Boy or Girl? I’m Neither

Non-binary

Note: The ideas and words of each blog post are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the USGA presidency or USGA as an organization. Many of the blog posts featured here are written by LGBTQ/SSA BYU students who are not yet ready to have their sexual orientation or gender identity known by some friends, family, colleagues and internet strangers. As you read this or any other anonymous post, please take a moment to consider the implications and risks of being publicly LGBTQ/SSA as a BYU student.

This post deals with the complexities of sex, gender identity, and societal gender norms. Because these topics are so seldomly discussed, the following definitions of terms used in this article should be noted:

Sex: The physical or biological indications that show that one’s body is male, female, or intersex (containing both male and female physical attributes or genetics)

Gender Identity: One’s internal sense of being male, female, or non-binary (feeling somewhere between male and female). Normally this aligns with one’s physical body (called cisgender), but occasionally one’s internal gender identity is incongruent with one’s physical body (called transgender).

Societal Gender Norms: How others expect one to behave based on one’s physical sex. Gender norms are often a way of expressing one’s gender identity, but many are arbitrarily constructed based on culture and societal expectations.

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On February 1st, 2015, I attended a Super Bowl party thrown by some good friends of mine. It was a fun night filled with delicious food, football, and friends. Just as the second quarter was starting, I peeled myself away from the game to take a look around the apartment. I saw five girls cheering and screaming for their favorite team, clad in Patriots jerseys and Seahawks blankets. I then noticed all the guys: sleeping on the floor, engaged in conversations, or cooking in the kitchen. I couldn’t help but smile at this display where people went against societal gender norms and no one batted an eye.

Despite this inversion of gender norms, what people choose to do doesn’t affect their gender identity. A woman who enjoys watching football does not become a man and a man who likes to cook does not become a woman. Gender identity is weird and confusing, and way more complicated than societal gender norms. The end. That’s it, that’s all I have to say on the matter. Everyone can go home now.

No, but seriously, gender identity is a very important and confusing thing for you to think about let alone to try and place yourself within. Society tries to tell us that everyone will be cisgender (when someone’s gender identity aligns with one’s sex) but I’m here to tell you that is not true even though that does happen more times than not. The gender identity that others may expect you to have based on your sex is not necessarily the gender that you identify as, whether that means that you are binary transgender (a male gender identity in a female’s body or vice versa) or genderqueer (this includes everything that doesn’t fit in the binary e.g., non-binary, agender, bigender, etc.). Gender identity is more than what we wear or how people perceive us, it is who we are, it is our spirits and that’s why it is such a personal thing to explore. For each person it is a different journey that ends with different discoveries about important parts of themselves. For me, the hardest part was reconciling things I had been told my whole life with this part of me that was undeniable, much like dealing with same-sex attraction.

Non-binary is a broad term many use when they identify as genderqueer; it is used when someone’s gender identity doesn’t align as either man or woman. When I found out the term non-binary and saw other people just like me, it helped me to know there was a place for me. I am non-binary which is honestly so nice to finally say because I went through a lot of years not really knowing there was any kind of language to describe it.

My parents thought that my sex, gender identity, and expression of that identity through societal gender norms would all align perfectly. On the day of my birth I was put in a pink hat, given a feminine name, and taken home to a room full of dresses and dolls. It was because my sex was physically female at birth that I was given all these things and not adorned in blue, given dinosaur toys, or named a more masculine name like George. I had a female body, so society assigned me the feminine gender identity, which meant they expected me to act, dress, and be a certain way, or at least that’s how it felt. When I was little I embraced it; I loved pink and anything “girly.” As I got a little older, I started to branch out, learn more about myself, and like more stereotypically “boy” things. I started wearing sport shorts and t-shirts to school; I wanted to be the leader and was very assertive, but I was still loving, nurturing, and emotional which are all “feminine” things. I found myself as this mixture of things that didn’t really make sense to me.

