[The featured image is of the nonbinary pride flag in colors yellow, white, purple, and black from top to bottom.]
My gender journey has taken me lots of places over the last 4 years. From being decidedly nonbinary with they/them pronouns, to experimenting with feelings past just “transmasc nonbinary” and seeing if I felt more like a boy (with they/he pronouns), to being back to nonbinary, but in a way that’s completely off the spectrum (with they/it pronouns), I’ve grown through quite the adventure. That’s the beautiful thing about gender: it doesn’t have to stay fixed. We are dynamic beings, and gender is allowed to reflect that. Gender is a social construct, after all. That being said, I bet you’re wondering why I use the pronoun “it” now.
I don’t get it. Isn’t that dehumanizing?
Well, no. And yes. It depends on who’s using it and what their intention is. I’ve had many people ask me why I use “it” as a pronoun, so I figured it’d be easiest to write something out for future askers. Ready? Let’s dive in!
“It” is Reclamation
The pronoun “it” has absolutely been used in the past, and still is used now, to dehumanize trans individuals. Just as women have reclaimed “slut”, “whore”, and “bitch”—or Black people have reclaimed the “n-word”, or gay/queer people have reclaimed “faggot”—I reclaim “it” to take back the power from transphobic people, and for the purposes described in the following paragraphs.
“It” is Spiritual
When I am not forced to perceive myself through constructed lenses (i.e., gender), I am allowed to connect to the Universe on a more mindful, spiritual level. When I’m not forced to perceive my humanity, I am allowed to connect to how I am a creature on this earth—a creature that is interconnected to every living entity, to every organic substance, to the stars and all that’s beyond them. I’ve frequently joked in the past (and will continue to do so) about how I’m human, but barely. I think a lot of humans forget how we are quite literally animals on this planet. In my opinion, what it is to be “human” is also a social construction. Colonialism and capitalism may be products of our creativity and innovation (oh, and white supremacy 🙃), but I refuse to allow those structures to remove the animal from within me. We, as humans, are not “above” other creatures. “It” allows me to feel interconnected and at home in my body.
“It” is Decolonization
Strict enforcement of binary gender (man/woman) is a product of Western modernity and colonization. Nonbinary identities have always existed, just as any LGBTQIA+ identity has always been a part of the human experience (whether the language was present for it or not). When I embrace “it” as a pronoun, I am disengaging from the binary completely and bringing pre-colonial times to the present. There are so many cultures that have embraced third (and more) genders for generations, and it’s beyond time for the colonized world to recognize the validity of these genders.
The way I identify my gender is understanding what it is NOT, in comparison to the spectrum we’ve finally let take hold in the Western world that goes past the binary. I only use “nonbinary” to communicate how I am different from the traditional conceptions of what gender is (i.e., binary). I do not feel like the term “nonbinary” actually describes my gender. The closest term I’ve found to suit me when I do experience gender is “maverique“, because that term describes gender as its own experience, independent of “male, female, neutral, or anything derived from any of them”. “Maverique” is the closest shorthand I have for saying “my gender is human, and barely at that.” Most people, however, don’t know this term, so for ease, I use “nonbinary”.
The other terms that can be used to describe nonbinary genders—genderfluid, gendervoid, agender, etc.—don’t suit me perfectly either because they still try to encapsulate what gender IS. I am not “genderfluid”, I AM fluid. I am not lacking, or full, or anything in between, I simply EXIST. The pronoun “they” suits me enough because I contain multitudes, but “it” suits me even better because “it” has no stake in the gender game to begin with, and allows me to embrace how I am a creature on this earth, not just a human. This is also why neopronouns appeal to me, and I may one day start using them, but I’ve yet to have the energy to assert myself this way (I reason with myself that at least “it” is already a used pronoun, but times are changing). After all of this, “autigender” is the best descriptive I have for communicating how I approach gender, but not many people are as familiar with that word as “nonbinary”, just like “maverique”. If you are one of those people, I encourage you to read this article I wrote on my autigender experience, here.
If you are thrown off by the so many words that are starting to exist to describe the unique experience of gender, then you’re catching onto the fact that there are at least* as many genders as there are people. . .
Think about it. Even in the cisgender world, no woman is the same as another woman. No man is the same as another man. People constantly get up in arms about “what is a man” and “what is a woman”, but those definitions are rarely agreed on, and so many people fall outside of the standard. And the ones who do fit? They often harm themselves and others to adhere to those standards instead of just being who they want to be. Being a woman (or man) doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s experience of being a woman (or man), and it doesn’t make you any less of a woman (or man). SO why can’t we apply that logic to just being human? Being a human doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s experience of being a human, and that doesn’t make them any less of a human. This concept speaks to any identity, not just gender. Now language is just catching up to categorizing other genders so that people feel better about understanding themselves and communicating/identifying with others.
TL;DR: I don’t really f*ck with gender. I just express myself in ways that make sense and feel good, and people project their own meaning of who/what I am onto me based on their lived experience with gender. Even if you don’t identify the way I do, I’m sure you’ve had experience with being misperceived or misrepresented in other ways. . .doesn’t feel good. So this is why I write. This is why I share my experience and ask people to respect me (and the rest of the trans community). We only have “trans identity” because our cisnormative world doesn’t allow other kinds of existence without being labeled as different, or the “other”. The pronoun “it” allows me to embrace my otherness in a way the suits me best. The more we can recognize and respect each other’s different lived experience, the less and less we will have the compulsory need as a society to distinguish “otherness”, and using “they” or “it” for pronouns won’t be so odd to folks.
Additionally, how we use the social construction of gender to identify ourselves is a very personal process and doesn’t have to make sense to others. The important thing is that we respect each other regardless. We are all humans (some of us barely so, as I’ve described), sharing this co-created existence together. It makes no sense to get bent out of shape over someone else’s identity that is bringing absolutely no harm to others. I think gender is beautiful and valid and useful and expressive and expansive. I have also known it to be confining, definitive, discriminatory, and lacking. I am happy people know their gender and are happy with whatever they know themselves as. If the world insists I have a gender, I keep my foot on the ground and decidedly say, “No thank you.”
*one can argue there are MORE genders than people, because many people are multigendered, and each gender is uniquely their own
Getting pronouns right takes practice! And it’s okay for you to take time in building skill. The best you can do when you make a mistake is to say, “Sorry [and then use the correct pronoun in the same sentence],” or say “Thank you [and then use the correct pronoun in the same sentence],” when someone corrects you.
You can practice on your own, with a friend, or even me! I offer peer support sessions on a sliding scale, just click here! And if you’re on an identity-discovery journey yourself, I’d be very happy to support you with the same sessions. Sending you love 💜✨