highly recommend reading You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment by Zen monk, author, and meditation master, Thich Nhat Hanh)
  • squish grass between my toes and move my body to dance with the wind
  • pet the dog, play fetch with her
  • stay hydrated and eat something comforting (avocado toast for me that day)
  • gentle aftercare (cartoons and stuffy cuddles with a weighted blanket)

By the time I was consuming avocado toast (yes I am a millennial, and no, $2.50 for a comforting meal is not why I’m in poverty), I had reconnected to my body enough to actually enjoy what I was tasting. The taste is what cements me back into my body completely—the final push.

So, if you find yourself having a similar attack, or dissociating in general, know that 1) you are not alone and 2) there are ways you can help yourself find your way back. Here’s a great list of more grounding and soothing techniques, as well as some tips to get the most out of them. And here is a quick article about dissociation if you’re looking for more information.


If you (or someone you know) are in crisis and need help, please call a hotline to talk with someone.

Trans Lifeline

National Su*c*de Prevention Hotline – LGBTQ+

Support Hotlines List (including more LGBTQIA+ specific ones)

Stay well, stay safe 💜🌈💜


Looking for someone to talk with about hard subjects? I’m a great listener and can help you sort out your thoughts. Now offering peer support sessions on a sliding scale, just click here.

I recently entered another contest on vocal.media in hopes to win money so that I may transform my blog into a nonprofit. Here’s my submission; these are my intentions.


Drop a stone into still water, and you will see its ripple effect. That’s what I want to be. I want to be an effective agent of social change, a stone dropped into water, propelled into the future by compassion—compassion for the self and compassion for others. My goal is to provide resources and a safe space for people to explore and understand their identities in relation to currently accepted social constructs in order to become more self-actualized, and by doing so, create a more empowering and compassionate world. 

I long for this kind of new world, and I believe that compassion is the key:

Developing compassion for the self is not easy. It took me the first 25 years of my life to figure out that I am not what people have told me I am, that I am not broken because I didn’t fit their molds. Now at 27, even when I struggle, I have a community behind me because embracing my authentic self, and committing to loving myself for who that is, brought the right people to me and me to them. I want to bring resources, resources that I didn’t have growing up, to folk who are exploring their identities in context of the pervasive and harmful constructs that exist today. I believe through self-exploration and acceptance, in defiance of the wills that be, compassion can’t but flow freely. That compassion is contagious and empowers others. It strengthens our communities, and we grow together. 

Within that compassion, I find it imperative for individuals to demand social change by decolonizing their points of view and the ways they interact with the world. I will admit that I am still learning, but that’s why community is so important, so that we can learn from each other as we grow together. I aim to leverage the privilege that I do have to raise the voices of marginalized communities and to usher in new understanding for those who are not affected by racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, etc. We do not exist in a vacuum; intersectionality needs to be the lens through which we perceive people and our interactions. History has its role in informing present actions, so that a brighter future may be achieved.

Maslow got it wrong:

In effort to decolonize our hierarchy of needs as perpetuated by Maslow himself, it’s important to recognize that he bastardized the “hierarchy” found in Blackfoot culture, which he visited in 1938. In Blackfoot culture, as discussed by Dr. Cindy Blackstock, self-actualization is an integral step toward cultural perpetuity, with cultural actualization between the two. Western concepts of this process has done a great disservice to humanity, as we are so far away from our roots in stark individuality, and suffering for it. Humans are social beings, and need community to survive and thrive. I’m not talking about thriving in the sense of having a CEO position that makes millions of dollars by exploiting the labor beneath, but thriving in the sense that all humans are cared for, fulfilled, and happy. The Blackfoot way of life is not a hierarchy, as each element mentioned works simultaneously and instantaneously. The individual cannot thrive without its community, and the community would not exist without each individual doing their part. But in a modern world where it is nearly impossible to live authentically without burden, it’s hard to imagine what a world would look like when all of us are self-actualized—cared for, fulfilled, happy—a world where we all know who we are outside of the social constructs that tell us who we’re supposed to be. In fact, if we were all self-actualized, I can almost guarantee that late capitalism would be a thing of the past and that harmful structures of knowing—racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, etc.—would cease to exist.

A means to get there:

This blog is my brain child, and people are my passion. This blog is to become a hub of information and a safe space for self-exploration. I do not wish to only share my life experience as a white, autigender nonbinary, pansexual, polyamorous, autistic w/ADHD, disabled human; there are many places to relate to others on the internet. My overarching goal is to provide resources in one place for gender, sexuality, neurodiversity, disability, and sex-body-kink positivity. 