Now I know that enjoying a mixture of feminine and masculine societal gender norms does not necessarily mean that someone is transgender (that their gender identity is incongruent with their physical sex). Because I enjoyed so many societal gender norms that were normally ascribed to boys when I was younger, I did think I was just a tomboy (a person whose physical sex and gender identity are female, but who enjoys things that societal gender norms ascribe to men). I identified as a girl only because I didn’t identify as a boy, and those were the only two genders I knew, but for me that’s how I realized that I was different, and it’s how I was able to learn more about myself from then on. In my case, it wasn’t just that I liked “boy” things but that I had a gender identity that was neither man nor woman, and I wanted to express that through a mixture of male and female societal gender norms.

Today I am still perceived as woman because of my sex, but I do not closely associate myself with the feminine gender identity, and at times I don’t even feel close to my physical sex. Sometimes I feel dysphoric, meaning that I feel uncomfortable in my female body because it does not match my internal gender identity; some parts of my body start to feel foreign to me, like a parasite, and all I want to do is get rid of them. Other days I feel fine in my body and I can go about my day feeling okay but I don’t really ever know how I’m going to feel on any given day. The honest truth is that I feel nothing when thinking about my gender, and most of the time, my sex as well. I am somewhere in the limbo of my own gender identity, and because non-binary is closest to just saying “meh” about my gender, it is perfect for me. So when I want to express my gender identity through traditional societal gender norms, some days I want to wear floral and be pampered, but some days all I want to do is wear a snapback and be assertive (I have more days like the latter than the former). I love it when people call me “mister” and I hate it when people call me a woman. Sometimes I wish I could walk around campus like a cisgender guy, but I’m not, and I’m glad I got to grow up being perceived as having a female gender identity and I’m glad I’m transgender because it gives me perspective, helps me empathize with people, and at the end of the day this is who I am. Though, I don’t want to be seen by my gender or sex; I just want to be seen as a person regardless of what I wear or whom I like.

Leaving gender identity aside for a moment, let’s talk about societal gender norms. I am a walking paradox when it comes to these: a lover of everything floral but a hater of dresses, extremely emotional but wanting to be seen as strong. Yet none of these things are mutually exclusive; they are only correlated because we are told they are. Just think about it: how are flowers inherently “female”? Why are sports like football and baseball thought as “only for males”? Can I have a vagina and still like playing football or building things with my hands? Flowers aren’t inherently “female” just because a lot of them are pink and football isn’t “male” just because it involves brute force. And pink and brute force aren’t “male” or “female” either. The enjoyment of certain things shouldn’t be limited to someone’s physical sex or gender identity.

There are so many intricacies to gender identity so I invite you to explore yours if you haven’t, even if you end up identifying with the gender identity that matches your sex, that’s okay. No matter how you identify, just know your feelings and experiences are valid and you are a complete person. Gender is weird, but totally awesome so don’t let the abyss of possible identities scare you from learning more.

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9 thoughts on “Boy or Girl? I’m Neither

  1. This is fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing. I tend to tell people that I identify as transgender (ftm) but it’s probably more accurate to say I’m nonbinary/genderqueer. It’s just harder to explain what that means and I’m lazy 🙂

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    1. God’s commandments are crystal clear concerning gender identity and marriage. For instance the Lord commanded, “that a man shall leave his mother and father and shall cleave unto his wife (not his husband) and they twain shall be one flesh (Matthew 19:5-6). In modern revelation it gets even clearer, “Thou shalt love thy wife (not thy husband) with all thy heart and shalt cleave unto her (not him) and none else (D&C 42: 22). It doesn’t get any clearer than this.

      The Atonement of the Savior can heal any problem or disorder–even same sex attraction. The Brethren have also declared that same sex folks can choose not to act on their sexual orientation. And BTW, there are now scientists in the U.S. and Canada who believe that pedophilia is a sexual orientation. Can everybody see where this is going?

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      1. I wholeheartedly believe that gender is ordained of God and our souls are either male or female. I believe in what the Prophets have said. I believe that the Atonement of Jesus Christ can heal all things.

        The only thing that I disagree with is your tone. Your tone throws the Atonement in the face of every queer person in a way that is telling them that if they struggle with this aspect in their life than they just aren’t using Christ enough in their life or they are just not praying hard enough. The tome of your statement is very discouraging for queer members of the church.

        You are correct in saying people should rely on the Savior and pray, but the next time you speak about this topic, especially directed at a queer member of the church, you should be more gentle about it.

