by: Khai Devon
Having ended and processed through the ending of a couple of wrong-for-me relationships, and on the cusp of moving to a city where I know maybe two people, I got talked into joining a dating site. I figured I could at least to make some friends, and if more happened—well, that’s cool too. I filled out all the requisite information, wrote a profile detailing my passion for words and good times and started sending messages to people.
Only, there was a slight problem. This particular dating site forces users to choose from two and only two options when selecting their gender. Neither fits me, but since my biological body screams female, and I have no plans to surgically alter that that’s what I picked. In my profile, I pretty clearly specified that I identify as a genderqueer pansexual, primarily interested in women but not averse to the right man or non-binary person in the right circumstances.
One user shot me a message. I shot one back. I asked what the five most important things I should know about them were. They told me they were a NASCAR fan, single, ready to mix it up and looking for one special person to form a connection with. They asked what the five most important things they should know about me are. I told them it was my name, that I’m genderqueer, that I’m younger than most people think I am but older than my years and that I’m passionate about literally everything I do.
They asked what genderqueer meant. I explained that it meant that I didn’t identify as male or female—but rather as some third option. I explained that I was comfortable with the fact that I have a biologically female body, but that I don’t think of myself as a woman. They sent back a message that said I was cute, sweet and they’d love to meet me—except they didn’t think they could handle my identity crisis.
I couldn’t resist messaging them back, explaining that I am not having an identity crisis. I own my identity and love myself exactly as I am. If they only date women and aren’t open to dating people who aren’t women—that’s fine. But if they were going to reject me for my gender, at least get the rejection right.
Now is a good time to explain that I might get a little sassy when someone is as insulting as she was in her message. I’m cleaning it up for the purposes of the story. She wrote back and said, “If you have a biologically female body, you are female. There are only two sexes and that’s just the way it is, honey. I’m a lesbian. I date women. You’re a woman. I’d love to date you, once you get that figured out.”
Pleased, I wrote back, “Well, I wouldn’t like to date you. I only date people who are open to the spectrum of human possibility. But thanks for the conversation!”
At this point, I got a blistering message I’ve long since deleted from my inbox, informing me that I was a liar, that I was a fake, that I was harmful to the Women’s Rights movement; this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this stuff, but it is the first time I’ve been rejected for a date because of it. Also, it’s the first time I’ve had quite as many curse words directed at me in a simple rejection of my identity.
Based on that message, I have come to the conclusion that I dodged a bullet there. I have also come to the conclusion that she was threatened by my identity in the same way as the last person who tore me up over the words I use to label myself was—the similarities were too great, although the last person was much kinder and is still a good friend.
Look. Labels are shorthand we use to communicate complex ideas. They are not determiners of our experiences, and they will never cover the vast spectrum of human possibility completely. My identity in no way means you can’t still call yourself a lesbian after a really long, really good night in the sack with me. You’re a woman who primarily is attracted to women? Cool. You just slept with a genderqueer. What’s the problem? You’re a straight man? Okay. You’re dating a genderqueer. Cool. Doesn’t mean your next partner won’t be a straight woman, if things don’t work out between us.
All I’m asking for is the space to be me. And I think we’ll find, if we give each other the space we need to fully express our identities, then our identities won’t bump up against each other and cause friction. They’ll just be things we talk about and explore together, constantly evolving and shifting, but ultimately fitting together because there’s room for everyone in this great big wide world we live in. Your identity doesn’t have to infringe on mine, and my identity doesn’t have to infringe on yours. And if you’re going to reject me for my identity, reject me because I’m not your preferred gender, not because I’m having an identity crisis—because I’m not the one who’s afraid of what lies beyond the tight little boundaries I’ve drawn.
Khai Devon is a genderqueer pansexual in hir early twenties, about to embark on a life changing adventure, pursuing her dream of becoming a slam poet in Portland, Oregon. Sie writes blogs at disturbinglynormal.wordpress.com and duffelbagandadream.wordpress.com, updating whenever the words overflow.