The safe space that this blog is to embody isn’t just for self-exploration, though. This is also where people can come to understand and embrace diversity in meaningful ways (ways in which to engage in anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion work). Too often do people shy away from learning and growing because they’re afraid of being wrong. We must set shame aside in order to grow, and I intend on being another conduit out in the ether for people to set aside their preconceptions and biases, to ask questions, and to not shy away from being wrong. Because when we are wrong, there is always the choice to learn and grow. And when we know better, we can do better.

The End Game:

Gaining numbers of subscribers is equal to building community. I’m in the beginning stages, but people read what I have to say because they feel seen and/or they’re learning more about the world that they’re living in. One day in the not-so-far-off future, I am going to turn this blog into a nonprofit that benefits LGBTQIA+ youth and their families specifically, but it will also benefit surrounding communities at large, as I am committed to playing a role in creating a more equitable society for all. 

I want to overwhelm the waters with ripples. No voice is too small when it comes to creating a more compassionate world. We need ALL the voices, and I am committed to being another stone dropped in the water, so that other stones may take form and add to the ripples as they drop too.

This is for my fellow enbys (and those who might be questioning): You cannot appropriate being trans. Here’s a great thread/article about it; You cannot appropriate being trans. You can only activate who you are by trying labels on and exploring gender.

For the first year after I came out, I felt like “trans” didn’t apply to me. Growing up, I was conditioned to identify as a woman because I have a “female body” (in quotes, as I’ve never had my chromosomes tested). That conditioning allowed discomfort for sure, but at the time, that discomfort was in context of misogyny. I wasn’t aware that I was being denied a more fitting identity profile, I just knew that being a woman kind of sucked (and outside of it sucking, it really didn’t suit me, but I couldn’t figure out how or why yet).

A quick recap on my history: In high school, the ‘T’ in LGBTQIA+ was rather silent for me, and the other letters hadn’t really existed yet. I had yet to meet any openly trans people (that I knew of), and sexuality took precedence. I only understood myself to be an ally at the time. Then in college I understood myself to be bisexual, and only understood bisexual to mean that I liked both men and women in a trans-exclusionary kind of way (this makes me cringe the most).

sdf

Post college I was adopted into an incredible community of friends—friends who are queer, sex and kink-positive, body neutral, and so loving. This community was where “nonbinary” finally found its way to me, and my world was rocked. It’s easy to not know who you are because you don’t see yourself reflected back to you, so when it finally IS reflected, it’s really hard to ignore. The safe space I was provided to try things on for myself, combined with that reflection, is what allowed me to realign to my authentic self.

All this to say: after I came out, it took me a literal year to be comfortable with identifying as trans. Not all nonbinary people identify as trans for many reasons, and for me, it was internalized transphobia along with feeling like an imposter—”nonbinary” was newer to the mainstream, and I “hadn’t suffered” as much as others I knew in the community had, just to be who we are. Besides, I wasn’t trans enough to actually be trans anyway, as if being nonbinary was just Woman Lite™ (cringe, especially since there are AMAB and intersex enbys).

Of course as I grew into my identity thereafter, the deeper understanding I gained, the more clear it was to me that nonbinary is completely valid as its own umbrella of genders under the transgender umbrella. But in order for me to get there, I had to be patient and undo a lot of conditioning. I had to reckon with the fact I had been taught my whole life how the LGBTQIA+ community is full of delinquents who I shouldn’t be associated with, who are sinners and need Jesus. And even though intellectually I understood this to be untrue, my inner workings needed some time to reverse that brainwashing. Outwardly I was afraid of overstepping boundaries and being perceived as an imposter or appropriating culture, and inwardly I was still fighting to not want to be a “delinquent” myself—to not be like them. *still cringing*

The only stable definition of being trans is “not identifying with your assigned gender a birth,” and I think that definition includes a hell of a lot of people who currently call themselves cis and are worried about appropriating being trans.

– Cherry Blossom (@DameKraft on Twitter)

Being trans is not a culture but an identity that informs community. For this reason alone, you cannot appropriate it. I think you can absolutely misrepresent the community, like Caitlyn Jenner has recently, or do harm as an ally (un/intentionally), but you can’t appropriate being trans because you can find transgender people in different cultures all over the world, where we’ve existed since the beginning.

