I prefer these pronouns in order of preference, they/them, Jacci (yes, I am calling my name a pronoun) or she/her (so if you stuff up, don’t stress, we’ll work on getting to they and Jacci together).
I may be voicing an unpopular opinion for some here, so hold onto your flaps and prepare for lift-off.
I really do mean hold onto your labia (if you have labia and if you don’t flap a piece of anatomy as you see fit). (A)FAB. (Assigned). Female. At. Birth. This is my biological sex as ascribed to me by the medical profession when they held me in mid air and declared “it’s a girl”.
And then the shite began.
Because for me, girl was not me. During my childhood people called girl seemed to do the opposite to me for completely illogical reasons. I remember being specifically bullied for doing technical drawing, woodwork and metal work at high school as a “girl”.
I am not sure how having a vagina changes my ability to hold and use an angle grinder (spoiler alert…IT DOESN’T).
No decision I have ever made for myself (as opposed to decisions I’ve made to please others) has had anything to do with ideas of boy/girl binaries.
Once I was told I couldn’t lift as much as people with penises. Yet I was a powerlifter and men the same height as me who didn’t powerlift couldn’t lift as much as me. People bigger than me could and some couldn’t. It was everything to do with training and dedication and nothing to do with dangly bits or love tunnels*.
The societal concept of gender – based upon arbitrary ideas associated with whether someone is AFAB or AMAB has nothing to do with what we can or cannot do, some just firmly believe it does. For some, this has benefits and both the power relationships and sometimes choice (I would argue choice is to a much lesser degree) reinforce them.
In this traditional binary sense, woman, I can barely identify with. I only do in a lesser sense because of my life experiences of being told what to do and how to do it based solely on the fact I happen to be an adult who has a vagina and therefore has been called woman.
I. did. not. get. it. I liked all non-traditionally “girl” things (whatever that means because I like cooking cupcakes and can sew as well as weld, powerlift and fire a rifle) and I did not conform to gendered ideas of how I should look or behave. That was something I sometimes identified with – but not in a traditional way. I related to the politics and the issues I experienced as someone AFAB and seen as a woman by society as I aged.
So I fought for women’s rights and continue to fight for women’s rights. But that means trans women too as trans exclusionary politics disgust me.
When I tried to be “traditionally feminine” because a lover said I should – I literally became depressed and suffered huge mental health problems and even hypertension.
Why? Because, to me, this binary stuff is utter bullshit. I cannot see any logic in the argument that what genitalia you have should define your life in terms of behaviour, occupation, reproductive rights…and the list goes on. Yet some people seem determined to fight to continue to oppress each other with rigid boundaries about supposed genitalia dependent difference.
And then some of us started to embrace new language I was delighted to find a name that, for me personally, was better than woman and didn’t necessarily exclude me from the politics of woman either.
Non-binary. My primary identity is non-binary. I don’t identify with how the world classifies me into binaries.
I prefer they/them pronouns, but I am okay if you use she/her and will work with you on mutual understanding to get you to using they/them. But I would prefer you use Jacci to be honest. I don’t get too worried when people use she/her, because that might be about how they see me at a given point in time. But I will call them out if they continue to use it when I have asked them to not.
There have been times when I have been momentarily confused for a man and got called he by a passer by. That didn’t bother me either, because I don’t think the distinctions HAVE to exist.
I think if we suddenly decided to make people without attached ear lobes (as opposed to attached ear lobes) take less pay there would be world-wide riots. I don’t see genitalia as any different to different ear lobes. Okay, this is an extreme example.
But just imagine how the earing and jewellery world could monopolise on this! Ear piercing rates for would be like haircut rates are now – arbitrarily more expensive depending on if you have a penis or a vagina. It is in no way logical.
I do occupy this space of “in-between” that nonbinary affords me quite comfortably and I feel safe here. Even that notion of “in-between” is not accurate. I think we can be a range of qualities in how we express our identities. Identity is not fixed, that is a capitalist myth sent to profit from us and create profitable insecurities that drive sales revenue.
Here’s some (not all) aspects of my intersectional identity.
Feminist. Because I genuinely believe intersectional feminism is dedicated to relieving the world of sexism and it’s ridiculous binaries (no matter how people identify). I may not believe in the notion that binary defines me – but if you do, I will also say “okay, that’s who you are, you identify as <insert here>”. I don’t care how you identify, as long as you don’t tell me it’s the right way for me or force systems of oppression on me or others because of a belief in a binary. You can have your binary, but I’m not forcing on you anything by simply existing so don’t insist I adopt your methods of existence. It’s not sexist to like make up or pink – it’s sexist to assign that notion to what genitalia someone was born with and treat them accordingly.
Nonbinary. I don’t relate to you or the world through the lens of my biological sex organs and societal conventions about them. I don’t make decisions based upon whether or not my vagina would approve (on no matter in my life – not even sex). I have a complicated relationship with my breasts, partly from an abuse history, but also because I have never really felt they were an important part of my body. I am looking at top surgery and frankly, can’t wait to be rid of them. However, I’ve had a lot of surgeries and the thought of another in the next couple of years has made me delay.
Woman Politick. This is a lesser identity but none the less really important part of my identity. I don’t say woman front and centre. I don’t run around singing “I am woman, hear me roar”. I did once and I did a disservice to people who really strongly identify as women. I don’t particularly like the word…to me it centres our identity around “man” and dare I say it…the W. O. bit could be “without”. Without manly bits. To me, while most of my life I have stood in the heart of the woman’s movement, it’s not how I would like to see all of us with certain genitalia lumped together – but to me it represents the social aspect of the binary and is not a negative or positive term in the way I use it. How others use the word woman, in particular those prone to misogyny, is their issue, not mine. I don’t have any rigid rules applied to it because those rules are not logical and are socially constrained (things I don’t relate to).
Grey a-sexual/pan-sexual attracted. I have a long history of finding myself in coercive sexual relationships where I found myself performing a stereotype of “female desire” I had been taught by pornography. I had a “married young” relationship with a very straight, psychologically abusive AMAB who insisted on strong “feminine” roles for me, even in the bedroom and who insisted we watch hetero-normative pornography*. At one point in this relationships I took testosterone therapy to improve my sex drive (as seen on Oprah in the 1990’s). I’m also autistic and in the bedroom I did what movies and films taught me too until I accepted just how unimportant to me sex acts are to me. I didn’t have a strong sense of what I liked and that was where I looked for inspiration and their was nothing I identified with. I just did what I was told to keep the peace knowing if I didn’t the put downs and slurs aimed at me would continue. I learned to force myself to like heterosexual ideas about sex, and even mastered some tantric and BDSM in the process. But the fact is, it was never really a choice and I spent until my 40’s hating myself for it.
The fact is my sexual attraction is dependent on other connections other than gender, sex or physical appearance and when I genuinely feel attracted to someone – it’s slow to develop and quite rare and may or may not lead to sex acts. And that is completely okay and completely healthier for me.
So yeah, there it is for all to see. The gender identity politics of me. Like it or not.
*sorry for the use of slang terms of penis and vagina. I personally cringe at those descriptions and believe we shouldn’t use them – but when people use them it makes me laugh and when I speak I talk about how funny I find them.
*If you think because I am autistic I should like traditional gender roles that are like “rules” – I would argue that I like logical rules, not emotive ones (and you and I need to have a discussion about autism stereotypes).