Nonbinary Feminism: How One Individual Describes Its Position


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“Feminism” and “womanhood” imply various things to totally different people. With The F-Phrase, our essay sequence working all through Girls’s Historical past Month, we’re highlighting totally different views—the great, the dangerous, and the difficult—of what these ideas imply to individuals.

I am a nonbinary individual in my early forties, however till nearly a decade in the past, I used to be comparatively clueless concerning the idea of genderqueerness. I used to be raised and socialized as a cishet woman in Africa amid Namibia’s independence battle, which was marked by world communist and pan-Africanist concepts. The significance of solidarity, camaraderie, and unity in reaching political independence largely formed my id round my Blackness—with gender and id not a primary level of consideration.

Later in life, I turned extra conscious of how my early schooling had ignored the existence of queerness in favor of the give attention to Blackness. The little about queerness I knew touched solely on the “LGB” a part of the rainbow acronym, and I had little to no consciousness of different sexualities and identities, together with trans and gender-diverse individuals. Finally, I got here to search out my id as a Black nonbinary individual by way of exploring Afrofeminism—which, per students Akwugo Emejulu and Francesca Sobande, is feminism that contextualizes the “histories of colonialism, racial formation, and gender hierarchy of the assorted European nation-states wherein Black girls dwell.”

For thus lengthy, although, gaps in data and schooling have been gatekeeping me from my id: I did not really feel like a woman, however I understood that was how I used to be perceived, and I had no reference level to struggle it and authentically categorical myself. Throughout highschool, individuals referred to me as a “tomboy,” which, regardless of not being a self-imposed identifier, was a time period I used to be extra snug with than “woman.”

I usually had the sensation that individuals skilled me as an alternative of seeing me. Books helped me keep away from and escape human contact, transporting me away from a world the place I didn’t all the time really feel accepted. In my teenagers, the loud music of clubbing joined books as an alternative choice to traumatic human interplay. I used to be in a position to dance to the music with no uncomfortable conversations penetrating by way of the sound. I felt like myself with out having to clarify it to anybody.

However, shortly after highschool, I obtained pregnant, and hospital workers and members of the family alike have been more and more referring to me as a girl. My tomboy standing was revoked, and with out my consent, I used to be pushed into the brand new gendered class of “mom.” Reluctantly, I discovered to simply accept my pressured standing of cis womanhood, even when it didn’t precisely mirror my true id. I didn’t but have the instruments or language to argue towards the foisted notion that childbearing is unique to cis girls or ladies.

I didn’t but have the instruments or language to argue towards the foisted notion that childbearing is unique to cis girls or ladies.

With out the precise phrases to articulate myself and no neighborhood from which to achieve understanding, I usually felt misunderstood in methods I couldn’t even clarify. My first actual insights into queer oppression, rights, and liberation got here once I began organizing with youthful socialists, whom I felt have been extra inclusive of varied identities than individuals of my technology. I quickly started to study fundamentals about gender range and rights, which I integrated into my organizing work. Even nonetheless, I remained largely ignorant about how patriarchy operates as a complete system of oppression.

This began to vary once I met South African singer-songwriter and Afrofeminist Simphiwe Dana at Namibia’s 2011 Jazz Pageant. Dana makes use of her music as a software of activism within the custom of many Black revolutionary feminine singers earlier than her. I shortly turned impressed by the way in which African feminists like her fearlessly tackle matters like security for ladies and queer individuals, intercourse, and bodily autonomy. It made me need to perceive the motion higher, as I, too, was involved about most of the issues feminists advocated for.

By means of studying books by queer and intersectional feminists, I grew extra conscious of the interconnectedness of the systemic oppression of varied teams. So, to me, feminism offered a car for ladies and queer individuals to assist advance our societies towards equality and freedom for all.

At this level, a lot of my feminist understanding of transness was nonetheless primarily based nearly solely on concept fairly than private expertise with people who find themselves trans or a grasp of my very own genderqueerness. This shifted in 2019 once I met a neighborhood of trans individuals at a refugee secure home whereas in Kenya. Below violently repressive circumstances, members of this neighborhood lived of their fact as trans individuals. Listening to them describe their experiences with gender dysphoria, despair, and social nervousness helped me make extra sense of my very own. Despite the fact that our lives have been vastly totally different and I had not skilled the harshnesses they confronted as people or a neighborhood, it was as if a lightbulb had been switched on for me. It was a deep inside understanding that that is the house I belonged to. I had lastly met the individuals who confirmed me by way of residing authentically that there was nothing flawed with decoding gender in a manner that is smart to me.

Although labels can by no means maintain all elements of me, “nonbinary” displays my sense of being a residing negation of what the gender binary assigns me to be. I’m a gender outlaw.

The expertise led me to query my gender id and finally domesticate a self-awareness of my very own genderqueerness. As I grew extra accustomed to being overtly queer, I first described myself as a gender-nonconforming lady. Then, through the first 12 months of the pandemic in 2020, seemingly supported by lessened have to work together with many individuals, I stepped extra confidently into the identification of “nonbinary,” which felt extra genuine to me. Although labels can by no means maintain all elements of me, “nonbinary” displays my sense of being a residing negation of what the gender binary assigns me to be. I’m a gender outlaw.

As I’ve discovered extra concerning the breadth of genderqueerness, I’ve felt extra distant from feminism. Feminism opened a door that guided me to trans visibility and a extra full understanding of my genderqueerness. After I first subscribed to feminism “as a girl,” I felt welcomed. However right this moment, as a nonbinary individual, in feminist areas, I usually expertise the trans erasure that stored me from understanding myself within the first place. Now that I’ve a fuller grasp of my gender id, I consider feminism can operate as an uninviting house for individuals below the queer and trans umbrella. It could not all the time be intentional, however it’s evident in lots of issues, such because the language round reproductive well being issues, the outsize celebration of cis girls throughout Girls’s Historical past Month, and the dearth of tangible solidarity to trans those who I expertise.

This isn’t true of all feminist areas, as there are inclusive radical feminists and feminist organizations—like Black Girls Radicals, the Affiliation of Girls’s Rights in Improvement, and Trans and Queer Fund, to call just some whose follow of feminism is cognizant of the interconnectedness of all our struggles. I do know I’ve not exhausted all there’s to study from feminism, however I additionally know that I can now not name myself a feminist, whilst I proceed working alongside feminists in the direction of transformative change.

After I first began alongside my feminist journey, I trusted within the motion’s means to hold African girls and queer individuals forwards in the direction of liberation. I nonetheless consider that that’s the function it could actually and infrequently does tackle. With immense gratitude, I honor Afrofeminism for all it has given me as I proceed to totally embrace my queerness amid a brand new and extra genuine chapter of my life.

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