When No Gender Fits: Washington Post ArticlePosted: September 24, 2014
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!!!
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!