The House of Trans™

So if you find yourself not identifying/vibing with your assigned gender at birth (AGAB), the House of Trans is open to you.

A friend reached out last year asking about gender things, and I offered her a metaphor:

Transness is a house, open to literally anyone. If you don’t feel at home in your gender, you might want to look through the window to the House of Trans and see what’s inside. And if you’re really searching, maybe you’ll open the door, step in, and stay awhile. If you feel more at home here, then home is where you’ll stay. But if you stay awhile and find that it’s not your true home, you’re welcome to leave and come again at any point. And you don’t have to suffer to gain passage! You might have walked by on a nice stroll through town and wanted to just see what’s inside. Maybe you’ve climbed the tallest mountain to reach the house. We all come to understand our identities in our own time, and each journey has its own obstacles to overcome. Whatever obstacles you’ve traversed (or lack thereof) doesn’t make you any more or less trans, it just means it took more or less time to get here. This isn’t the Suffer Olympics™. Yes, some folk may have more privilege than others in the fact that they haven’t suffered through a lot to be comfortable with who they are or put labels on things, but that privilege does not negate who they are.

You don’t need to have gender dysphoria to be trans. And you definitely don’t have to transition (hormonally or socially) to be trans. The only thing that you need to “qualify,” whether you think it’s justified or not, is to identify as something other than your AGAB. That’s it. And that includes identifying as your AGAB along with something else, as with some nonbinary people and demiboys/girls do. Your voice is just as valid as other trans voices if that’s how you want to identify. It all comes down to personal preference.

If trans doesn’t vibe with you *only* because you feel like you’re appropriating or are an impostor, please give yourself space and time to work through that. You are not any less of who you are because you’re not the same as others. And if you decide you still don’t identify as trans even after working through *why* that might be, that’s okay! You can still be nonbinary without claiming trans for yourself! Just know that the trans community is full of people who used to feel as you might right now, dear reader. You are not alone. 💜🖤💜


Exploring gender, sexuality, or neurodiversity? Remember, everything is at your own pace. And I can help! If you’d like to talk with someone about what you’re going through, I offer consulting services on a sliding scale. Please don’t hesitate to reach out through the contact tab on the main menu. 🥰

And soon I will be offering life coaching! Stay tuned!

I’ve never identified with the binary, not even as a young kid. It just didn’t make any sense.

– Me, from my post Nonbinary and Me

I’ve written a few times about my nonbinary gender and what it means to me. And I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job at expressing myself. Except it’s still felt a bit inconclusive, like something is perpetually lacking. Then I recently found autigender:

Neurodiverse Tumblr users first coined autigender in 2014, defining it as a gender which can only be understood in the context of being autistic. This definition suggests that some people’s gender experience and knowledge is influenced by or attached to their being autistic. 

– Katie Munday on AIM for the Rainbow

While autigender can be used as a standalone gender, it’s also used as a qualifier (much like nonbinary). When I say I am autigender nonbinary, I mean I cannot see the world without my autism’s influence, including perceiving and understanding how I am nonbinary. Using “autigender” does not make a person trans, though transness can of course co-occur (as it does with me). Autigender, as I use it, actually expands my understanding of my own transness. It just makes it make more sense.

I’ve never understood gender. Not once. I’ve only played the part and respected others’ expression. Intellectually I understand gender is a spectrum, but it’s hard for me to conceptualize that spectrum in any real meaningful way. It’s not tangible. I just know what feels right and what doesn’t. What some understand boy to be vs. girl does not land with me because we’re all just human. I have said before that I often wish I could just say my gender is “human” and call it a day.

Growing up, I didn’t want to be a boy, nor did I want to not be a girl. I just wanted to be me.

In looking back, it’s fair to say I wanted the social gender of “boy.” I didn’t care about genitalia, but I knew I wanted shorter hair (because long hair for me is sensory hell) and to be treated like “one of the guys.” And then puberty hit. My “weirdness”—I was still learning how to mask my autism effectively—already threatened me with ostracization. Therefore, it became abundantly clear that if I wanted to fit in at all, I needed to commit to the greatest acting challenge I’d ever have to take on: the role of “girl.” I participated in traditionally feminine rituals like doing make-up, wearing heels, or “gossiping,” because I desperately wanted to be included. All of it made me incredibly uncomfortable.

