One of my favorite topics to write about is gender, particularly nonbinary genders. From the science of gender to personal essays, I love thinking through the gender binary and beyond.
But consider that the ultimate goal of biomedical research is to understand the mechanisms of disease so that we can ultimately treat them in humans. By excluding female animals—not to mention intersex animals, which I’ll get to in a bit—modern scientists perpetuate the historical bias of a medical community that frequently dismisses, pathologizes, and actively harms non-male patients. What these scientists are actually saying when they invoke the “complications” of using female rodents is that they were never trained to work with them and are unwilling to learn.
While I’m pleased that binary trans people are gaining more visibility, many nonbinary individuals — myself included — feel forgotten, especially in activism. We may support the mission of the women’s movement — and many of us do — but we don’t always feel like it supports us.
I don't expect anyone to magically know or even understand [my gender], but I do hope they respect it when I explain. Gender-neutral language may seem like an inconsquential thing, but to those of us outside the gender binary, it's a lifeline.
For Oregonians, being able to demonstrate a non-binary gender on their licenses can be the first step toward public visibility for the rest of us who are non-binary. And there are quite a few of us: According to the results of a GLAAD survey released earlier this year, 12 percent of millennials identify as trans or gender non-conforming.
Content notes: Internalized fatphobia, misogynistic beauty standards, gender dysphoria
When I finally have a name for what’s wrong with me — it’s hirsutism caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome — I do not understand that a burden has been lifted. I do not understand that it is a medical condition I cannot control, that there is no one to blame, not even myself.
Instead, I lock myself in the bathroom on the weekends, using the wax as my mother teaches me. Put on while hot, in the direction of the hair growth. Apply the cloth strip, rubbing the top to ensure its grip. Pull the strip in the opposite direction of the growth. Repeat as necessary, because the layers of hair on your face are stubborn, like you.
Content notes: gender dysphoria, internalized ableism, implied transphobia, misogynistic beauty standards
Feminine. Feminine. You’re not feminine. Shave your arms when you’re ten or eleven to feel the smoothness of your skin. Have your mother wax your legs. When you’re twelve, have her wax your face, too. That makes you feminine. It’s in the New Year when you do it, after winter break and weeks of silence. Don’t forget how your friend grabbed your chin and turned your cheeks this way and that, gaping, how he said it made a difference. Remember rubbing your face, the acne or ingrown hair or whatever it was, and that grateful flood of relief when your friend says she understands, says that waxing causes bumps on the skin. That makes you feminine.
Originally shared on The Coffeelicious, no longer active
Humans like categories: cat or dog, Wars or Trek, girl or boy. And often, we can fit into these categories. Some XX individuals are girls. Some XY individuals are boys. Some XX individuals are boys, and XY individuals are girls, and we understand that to be within the same umbrella and an unfortunate matter of circumstance. But whether we can accept it or not, there is a “none of the above,” too.
© 2022, Naseem Jamnia
Photos of Naseem by Jennie Kaplan, 2018, and Jeramie Lu, 2022