I honestly never expected to be making a Pride post like this, but here goes nothing. A few weeks back, my partner asked out of the blue if I had ever felt uncomfortable with my gender identity. Suffice to say, I word vomited. Something inside me was compelled for the first time to open up to her and reveal that I have never been comfortable identifying as a man or as a woman. I explained my memories, my fears, my insecurities and the former joys that I forced myself to give up in order to fit into a predetermined role. For 30+ years on this planet, I have been wearing a mask of masculinity and denying my truth. I’m non-binary and biromantic and I don’t want to be scared about admitting either of those anymore. It’s almost as if my soul has been liberated to an extent and it feels great. Pride is literally about being proud of who I am so this post should be viewed as both a critical examination and as a celebration. I finally feel free and there’s a lot to talk about!
To start, I say critical examination because it’s taken a lot to come out in my 30s and I want to go over why exactly (maybe in an effort to justify the lost time to myself). So…why? Was it because of my childhood and adolescence? I was mistaken for a girl a lot growing up with my long hair, bright clothing and soft voice so I changed what I could to appeal to the patriarchal gaze even though I liked how I looked/talked. I was made fun of by other boys for spending all of my time with girls so I got more guy friends and left many friendships behind. I used to love dressing up until I was told that I shouldn’t. The same goes for wearing makeup or enjoying so-called “girly” shows/music/activities. Common refrains like “boys don’t cry” or “man up” kept me from expressing myself like a real person so I taught myself to be hard and angry instead. I made a habit of changing my clothing, my behaviours, my relationships and my hobbies often as dictated by the public’s perception of masculinity. I just wanted to be accepted by peers and adults alike so I slipped on a stifling mask that screamed “I am straight white man with no noticeable flaws” and thought I could maintain that façade until I died. I’m not dead yet so I guess that plan didn’t work.
I did a lot in order to fool myself even as I entered adulthood. I forced myself to date, did stereotypically masculine sports, attended RCMP camp and I eventually joined the Canadian Forces and went to the Royal Military College. I made a whole post about trauma which included my time in that hellhole so I won’t repeat myself here, but simply put it didn’t make me into the “man” I thought it would. I came home disillusioned and fell into drink and the lures of the PUA community which I hoped would revitalize my manhood and give me a sense of purpose. The so-called “seduction community” and its values of domination and trickery did nothing but make me feel dirty for treating human beings like objects. I was no womanizer. No ladies man. I was just some broken schmuck and didn’t even know who I was or what I wanted. I even kept my true self hidden from my long-term partner for fear that being non-binary would make me less desirable to her. I maintained the illusion in order to preserve a heteronormative standard for her and the world at large. Whether my fear was the result of my upbringing or my later decisions doesn’t really matter now I suppose. I am merely tired of fooling myself and pretending to be something I’m not.
Definitely some of my hesitation can be explained from these past experiences which I haven’t quite worked through. However, I believe it’s taken me this long to accept or portray myself as anything other than a cis man because I have a deep-seated fear of rejection that is not easily overcome. I’m afraid of the rejection from my loved ones in that I don’t think they’d understand or they’d outright refuse to try. I’m nervous about people’s perceptions in my career especially through my work with children and in education. I don’t know how the LGBTQ2S+ community will react as I know non-binary inclusion remains an issue. I also want to be mindful as a white accomplice about taking up space or unintentionally overpowering the voices of racialized queer folks. I’m anxious about everything (it’s just my natural state of being at this point) so my repressed desires are frightening and I don’t know how to approach them just yet. Am I loved? Do I fit in somewhere? It’s the lack of immediate answers that vexes me.
I grew up in a relatively liberal family, but that also comes at the cost of progressive mindsets. They have struggled before with accepting immigration reforms, addiction resources, non-white feminism, abortion rights, housing crises and police abolition because of their flawed beliefs of “public safety” or the fear that their own lives and finances would be threatened with systemic changes. What’s to stop them from viewing my own queerness as a problem or a moral/biological failing? Half my family is Christian and I have had to witness their misguided and hateful attempts to quell women’s rights, religious rights and LGBTQ2S+ rights so what would stop them from coming after their own blood? I fear the same when it comes to my friends. Would my friends and family try to understand and continue loving me or would this become something that haunts us indefinitely? So many damn questions. I always have the option to continue playing nice and hiding, but I fear that would just end up hurting more in the end.
I work in education and with kids. Societal stigma against LGBTQ2S+ educators especially those who are viewed as male is still prevalent because of decades of propaganda and fear-mongering. Parental fears of men in education/childcare are understandable (to a point) because of predators and a lack of accountability so I have always been careful to maintain a respectable and safe reputation in the field. However, I worry that some parents may not be comfortable with a queer person supporting their child or working in the classroom and I could lose work that I’m deeply passionate about. Naturally, I’m not talking about coming out to students or staff, but rather the very real possibility that my identity could be revealed in photos, though my friends/acquaintances, or even through my activism. Losing work or facing discrimination because of my personal and honest identification is a lingering fear that has kept me quiet for a while.
My main fear comes from not knowing if I belong or what spaces I can occupy within the LGBTQ2S+ community. I have never not identified as a straight cis man in 30+ years so I almost feel like an imposter right now. I feel as though I’m playing a game among people who have been honest with themselves and truly accept one another. I know this is just my anger and personal resentment talking because other queer people have also been down my road and know these struggles (and often worse), but it is hard to break out of that way of thinking. I find myself questioning every day if I would be called a friend in any LGBTQ2S+ circle. I am a white queer person and thus I also worry about unintentionally occupying spaces that should be reserved for racialized folks or LGBTQ2S+ members facing greater discrimination like those who are trans. I can’t seem to shake the fear that I would accidentally overstep and abuse my privilege. Perhaps my best bet is to remain mindful of my place as an accomplice as well as a queer person. I can be a friend and accomplice to everyone in the LGBTQ2S+ community without taking away their voice or standing in the way of their liberation. It’s just about always being compassionate and aware.
Happy Pride Month! I wish I could have written this sooner i.e. not on the last day of June, but I have struggled with how to approach this topic. I am very happy with and yet scared to death of my newfound sense of self. I know this wasn’t one of my usual posts with statistics, political rants, or scathing critiques of capitalism, but it’s definitely a worthy discussion nonetheless. I wouldn’t be a good anarchist if I didn’t view the liberation of LGBTQ2S+ peoples as a necessity. Even if I wasn’t queer myself, I would still be out there fighting beside them for their rights because nothing will change until everyone is free to love and live as they were born to. I had a difficult time writing this because it opened up a lot of old wounds and really emphasized how much I have hurt myself (and others) in the past. I have spent too long denying myself peace and happiness for the sake of outdated heteronormative standards so I am just glad to be working towards something better now. My path to personal acceptance is far from complete, but I think I have made great strides thus far. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you again. Solidarity, my friends.