Making friends in the moment isn’t always hard, but keeping them has been a life-long challenge. So I played the part, and failed a lot. Instead of being true to myself, I put on mask after mask, to hide my quirks and to show up in the world as others expected me to be. I lost sight of who I was; even though I was performing gender the “right” way for the most part, I still didn’t succeed at keeping those friends. I have now learned that the more I am authentically me, and loud about it, the more the right people come into my life and stay.

I was forced into this box of femininity that did NOT serve me. I never saw myself like I saw the other girls, and never felt like I belonged. The only time I’ve felt like I’ve belonged was when I got attention from men in college. It was not an intrinsic sense of belonging, but a contentment that came from seeing how I was being treated just like the other girls (hello trauma).

– Me, again from the post Nonbinary and Me

It’s difficult to explain how I didn’t see myself like I saw other girls. It might be more accurate to say that I didn’t see myself as I projected how other girls saw themselves. And it didn’t help that my body didn’t develop in the same ways either (short stature, small chest, more of a square but pudgy middle, thick thighs). It was hard to ever feel beautiful, especially as I never felt like my outer appearance reflected my inner self, though I didn’t know why. No feminine expression ever really felt right. The most beautiful I ever felt was in a messy bun and sweats. In fact, that was when I got complimented the most. I theorize it’s because I was comfortable, and therefore more able to be authentic. It never crossed my mind that I could be something other than a girl, not even when I encountered trans people for the first time and started to learn about how I fit into the LGBTQIA+ community in sexuality (probably because nonbinary wasn’t a part of that world yet in the way that it is now). Every instance of “failure” I experienced at performing my gender directly affected my intrinsic sense of self-worth. Instead of “failing at being a girl” it felt like I was just failing at being human, at being me. And I really couldn’t understand why that was.

A lot of trans people have said and will continue to say, “Oh I’ve always know I wasn’t my AGAB.” These folx usually have stories to tell of how they defied gender stereotypes for that explicit purpose/understanding. For me, I’ve always known I was different neurologically (maybe not in those terms, but I knew I was different and that I couldn’t change). Gender, however, was never questioned because I was never presented another option. There are girls, and boys—that’s it. My version of “girl” growing up was “tomboy.” And after a certain point, “tomboy” was no longer acceptable.

And so, there was a complete disconnect inside of me, and not because I wanted a different gender’s body. I wanted a different body alright, but a different “girl” body so that I could pass as a girl better. All I wanted was to be a perfect daughter and someone a man would find worthy enough to marry. These were the virtues I was taught took precedence, even over my intellect. I could go to school and get a good job, but it really didn’t mean much unless I got married and had kids (as is the plight for women under the outdated rules of patriarchy, especially those who are consumed by the Christian Church as I was then).

In my brain, I’m just human–without qualifiers. I’m just ME.

I’ve said in the past that I feel like all the genders at once, or none at all, or I’ll slide fluidly between many. But that was only an attempt to describe how much gender just doesn’t work in my brain. Those were the words I knew to use to convey how things work for me, as best I could. Nonbinary has worked, but it’s been like wearing a shoe that’s just barely too tight. You can get away with wearing it fine for a while, but after a whole day of walking around, you’re sore and worse for wear. It’s a bit stifling. Suffocating. It’s still a box, even when there is no right or wrong way to be nonbinary (it’s paradoxical because there’s no right or wrong way to be any kind of gender). For this reason I sometimes prefer genderqueer to nonbinary (it conveys more room to move around in for me). I’d rather just not be a part of the system at all though. I’d rather be a constellation of what makes up ME, where I choose the things I do and do not like and exist as a human on this earth without being forced into labels or skewed understanding. Adding “autigender” to my nonbinary label, then, allows me that liberation from the whole spectrum even as I operate within it.

I do believe my neurology has played the biggest role in not only trapping me into “womanhood” for so long, but also in my liberation from it. I was a girl for so long because my environment told me I was. Many autists are very literal people, myself included. I just accepted I was a girl, and a poor one at that. I couldn’t truly grasp gender before, but now looking through the lens of my autism, everything just makes sense. I needed new information and a safe space to try other identities on, and I’m so grateful that’s what I found myself in just a few years ago, and continue to find. Give me the space and tools to be creative, and I will create! And man did I ever create a masterpiece, one that is wholly reflective of who I am and not who I was projected to be.


