When No Gender Fits: Washington Post Article

About five months ago, I did a phone interview with Monica Hesse of the Washington Post, as a potential candidate for an upcoming article about non-binary genders.  She was planning on spending a few days with the person / people she selected; it wasn’t just a matter of chatting with her over coffee.  It sounded really intensive and potentially uncomfortable at times.  I thought the interview went well, and I talked to my partner about the possibility of her hanging around with us for a while.  My partner was game.  I was game.

I got back to her with a few reservations:  When might this be, exactly?  (I really love being able to plan ahead.)  And, would you be coming to my work?!!  (I am not out at work as non-binary, and I could not fathom her being there with me, at all.)  She assured me that it was not a necessary part of her article, and it’d totally depend on who she ended up going with and what everyone was comfortable with.  She seemed well versed in trans issues and understood the need for partial anonymity or a potentially incomplete story.

She had a lot more phone interviews to get through, and as we messaged back and forth, it became clear her interest in me was waning.  I was pretty bummed.  It sounded like something I was ready to challenge myself with!  Of course, the disappointment faded with time.  I’ve been looking forward to catching the finished article.  Here it is!!!

When No Gender Fits:  A Quest to Be Seen as Just a Person

I think this article is really well done.  It covers important ground:  pronouns, the internal isolation such an identity can bring (when society has no starting point for understanding), family and friend relationships, coming out issues.  There is nothing sensational or hyped up about it – the reporter seems well informed and sensitive.

A major thing struck me.  This article is about a very young person.  Kelsey is 18 years old.  They are at a completely different life stage than I am at.  The article follows them over the entire summer.  It appears that the reporter spent many many days with Kelsey, over a matter of 4 months or so.  We get a glimpse into what’s going on, as they have concerns about clothing.  As they have difficult conversations with their mom.  As they go to a therapy appointment to discuss the possibilities of going on a low dose of testosterone.  As they talk about teenaged things with their teenaged friends.  As they meet someone they found through OKCupid, for the first time in person.  As they pack up and plan for life at college.

“They will go to college. They will study engineering. They will get a job. They will find a partner and make a home. They will begin with finding a T-shirt.”  This quote sums up the tone of the article.

Had I been the subject, it would have been nothing like this at all. I’ve been to college (glad that’s over with!!!). I have a job. I have a partner. We have made a home. I have a T-shirt. In fact, I have many T-shirts. Haha.

This story is no doubt important.  However (and I’m definitely biased here, bordering on ageist maybe) I think it’s really really necessary that there are representations of older, established non-binary people.  It’s not just a young people’s thing.  (Not to imply that young people will be growing out if it – they won’t be!)  I just mean that it’s not just something someone is focusing on at the time when they are naturally growing into their identities, just at the beginning of starting new chapters of their lives.  There is, relatively speaking, a lot of representations (if even just online only) of young people, starting to question and figure these things out.

Gender identity issues are multi-generational.  They are lifelong, and they come with different sets of challenges at different stages in life.  I hope more media outlets will start jumping on the bandwagon (in respectful ways!) and more articles will pop up, with more frequency, soon.  And that those articles will focus on other identities within non-binary genders, and different age brackets, different ethnic backgrounds, different socioeconomic backgrounds, etc.

And if I’m not seeing it, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing my own article, here.  Like, pretending I am a reporter, looking in.  Look for that in the near future, maybe!

 


17 Comments on “When No Gender Fits: Washington Post Article”

  1. amiablebowfin says:

    As a fairly young non-binary person (I’m 27) it is useful to know that it’s possible for people to manage to succeed in being old and non-binary. A lot of my worries amount to concern that the post-college-and-grad-school world will be much less accepting, and I’ll be unable to find a job or apartment or anything else. (Admittedly, being transfeminine makes these things even more scary, I think, especially since I know of almost no other transfeminine non-binaries.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • PlainT says:

      Soooo agree with this. I’ve been looking for info on nonbinary genders and if all i can find are youngsters I think “well obviously i’m not that, i’m not a teenage hipster photography student, I’m navigating “the real world” outside of undergrad.” It messes with my own self-perception of my identity as well. Diversity is a good thing for everyone; seeing older nonbinary people would be awesome.

      Like

    • janitorqueer says:

      I think that’s a good point as well – there are statistically less transfeminine non-binary people than there are transmasculine non-binary, but it’s not by a huge margin. Yet, there are significantly more portrayals / representations of transmasculine non-binary people. Why is this?!!

      Like

  2. L says:

    I think there’s definitely a lot of ageism at work in the trans and NB communities. Young, cute, hip youngsters get a disproportionate amount of support, “likes” and things, while older people struggling with identity issues, or transitioning, barely get any attention at all. I notice this in the non-binary FB group; selfies of young people get dozens and dozens of likes and comments. Selfies of middle-aged or older people struggle to even get 2 or 3, let alone any words of support. It’s very troubling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • janitorqueer says:

      Wow, yeah, that is some solid information right there, that can’t be denied. Do you think it’s because there are lots more young people in the group than older people, and they particularly like to look at the faces of other young people? They just aren’t thinking any further than that? Or that there might be something more underlying it?

      Like

      • L says:

        I think there are more younger people– and if there aren’t, then the group gives off a vibe of being full of younger people.

        You’re definitely onto something with the faces thing. I feel like it’s a kind of seeking of validation at the expense of, as another commenter said, internalizing images of what we all might look like in our middle years and beyond… aka role models.

