I’m Not A Boy, I’m Not A Girl Either
The first time I walked into my church, I stopped at the welcome table. Like you do. There were name tags and a calendar of upcoming events. Crayons and markers. A note about the church. A welcome for new visitors. The name tags offered a few choices. Pronoun choices. I’d never been given pronoun choices before. I’ve never had anyone ask me what I wanted. That’s how assignment works.
In this culture where some kind of binary assignment is the norm, we assess those we meet and assign he or she upon appearance. Upon appearance, you put me where you want me, not where I belong. Not where I fit.
Because I don’t fit in this he or she, in this either or. I fit in the middle. In the between he and she, in the unknown space of both. Where I’ve always been. How I’ve always been me.
I wore boy clothes and played with dolls. I took dance, but didn’t want to wear makeup at the recital. I wasn’t a tomboy. I don’t know how to use tools and fix things. I hate taking the trash out and hiking and bugs. I really hate bugs. My favorite color is purple. I’m not butch enough. I’m not feminine enough. The world tells me I’m not enough.
Each Sunday, I chose a sticker name tag. The one without pronoun choices. Because no choice is safer. Because no choice is what I’ve been doing this whole time. Because sometimes making a choice to put language on who you are feels too big, too hard, too much. Sometimes making no choice is a choice, too.
“What pronouns are you using?”
I’m teaching Sunday School this year. The first day, the pastor asked me what the name tag table had been haunting me about all these months.
“None,” I answered and walked away. Avoiding hard things is my specialty. She asked again. Pastors are like that. Friends are, too. I told her how I cringe at female words like mom and girl and woman and prefer words like parent and person. The neutral words. The in-between words. I didn’t answer the pronoun question. Not yet.
Language is hard. Language is everything.
Riley has been using the neutral words for me for months. In the spring, she started calling me miss for some reason. After the third time, I couldn’t breathe. We talked about neutral words. We made a chart of all the boy words we could think of, all the girl words, and all the neutral words. I told her that I like the neutral words the best for me. Neutral words fit better. And just like she doesn’t want to be called the boy words, I didn’t want people using the girl words for me. Because no matter how big we try to make the word girl, it still doesn’t fit. I don’t want to run #likeagirl. I don’t want to be strong #likeagirl. Because I don’t feel #likeagirl.
“Mommy, I’m the queen, but you’re the neutral king. Because you’re not a boy.”
I’m not a boy. I’m not transitioning to male. I’ve spent so long misgendered as female, I don’t want to now be misgendered as male. Neither fit. That’s how genderqueer works for me.
Last week, I chose a name tag. Riley got one for me, too. We both picked they/them/theirs. These are the pronouns I use for myself. These are the pronouns Riley uses for me. We went to the store and bought glitter and glue and new markers. Because if I’m going to do this, I’m going all in. With glitter. With some kind of celebration. I’m taking up space in this in between, in this neither and both and everything I’ve always been and everything I want to be. Even though it’s terrifying. Even though it changes nothing. Even though it changes everything. That’s how language works. It’s just language.
Language is everything. Language defines us even when we don’t want it to.
I’m coming out again. Even though it’s hard. Even though it feels impossible. It feels like always. It feels like everything and nothing. It feels just like me.