Exploring gender, sexuality, or neurodiversity? Remember, everything is at your own pace. And I can help! If you’d like to talk with someone about what you’re going through, I offer consulting services on a sliding scale. Please don’t hesitate to reach out through the contact tab on the main menu. 🥰

And soon I will be offering life coaching! Stay tuned!

CW: transphobia, deadnaming, sexism, mention of sex acts, su*c*de

It’s funny to me (read: ironic and awful) how cis people can change their names all the time without so much as a second glance, and yet when trans people do it, suddenly their identity is up for debate and relationships are at stake.

“It’s not just about you, it’s about everyone around you. Calling it your deadname makes me feel like our relationship is dead because I gave you that name and cherished picking it for you.”

– paraphrasing my mom; it was not so kind the first time

Calling a deadname a deadname is NOT reflective of a trans individual’s relationship with others, but with themselves. It is selfish and entitled to make someone else’s identity about yourself.

“She’s not dead! She is a part of you!”

– Mom

Actually, no. It’s the other way around, and I really wish cis people would wake up to that truth. We’re not talking about the inner child being a part of the adult here. We’re talking about how I have always been Jaesic, just with the wrong casing and outer/inner perception. As a child, I was not a “she.” I was forced to believe that I was though.

I had to construct a box around me that was “girl” to keep who I actually was, safe. And what a bunch of crap the notion of “safety” was and is to be a girl in this world. #fuckthepatriarchy

I remember in preschool a boy was picking on me pretty harshly, and I was told that that’s because he liked me.

That’s two boards nailed together: girls take abuse from boys because that’s them showing affection.

When I was 6 years old, I started going to our Assembly of God’s youth program: Missionettes. I had zero interest in Bible readings, and learning how to be a sweet, demure female. All we did was study, and learn house keeping. I’m not kidding. The boys, however, got to learn survival skills in Rangers (it was the church’s version of Boy Scouts). I desperately wanted to be a Ranger. Not only did I get along with boys better, but my dad was one of the leaders, and I wanted to be closer to him. And how cool would it have been to learn survival things! I loved nature, and I loved camping (still do, and my dad is still very passionate about camping).

“Girls can’t be in Rangers! Enough!’ – Dad. I thought because my dad was one of the leaders, that they could make an exception, but no. I cried for days.

Plank nailed in: the house is the female’s domain, and even when you’re passionate about something, you can be denied access due to your gender.

I was 7 years old playing outside in a dress that I didn’t want to wear, and fell to the ground after spinning around some (apparently spinning around all the time was a way to stim). My legs were bent as I was lying there and my mother screeched at me to keep my legs together and keep them down.

Another plank nailed in: girls cannot be carefree and must be aware of how they present their bottom half at all times.

I was in 4th grade, and they separated the boys and girls into different rooms to teach about sex organs and bodily changes.

Another plank: girls and boys are different, and it’s taboo/shameful to talk about those differences together.

In 5th grade my grandparents took the family on a Christmas cruise. Mom forced me again to wear a dress I did not want to wear. It was too much for my senses: bright red, too tight on my torso, and had poufy short sleeves. I felt hideous on top of wanting to puke and cry from sensory overload. I was in a foul mood all night and was severely reprimanded.

Plank: good girls do what they’re told without protest; comfort is in pleasing others and nothing else.

In 6th grade, I was on the bus after staying at school late, and a high school boy started harassing me about sex acts, including fisting, which I had no conceptualization for. I just sat their mute, awkwardly nodding and smiling out of nervous habit. I was unable to get away because we were the only two on the bus and he wasn’t letting up. Instead of interrupting the conversation as he was hearing it, the bus driver (my favorite bus driver at the time) waited until I was walking down the steps to my driveway to then scold me with, “I heard what you were talking about back there. What would your mother say should I tell her?” Every bus ride thereafter was a hell of anxiety.

Plank: there is shame in being harassed, and girls have to take full accountability for others’ actions.

In 7th grade I was told I could no longer play tag football in gym with the boys.

Plank: girls can’t and shouldn’t keep up with the boys, especially in sport. We’re inferior.

8th grade: I was caught sexting an older high school boy. Instead of talking to me about sexuality and asking me if I was okay, my parents “prayed the devil out of me” and grounded me for a year. Fun fact, I was not okay. I was constantly uncomfortable with what was happening, but didn’t have the ability to make boundaries and uphold them. I thought all girls wanted this attention from boys, and I only kept up with it because I thought I was “chosen.” I hated talking like that and barely even knew what I was saying or being told. All of it felt wrong.

