FINNERAN K. MUZZEY, MA
So, it’s finally time for a new blog post. It’s been awhile since I’ve written one. I took a hiatus for a bit while I strove to find a better work/student/personal life balance. The journey of finding better balance has had its ups and downs but I think I’m getting there. I’ve also needed to spend some time really learning to accept and adjust to my disability. I’ve worked myself stupid my whole life and meanwhile, my body has changed, and my spirit has needed to find comfort outside of work. That’s not to say that I don’t love my work – I do! Unequivocally, without a doubt, I’d be missing a key piece of my identity without it, but my work can’t be my whole identity.
I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for months now, but I also wanted to give it the consideration, time, and thoughtfulness it deserves. This is a topic that I felt important to let fester inside me for a while… stew on it… let it bake and come to its full fruition. Because, it’s an important topic. A damn important topic. I didn’t want to rush it for myself or for anyone that reads this blog.
This post is about identity terminology and my personal evolution of its use for myself. Before I get into the nuances, here’s a general trajectory of my gender and sexual identity since I was 15:
Age 15, came out as lesbian
Age 28, tried to come out publicly as a transgender person
Age 28, went back into the closet as a transgender person
Age 30, internally came out as non-binary
Age 34, publicly came out as non-binary
Age 34, publicly came out as queer and no longer identified as a lesbian
Age 36, very quietly and somewhat covertly came out as a queer, non-binary, dyke, lesbian
So…. Yeah. Looks messy, right? Well, it’s been an evolution. Not an evolution of myself (a bit of that, sure) but more an evolution of understanding myself and, more importantly, an evolution of my vocabulary.
This leads me to the focus of this blog post, my identification as a queer, non-binary, dyke, lesbian.
I identified as a lesbian for years, but when I came to accept myself as a non-binary person, I rejected that label and shifted to identifying as just queer and non-binary. To my own admission, I rejected the term lesbian for myself because it felt more and more alien to me. I couldn’t see how I could identify as both non-binary and lesbian. They just didn’t seem to work together. True, I was assigned female at birth and true, I’m still primarily attracted to females, but my non-binary identity seemed to require that I could no longer understand myself as a lesbian.
Letting go of that label was hard. It was like saying a very hard, very long goodbye to a dear friend that you aren’t sure you are ever going to see again; knowing that the goodbye was necessary in the moment, but not desired.
I let go of the term lesbian because I needed to let me gender identity finally take precedence over my sexual identity. I felt like I couldn’t get people to take my gender identity seriously unless I conformed to the rules of the gender identity. So, for me to be able to identify as non-binary, I couldn’t also identify as a lesbian. I could possibly identify as bisexual or pansexual, but neither of those seem to reflect me either. So, my only choice seemed to be to let go of the lesbian identity altogether and claim only the queer identity.
The queer identity served, and continues to serve, me well. It’s political, it’s angsty, it’s in your face about who I am, it’s also accurate. I’m queer, but I’m also a highly political queer. My queer identity isn’t just about me, it’s about community and action. It fits. I like it. I’m proud of it and I feel empowered by being queer.
But what I found after I came out publicly as non-binary is that my sexual identity got subsumed underneath my gender identity. I guess I kind of wanted that to happen because I wanted my gender identity to be seen and valued as authentic. But I didn’t fully realize how much of a backseat my sexual identity would take to my gender identity. Suddenly, I wasn’t a queer person as much as I was a transmasculine person. Or, a transman. Or, a masculine presenting transgender person. Or, a masculine presenting non-binary person. My queerness in relation to my sexual identity all but disappeared. So did my femininity.
And that’s the part that drove me nuts. Truly. Socially, it has seemed to become impossible for me to be feminine or possess any femininity because of my non-binary identity and my masculine expression. When I identified publicly as a cisgender lesbian, there was always a piece of my femininity that was honored – almost always in my dyke-y butch-y ways. That was respected and treasured even. But when I came out as non-binary, those arenas were closed off to me. Now, I was a transmasculine person.
I have spent the last two years struggling with loving the femininity that inherently exists in me, with the dyke-y ways I still hold myself with but not having that honored by people. People have assumed that I will be eventually transitioning to male or are shocked when I display some of my more overt feminine pieces of me. I’ve found myself not fighting so much for my non-binary identity, but for all of the pieces of me that make up my non-binary identity.
I’m not male; I’m not female. I’m non-binary. But I have masculine energies that I possess, and I have feminine energies I possess. They make up who I am. I still walk like a dyke and I still carry the dyke badge like an honor anytime that term is thrown at me in a way that’s meant to tear me down; I just carry my head higher and smile. I carry the dyke identity like I carry the queer identity. I’m reclaiming them for myself and using what is some people’s discrimination and hatred as a tool of empowerment and action.
I’m also a non-binary lesbian. Taking lesbian back for myself brings to the forefront that my sexual identity is just as important as my gender identity is to me. Neither take a backseat to one another and neither can be ignored within me. I am both masculine and feminine and something else altogether. My gender identity is non-binary and my sexual identity is lesbian. They are not dependent on each other. They are completely dependent on each other.
If you find this confusing, that’s okay. I’m really totally fine with you being confused. These are my identities and I not only accept, but also love them.