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    No, I Don’t Keep My Gender Between My Legs — How I Knew I Was Nonbinary, And What That Means To Me

    For me, it’s about wanting freedom from the confinements of gender.

    closeup of a young person, seen from behind, waving a non-binary pride flag on the air
    Nito100 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

    Hi, I'm Chris.

    My name is Chris. It's a shortened version of my birth name, but to me, it’s just another part of my unique identity as a queer writer and artist. I’m also nonbinary, and I’m proud to be so! As a kid, I grew up first in Florida and then in California. Currently, I'm in college — which happens to have a very diverse and inclusive community — have an incredible partner to whom I recently got engaged, and am a part of two loving families; my dad's extended family and my fiancé's. I'm living a life where I can be my most authentic self. Although, my journey to get there wasn't necessarily easy, because realizing who you are and choosing to tell the world can be quite the process. 

    So what does that even mean?

    My experience with being nonbinary isn’t about fitting under one label; it’s about wanting freedom from the confinements of gender. I don’t like labels and never have — I want to present how I want, and act how I want, without needing to fit within the lines of any one gender. However, gender dysphoria and euphoria definitely play a part in my own personal experience. Casting off the binary felt a little like Elsa tosses off her cloak in Frozen, a weight of my shoulders I didn’t even know I was carrying. 

    Disney

    Nope, it’s not a phase.

    I started realizing my gender didn’t quite fit in when I was around 16 years old. I felt uncomfortable when I was told what a nice young lady I was becoming, and I realized I hated being called a woman. I was jealous of every teenage boy I knew. They were allowed to exist without pressure to shave, or eat less, or grow out their hair just because of gender. I didn’t want to be a boy, but I sure as heck didn’t want to become the woman I was expected to be. 

    How did you know for sure?

    For me, it was the pure joy I felt the first time I cut my hair. At the time, I had long, wild brown curls that gave me a great deal of pain, but that my relatives were obsessed over. I made quite a few family members upset when I chopped off my curls, but it was so utterly freeing to feel the thick kitchen scissors slice smoothly through my hair. Afterward, I felt so much lighter, and not just because of the weight of my hair gone, but because of the weight on my soul that was relaxed. I finally felt like me. 

    Eivaisla / Getty Images/iStockphoto

    So, the big question: Are you "out"?

    One thing I (and probably every other queer person) get asked a lot is if I’m "out" of the closet yet. But the thing about coming out is that once you start, you never stop coming out. I’m very open about my gender and sexuality — I correct people who use my dead name, I have pride posts all over my Instagram feed, and I joke about it pretty often. So yes, I’m out. My family and friends know, the college I attend knows — pretty much everyone in my life knows. But I didn’t exactly sit anyone down to announce it. I just started to live authentically and let everyone else figure it out. Honestly, I don’t owe anyone an explanation. No one comes out as cis or straight, so why should I have to? 

    Well, how did everyone take it?

    That’s the big thing with coming out: the bigots. Every family has them, whether it’s the bulk of your relatives or your one "racist uncle." For me, It was my mom’s side of the family.

    Honestly, I’m not even sure they know I’m nonbinary, but they knew I was gay when I showed up to a family gathering with a girl by my side. My mom already knew, but she tried to force me to lie and tell everyone that my now-fiancé was just a "close friend," or like the lesbians say, "gal-pals." I refused, and a few months later, I received an ultimatum: either stop bringing my girlfriend around, stop talking about my sexuality, and stop acting gay, or be ousted from that side of my family. 

    I chose the latter option, much to their shock. I still have a family that loves me — my dad and his side of the family adore my fiancé and accept me for who I am, and I have an amazing (trans) older sister who I consider my best friend. Not to mention my fiancé's family, who already treat me like their own child. I don’t need people in my life who will never truly love me for me. 

    Non-binary pride flag in heart shape
    Betka82 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

    Why does it matter, anyway?

    My nonbinary identity is an important part of who I am. While I do believe that gender is a social construct, this is the label, the gender I have chosen for myself. It's not something assigned at birth; it’s something I have done a lot of research and introspection to discover about myself. I’m proud that I know who I am now, and I’m proud to be part of an incredible, diverse community. 

    I’m Chris, and I’m nonbinary and proud.