Plank: my body and sexuality are a sin.

9th grade: Freshman year, my boyfriend touched my genitals under a blanket at the after prom party (he was a senior). I wasn’t coerced, but I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about it. At the time I was bound to Purity Culture, so I was not sexually active, and was not really interested in *touching* things yet. I asked my boyfriend later on why he needed to touch it when he knows we won’t be having sex. He replied, “I don’t know.”

Plank: Sex acts are for others’ pleasure and boundaries are negotiable.

I “wasn’t like other girls.” I liked playing in nature for hours and getting sapped by the trees, hated playing with dolls, despised skirts and stockings and anything “frilly,” got along better with “the guys,” the purple/pink combo nauseated me (still does)…

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to detract from the main message of this article. Bottom line is, the more I learned to be a “girl” against my will and understanding, the longer I stayed naïve, and the more abuse I endured—and not just abuse from “men,” but from all people around me. Because after building this box around me, and adding layer after layer, I lost sight of who I was, and I lost my voice. When you don’t know who you are, you’re susceptible to being swayed one way or another a lot of the time (at least in my experience).

Add in a lot of neurodivergence, and the masks I kept having to wear to “fit in,” then got nailed onto my box and became who I was. There was no light getting through the cracks anymore for me to witness my true self. Chronic pain only muddled things further. I had next to no tools for communicating effectively, or for emotional regulation, or for loving my mind and body. I had no tools to take the nails out of my “self-made” coffin…I wanted to die.

Since I could no longer access Jaesic, I couldn’t see me getting older. I didn’t WANT to see me getting older. Even on my happiest days, I still wanted to die. I didn’t and couldn’t feel like ME. Coming out as nonbinary two years ago, and discovering my autism since, has been a painful yet liberating process of me finding the light within and bursting out of the coffin the world insisted that I build.

“Well it seems to me that your trauma is why you reject your gender.”

Oh honey, no. Now I’m not saying trauma can’t play a role in forming identity. It absolutely can and does, as us humans do not exist in a vacuum. The point is though, even IF trauma forces that “choice,” then that individual has always had the capacity to be more than their prescribed gender, or sexuality, or job, or literally anything. Again, us humans are pretty damn complex. So instead on focusing what lived experience may have contributed to a person’s new (to you) identity, let’s just see the person for who they are in the present moment and respect how they want to be addressed. If we can do that for cis people (when they get married, go by a new nickname, change jobs, attain higher education) then we absolutely can do the same for transgender people too.

I have always been ME. It just took me longer to figure that out because I was traumatized into being a girl for the first 25 years of my life. And that right there folks is why we need to support trans youth. Trans youth are under attack for just wanting (needing) to be who they are! And they are at greater risk for depression, considering suicide, and attempting suicide than their peers when they do not have the support they need. Learn what you can do to fight against unjust legislation in the U.S. There are many organizations that have resources available to you.

The simplest thing you can do for trans people, though? LISTEN, BELIEVE, and LET LIVE.


Exploring gender or sexuality? Remember, everything is at your own pace. And I can help! If you’d like to talk with someone about what you’re going through, I offer consulting services on a sliding scale. Please don’t hesitate to reach out through the contact tab on the main menu.  🥰

And soon I will be offering life coaching! Stay tuned!

“Are transgender and nonbinary synonymous?”

Short answer, yes. Long answer, no.

Well that’s confusing, so let’s dive deeper shall we?

Transgender is an umbrella term. What’s an umbrella term?

“An umbrella term, or a hypernym, is a word or phrase used to generally, rather than specifically, describe a group of varying but identifiably related subjects.”

Alicia Sparks at infobloom.com

Under the umbrella that is “transgender” we have the gender spectrum. Cisgender people exist on the polar ends of said spectrum, outside the transgender umbrella, though even this is being reworked a little (more on this in a bit). As the photo above depicts, there are two small umbrellas underneath the larger transgender umbrella, and those are “binary” and “nonbinary.”

In the binary category, we have transgender men and women. They are under the binary umbrella because trans men and women are just that, men and women. That’s the classic binary code of gender, 1 or 0.

