This Friday, July 14 is International Non-Binary People’s Day, the conclusion of Non-Binary Awareness Week. So in case you’re not aware, I, Pax Ahimsa Gethen, am non-binary. To be more specific, I am agender and transmasculine. I go by they/them/their pronouns.
What does it mean to be agender? The answer depends on who you ask. In my case, it means that I cannot define what it means to be a man, woman, or any other gender with referring to body parts, and body parts do not define a person. Yes, I’m aware that body parts are more correctly associated with “sex” rather than gender, but these terms are often used interchangeably.
(Note that being agender should not be confused with being asexual. In humans, this term concerns sexual attraction, not gender identity.)
I do not associate any clothing, hairstyles, hobbies, or mannerisms with any particular gender. If I put on a wig like the one in the photo above, some might see that as a feminine gender expression. I just see it as covering my balding head with longer hair than I was ever able to grow myself.
So if I’m agender, why do I also call myself transmasculine? I was assigned female at birth, but function better on testosterone than I did on estrogen, and would prefer to have the primary sex characteristics associated with maleness. I specify primary because to most people, secondary sex characteristics like breast size, amount of facial and body hair, and vocal register determines whether they see someone as a man or a woman. But these parts are secondary to sex organs, which are either inside the body or hidden from view most of the time. (I consider my chromosomes to be irrelevant, in case anyone is tempted to bring that up.)
I am not a man, but I transitioned to male for legal and medical purposes. Even though non-binary state ID and passport options are now available, I’m unlikely to change my gender marker again. I also (reluctantly) accept Sir/Mister and he/him pronouns in one-off encounters with strangers. Given that most people insist on viewing me as either a man or a woman, I prefer to be seen as the former, with all that entails.