        The Atonement was never meant to be thrown into people’s faces to condemn them. In John 3:17 is says “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

        All in all, instead of throwing the Atonement and prayer in the faces of LGBT Mormons, it would be better to encourage them to pray and be a loving support for them no matter what their decisions.

        Grappling with these issues is highly personal and sensitive. In all honesty, when I see LGBT Mormons leave the church and I might see they are another gender or have a significant other of their same gender, it pains me inside. It is their own choice and it is between them and God what they do, so I have no authority to judge them. But I feel pain and sadness inside nonetheless.

        These people need sensitivity and kindness. They need to know from their own experience that Christ is real and that the sorrow and confusion they feel has a remedy. Next time, be a friend to an LGBT Mormon. Love them like the Savior. The only true convincing come from within.

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      2. I find it interesting that you call me on my tone, but then you proceed to refer to the LGBT folks as “queer persons.” I was simply quoting the commandments of God concerning marriage. I have no problem with a lot of same gender persons. The ones I have a real problem with are the “militant” kind who demand that they have the right of marriage to their same sex partners and that the rest of us be forced to accept that what they do is normal and legal. I have a real problem with that. And of course we cannot voice our disapproval of and call their behavior what it is {unnatural) without being labeled bigoted, hateful, and intolerant. We all have the power to choose to be offended or not offended, James, and that includes same sex folks too. Sorry if this offends you and the “LGBT crowd” but sometimes you have to speak your mind. The very thought of two confused people of the same gender being “lovey-dovey” with each other makes me nauseous. Just out of curiosity James–do you love pedophiles and brutal murderers as much as you love same sex folks? They’re children of God, too, and have families and mothers and fathers who love them just as much as same sex folks have families and mothers and fathers who love them. Take Mark Hoffman for instance. His father has visited him in prison for 30 years and if he is still alive then he is still visiting Mark. His father loves him very much, but do you think for one minute that he condones his son’s heinous crimes? After all we are commanded to love “ALL” men (and women). Just saying…

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  2. I’m sorry, but the whole “non-binary” and “gender identity” thing seems completely nonsensical to me. Who is to say that because you like some things that are usually associated with the opposite gender, that therefore you are “non-binary?” All it means is that you have a unique personality – it doesn’t make any sense to say that it has something to do with this nebulous, unfounded concept of “gender identity.”
    Your post makes it clear that you of yourself decided that your interests somehow implied that your actual identity was neither male nor female. You also completely contradict yourself when you say that sports are not inherently masculine and dolls are not inherently feminine, yet then proceed to say that somehow your unique interests (being different from traditional female interests) somehow imply that you must not really be a female. That is a fallacious argument.
    There is no way to prove that gender as an identity is even a real thing. Certainly it is not an inherent experience, or I would have experienced it myself (I haven’t, though I certainly could decide to say I had if I felt like it). At any rate, you have a long way to go before you’ll ever convince me that gender can somehow be different from one’s biological sex. The whole concept is riddled with inconsistency and contradiction.

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  3. This post is very contradictory and unclear. It makes the claim that playing with dolls isn’t inherently a feminine activity and loving sports isn’t inherently a masculine activity. But it completely bases its entire argument on those same premises. The author makes the claim that because she was born a female but grew up enjoying many traditionally masculine activities, she is therefore “non-binary” or “transgender.” That’s a fallacy.

    The truth is, this concept of “gender identity” is false. Its purpose is to confuse people into rejecting their true physical and spiritual identity. “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” God does not make mistakes.

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  4. I strongly agree with the two above-posted replies. How anybody could believe that God would create some of his children to be attracted to someone of their same gender while commanding that “A man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife (not his husband) and they twain shall be one flesh” (Matthew 19: 5-6) is atrocious and blasphemous. Modern revelation is even more clear than that, “Thou shalt love thy wife (not thy husband) with all his heart and shalt cleave unto her (not him) and none else (D&C 42: 22).
    It doesn’t get any clearer than this. Any feelings/emotions/behaviors can be overcome through the Atonement of the Savior. There is nothing the Atonement cannot heal–even same sex attraction. The Brethren have also said that one can choose not to act on his/her same sex attraction feelings. It’s all in one’s head.
    KT

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