In the nonbinary category, we have genderfluid, genderqueer, bigender, agender, demigirl, demiboy, neutrois, and more. The more people explore what gender means to them outside of the binary, the more terms we find to be fitting. This does not lessen the validity of binary genders (cis or trans), but instead expands our understanding of what gender is at large. Gender is a spectrum, after all (and it gets less linear everyday). The one thing I will point out in disagreement with the picture above, is that genderqueer is more of a synonym for transgender than it is an identity under the nonbinary umbrella. Genderqueer is often used as its own umbrella term, describing people’s “non-normative experience with their gender,” which can encompass anyone under the transgender umbrella, binary or nonbinary. In saying this, however, one can and many do use genderqueer as a stand-alone identity, often depicting their nonbinary gender.

To me, ‘genderqueer’ represents a queering of gender, so to speak. It’s a deliberate playing with gender in a very political sense, and being provocative around gender norms to highlight the gender stereotypes of our culture.

– Laura A. Jacobs, an LGBTQ+ psychotherapist in an interview with VICE

Are Nonbinary and Transgender Interchangeable?

They can be! Because transgender begets nonbinary (as in the umbrella model), many nonbinary folx use trans and nonbinary interchangeably, myself included. But many nonbinary people do not identify as trans, and that’s okay. It all comes down to individual preferences.

I am also now learning that “nonbinary” can be used to further qualify cisgender identity as in “I am a nonbinary woman,” which is where my aside from before comes back into the conversation. Despite normative rhetoric, we CAN be multiple genders. Us humans are beautiful in our complexity! When it comes to being nonbinary, an individual who identifies as such can also identify as bigender, poly-gender, or some other multiple-gender concept that includes their assigned gender at birth (AGAB) to be at least one of those identities, as is the case for the aforementioned nonbinary woman.

Many nonbinary folks may not be bothered by their assigned gender at birth and feel like it still describes them in some way so they don’t want to fully adopt the trans label.

– a queer Facebook commenter
  • Some nonbinary people will not claim trans for themselves because of internalized transphobia (whether they realize it or not).
  • Some nonbinary people will not claim trans for themselves due to not feeling “trans enough” (which, let me be clear, if you’re gender non-conforming in identity, and you want to be a part of the trans community, you ARE trans enough).
  • Some nonbinary people will not claim trans for themselves because they still identify with their AGAB as the quote above describes. This can be conflated with demigirl/boy identities.

For me, it depends on the situation. Sometimes it’s just easier to use trans as a shorthand, as I can feel vulnerable in getting specific about my gender identity. Sometimes I use trans for the shock value, as most people misgender me. “Trans” empowers me to stand in my identity because I feel the support of the whole community behind me when I use it (not that nonbinary doesn’t do that too, but most people know what trans is, whereas not everyone knows with nonbinary is). Other times nonbinary is more fitting because I feel too vulnerable saying trans in fear of being the recipient of transphobia, as if nonbinary is less in-your-face trans? That definitely plays into my own internalized transphobia, but the fear of external transphobia is real, and this is how my brain rationalizes things in order to deal with them.

Nonbinary is under the trans umbrella because it is rejecting the binary as we traditionally know it.

– Me, in my post Nonbinary and Me

I’ll admit now that “rejecting the binary” was not the best way to phrase things. Not all nonbinary people reject the binary, as bigender people exist, as well as genderqueer/genderfluid folx who play with gender within the binary. This is only amplified more when we consider nonbinary cisgendered people. To be transgender, then, is to participate within the gender binary in untraditional, counter-normative ways, with the possibility to reject the binary altogether.

Humans are WAY too complex for us to say anything in our lives is a paradox. “We contain multitudes.”

– same queer Facebook commenter

There is so much nuance when it comes to human identity and the words we use to describe ourselves. As time progresses, we’re relearning just how expansive humanity can be. We do not fit neatly into the same few boxes! And even when we do, those boxes are often subjected to change or overlap, over time.

So are transgender and nonbinary synonymous? It all comes down to the individual at hand, so always ask before you assume!

It’s time we stop pathologizing different neurotypes and get to the root of the problem: we all need individualized care.

Instead of putting the onus of “functionality” on the individual, we need to really evaluate how the systems we have in place (this capitalist, white supremacist, cisheteropatriarchy) put us all at disadvantages depending on the identities we hold. No two autistic people are the same, just as no two neurotypicals are the same.

Let’s start a conversation about what is actually needed: comprehensive universal healthcare and social infrastructure that evaluates the individual’s needs and accommodates appropriately. There is no such thing as a “high” or “low” functioning human. There are only humans who need a more accommodating/understanding/patient environment. Whatever “level” humans operate at, makes them just that—human. Functioning labels serve no one but those who feel the need to “organize” for hierarchy’s sake.

