This post is somewhat of a repeat of parts of this post; I kept the repetition because I like having a more succinct summary of my experience of gender (this post is 1,000 words shorter than that one!). This post is also somewhat of a follow-up/addition to that one.
When I saw the topic for the Carnival of Aces this month, which is Nonbinary People and Asexuality, my first thought was, “Do I count as non-binary?” I only recently came to the conclusion that I’m genderless—you can read all about my process of coming to identify with that term in the post linked above if you’re interested—and being so new at this, as well as being an atypical genderless person as far as I can tell (more on that below), I’m a little nervous about assuming that I qualify as non-binary. Of course there’s the idea of one’s self-identification being the most important and that other people don’t have the right to label-police you, but if a member of a privileged group started going around saying they identify as a member of a marginalized group, that would obviously be problematic and could be hurtful to actual members of the marginalized group, and I definitely don’t want to do that by claiming “I’m non-binary too!” when maybe I really shouldn’t.*
My reservation comes from the fact that, while I do identify as genderless, I still see myself as a woman, and at the moment don’t desire to change that. The reason is that who I am and my life up to this point has been significantly impacted by always having viewed myself, and always being viewed by other people, as female. I want to acknowledge that; I don’t want it to disappear. I don’t want to get rid of that part of my identity. Also, being a woman makes feminism personal to me in a way it can’t be to cis men. And so I’m currently identifying as a genderless woman.
It follows that, unlike most of the neutrois or other genderless people whose accounts I’ve read, I don’t desire to alter my body to make it gender (or sex) -neutral. Rather, my body and my internal sense of my gender are somewhat disconnected. While if I could magically have a sexless body I might consider it (and I know I would choose to do so if I lived in a different world, a world without compulsory sexuality and a patriarchy to fight against), for now it is important to me to continue to be seen as a woman. If I’m a woman, I can show the world that you can be female and have hairy legs. I can show society that being a woman doesn’t have to mean being girly, or going all the way to the other side and being masculine. I can feel solidarity with other women worldwide who face the oppression of the patriarchy, because I’ve felt it myself. Losing my femaleness would mean losing all of that.**
So while I’m maybe not non-binary in a typical way (although maybe there isn’t a typical way to be non-binary!), I think the descriptor does fit. For one thing, I’ve realized that calling myself non-binary is important to me (just as being a woman is), because the more self-identified non-binary people there are, the more the gender binary—which I believe is a false construct—will be called into question. And, when it comes down to my internal sense of my gender, I’m definitely not masculine or feminine. And that’s the definition of non-binary.
*Pegasus’s discussion of the term “cis” is relevant here—some people would say I’m cis, while others might say I fall under the trans* umbrella.
**For a similar-but-different perspective, read Rotten Zucchinis’s musings about specifically not wanting to change hir body to match hir gender and being torn between feminism and a non-binary identity in “Body Politics: With(out) Gender”, found on page 7 of the zine that can be downloaded here (it’s formatted for printing so you have to jump around to read it in order, but it’s worth it). In another piece in that zine (“Invisible Monster Hiding in Plain Sight”), ze writes, “Gender—the way people usually think about it—is just another dimension of the human experience that doesn’t apply to me. And that isn’t because of my body. I don’t have a problem with my body—I have a problem with what my body means to other people,” which is quite similar to how I feel (see this post and this one where I talk about my discomfort with being read as feminine).