        And this is way out there, but ever since I got more into the NB communities out there, I’ve felt like many of us struggle existentially. Like imagining what being nonbinary means in old age is a terrifying thing? Or what it means in the workplace? What it means in the context of marriage? What it means in the face of sickness or death of partners and loved ones? What it might mean in the context of our OWN deaths?

        Maybe it’s a collective coming of age that many of us are plowing through these days, and when much more of us are grown up, with jobs and spouses and bills, we’ll have made it past that.

        At any rate, this is one of the reasons I love the likes of Rae Spoon to pieces. More of us need to deliberately put ourselves out there like they have. I dunno.

        Like

  3. One thing I’ve noticed is Jeremy doesn’t talk much. Okay, zie talks a lot about computers, video games, and the opinions of people zie watches on YouTube… what zie doesn’t talk about are zir feelings and concerns about the future.

    I read a lot of blogs these days and belong to several parenting groups. One is a group aimed at mothers of all genders. One afternoon I decided to broach the subject, telling zir that I know (or at least know of) several people who identify as non-binary trans, genderqueer, or gender neutral and that they’d all grown up, had jobs, and were in relationships. Some are married and some are parents.

    Jeremy was astonished and relieved. There isn’t any representation of adults who are married and working. And it made me wonder how much of Jeremy’s vagueness about what zie’s going to do when zie grows up stems from an inability to picture growing up and being trans.

    Liked by 2 people

    • janitorqueer says:

      Definitely! If it’s difficult to conceptualize because there are no (or very few) examples to go from, it’s going to be harder to talk about where you see yourself in the future. When I first started to think of myself as genderqueer (early twenties), I did not think it was possible to be an adult who was out and proud as that identity. (I guess I figured I’d transition at some point, or it would cease to be something I talked about / acknowledged, even if I still felt it. And I did go through a very long phase where I stopped talking about it. I’m over that phase, haha.) Now I do think that it’s possible to be genderqueer and an adult!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jamie Ray says:

    The article is good, even though it is just about one person and their family/friends. But it does kind of get into “does this kid really know what they are doing?” whereas if it had been written about someone in their thirties or older it would have discussed all the life issues about being non-binary from the perspective of someone who has had more time and experience dealing with it. Hopefully someone will write that article for a major paper and interview you for it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. HartK says:

    The article is alright, geared more towards a younger audience I suppose as us oldies can barely use computers properly . Popular culture will always be obsessed with youth as that’s who is buying things, plus, they photograph better. All joking aside, I have seen the mean age slip down as the years have passed since I started this journey. It seemed as if it was people in their mid twenties when they started, now it’s in their teens. More shock value? Attempts to grab a bigger audience with parents of gender nonconforming teens, and the teens themselves? Maybe. I do agree that the lack of more mature role models leaves a hole in the formative stages of finding ones way while being non conforming. This is why that community, actual physical community, should be used as a resource. I know personally I was feeling quite alone being thirty something and not having any role models to really look up to. Then I went to my local GLBTQ center for help on name change documentation and I met a transwoman in her 50’s/ 60’s who just got her name changed the previous week. It was good just knowing that someone a bit closer to my situation was out there.

    Like

    • sharon says:

      I do run into people who believe that if you didn’t know you’re non-binary gendered when you were a teenager, you’re somehow less genuine. When I say that I hadn’t met the concept when I was a teenager, and I was fumbling for it in the dark, they say “but you find people like you on the internet!”
      – I first got internet access when I started university in 1997, and I didn’t meet the concept on non-binary gender until I was almost thirty. I really envy people who had internet access in their teens.

      Like

  6. micah says:

    You make a truly excellent point. Older role models in this community are outnumbered by people half their age. They just don’t get as much visibility, or even, as one commenter said, sympathy. They’re important not just as role models, but as representations of a slice of the population dealing with qualitatively distinct, non-youth, issues related with being non-binary.

    I like the article a lot for many reasons; the journalist’s research and understanding of the subject is evident in her human portrayal. And I commend for her for deliberately profiling someone not living in a major liberal city. May this be one of many great articles to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mxtrmeike13 says:

    Aha, I did wonder if that was the article I interviewed for. I too was bummed, and I agree with your points. It almost seems as though the trans movement has skipped a few beats to now being this thing that teens and other youngsters primarily do…whereas I was 22-23 when I even started thinking about transitioning. And granted, I’m still on the young-ish end of the spectrum, but still, I feel old next to all these young ‘uns.

    That all being said, I think it’s high time an article be written on trans/agender/etc. folk who are older. And if anyone comes looking for a candidate, I’ll point them your way. =]

    Liked by 1 person

  8. scooter says:

    Right on! I have wondered this ever since i discovered the concept of genderqueer, not too long ago…where are the over-25s?

    Seems like it could in part be a matter of terms…people who would now id as genderqueer might have in the past owned “butch” or “queen” or something…Now those terms mean something different. Hopefully that means our cultural understanding of gender is getting more nuanced as time goes by. <—glass half full!

    Like

  9. J.D. says:

    I’ve felt my gender was irrelevant almost my whole life. I prefer men’s clothing styles but I’m perpetually frustrated that they don’t work on my my body. I’m not opposed to female pronouns but don’t call me a lady/woman/girl. I’ve never changed in that despite hormonal shifts of amenorrhea and menopause. I’m gonna be 50 next year. I’ve always wanted transition surgery but didn’t research getting it before because I didn’t think it was possible for someone like me to get it until recently.

    Like


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