I consider myself disabled due to the combination of my chronic disease and neurodivergence (autism w/ADHD). This means that even though you’ll see me dancing and often “functioning” at the expected level in most social situations, there are days where I can barely get out of bed, let alone get to the store or talk with people in any meaningful way. Social and sensory triggers play a HUGE role in my “functionality,” on top of having a body that fights itself on a daily basis.

Not my words, but relatable AF

Autism is not a condition or disorder.

But it CAN be a disability when needs aren’t met. When the metric for disability is based in how an individual is able to “perform” socially, or independently, suddenly a whole lot of people are either “low functioning” or are able to mask super well which causes its own problems. It’s degrading. We are all worthy of love, dignity, and respect.

When it comes to disabilities that can only be accommodated for so far (from executive functioning issues to having seizures), we have the opportunity to see disability as a non-linear spectrum, as we see autism. Certain disabilities will put a person at a disadvantage compared to others in whatever environment. This is why it’s even more crucial that we have individualized care. And when accommodating for one disability impedes someone else with a different disability, a compromise must be reached.

We are humans of great capacity!

We literally have ALL the power to make our society inclusive and accommodating for *everyone*. We accommodate for everything we can, we do better when we learn better, and we interact with each other with dignity and respect. It all comes down to compassionate communication and individual needs (which is not to say similar needs can’t be serviced collectively, just that systems need to operate on a more personal level than they do now).

So why don’t we make this shift happen? Because the way things are now keep people poor and dependent and allows those in power to stay in power by exploiting others. We can start dismantling these awful structures by changing our language to be more compassionate and inclusive. Will you join me?

What is “high” and “low” functioning?

According to the levels in the DSM-5, high functioning people use spoken language to communicate, are more likely to manage the expectations of an academic setting, and more likely to be aware of social conventions. Basically, they are able to pass as “normal” or “typical” in most areas of life.

Low functioning people are described to look and sound different from their typical peers with their disability being more visually and orally obvious, and are less likely to engage in typical classes or activities.

Why is this a problem?

The “high functioning” or “low functioning” dichotomy came from eugenics (a movement aimed at selectively breeding desirable traits and out-breeding neurodiverse individuals [among other marginalized identities]). It is based off a person’s ability to produce capitalistic value or not which is inherently wrong.

The distinctions between low and high functioning individuals is artificial and not absolute. This is because autistic people behave differently in different situations and every individual has a range of strengths and challenges.

For example, a “high functioning” person who appears “normal” (or even exceptional) in a classroom may find it impossible to function at a party or concert. Meanwhile, a “low functioning” person who can’t use spoken language to communicate may be more than capable to lead an online conversation.

Why is this a problem?

Autistic people labelled as “high functioning” often receive less care and support from communities, peers, and medical professionals because they are deemed capable of functioning “normally” in society without assistance. This becomes an issue once they are no longer capable of functioning “normally” due to sensory overload or any other triggers. This idea also promotes the harmful and excessive use of “masking” where autistic individuals prevent themselves from stimming or a meltdown to maintain the expectations of a “high functioning” person.

On the other hand, autistic people labelled as “low functioning” are deemed of less value than their “high functioning” and neurotypical peers. They are often excluded and isolated from social circles, are underpaid, and denied workplace rights and healthcare rights.

What should we say instead of “high” and “low” functioning?

Nothing.

Focusing on people’s functioning gets us nowhere. Autistic people’s needs and experiences are too varied to fit into any dichotomy, no matter what you call it. The conversation should be focused on the amount of access to care rather than the amount they “function.” Obviously some people need more care and different forms of care than others but labelling autistic people on “high” and “low” functioning is the opposite of supportive.

Simply approach each autistic individual with an open mind and kind heart without forcing us into restrictive and demeaning boxes. 

Sources:

healthline.com/health/high-functioning-autism

http://spectrumnews.org/…/large-study-supports…/

http://autismawareness.com.au/…/why-we-should-stop…/

also a huge thank you to all my fellow peers from the autistic community for sharing your thoughts and opinions on this issue with me [heart emoji] -@safehaven.activists

Thanks to @safehaven.activists for the awesome info slides. Read my commentary here in High vs. Low Functioning Labels for Autism, Part 2.