Finding space isn’t always easy for someone who is nonbinary. Trying to be yourself in your own skin can be a challenge. Being yourself in a community can be even harder. There isn’t one particular challenge that all nonbinary people experience. It’s more like a multitude of tedious interactions that make you question if being yourself is even worth the effort. It’s draining to correct every pronoun. The worst is having to defend your own identity as if it’s something up for trial.
I haven’t lived exactly inside the binary for years, but I found that since I moved to Humboldt it’s all been a bit more comfortable. There are a lot more people like me. Whether or not they are non-binary folks or just people pushing the limit of gender expression, I don’t stand out. Individuality complex aside, it’s nice to feel safety in numbers. There’s no integration on what exactly my gender is. Don’t get me wrong, I love to have a thought-provoking dialogue with cis folk. I just don’t want to speak for every nonbinary person’s experience every time I get the “but, why?” questions towards my identity. Explaining yourself can be draining.
Humboldt might just be ahead of the curve. Here, using gender-neutral pronouns is the default. Using they/them is not something that sounds awkward or clunky coming out of cis folks’ mouths. I don’t get the odd stare from boomers trying to make out what gender category I fit into. I haven’t once been mistaken for a lost little boy with that patronizing “Hey little buddy, where’s your adult?” I don’t often find myself being misgendered, but when I do there is often someone in the room to speak up for me. I even have gym bros correcting others’ use of my pronouns.
Before I moved here I never expected anyone to treat me in this way. I didn’t know that communities had common decency towards gender non-conforming folks. I figured it would just be a minor obstacle in my day indefinitely. And wow, I love just feeling normal. My existence isn’t some controversial affair, I get to just be a person. Not a controversy, obstacle, or special guest, just a person. A person who thinks this whole gender thing is a hoax made up by big bathroom to sell more toilets or something like that.
On the occasions I leave this gender-happy bubble that is Humboldt county, I am harshly reminded of other realities. Ones that involve more staring, backhanded compliments, and arguments against me. As if someone could just convince me to unqueer my gender for their own comfort.
Humboldt gives me opportunity to feel many happy gender moments, and I want to share a few of them with you. Climbers, using the right name and pronouns to cheer me up the wall. Moshers, allowing me to experience a show topless like no big deal, and without any comments or harassment. Drinking at Everett’s, where tipsy bar-goers correct their use of my pronouns unprompted. The patience of professors as I go through a name change. Here, it may seem like no big deal. Everywhere else I’ve lived, these interactions have been obstacles. So thank you Humboldt, for nothing special, but just allowing me to be me.