We’ve all heard it before, whether IRL or in the media. I’m not like other girls. Its a phrase I related to for most of my life. I liked math, I thought space was cool, I didn’t like the color pink, and I thought other girls were just dumb conceited cheerleaders destined to a future of changing diapers and washing dishes. I was a misogynist.
So in a Women’s Studies class during my first year of college, when I learned about non-binary identities I decided I wasn’t a girl at all. Sure, I knew I had a female body, and no, I never wanted a sex-assignment surgery to have a male body. But I grew up believing that men were naturally smarter than women, that women were made to please men, that women weren’t suited to positions of power because they were too emotional, and a whole long list of other outdated and downright false beliefs. Growing up, even my Barbie doll told me “Math class is tough”!
I was told that boys were intimidated by smart girls, so I didn’t raise my hand in class. I was told that men’s brains were just naturally better at academic pursuits and women’s brains were naturally better at doing makeup. Besides, we hardly ever talked about great women in history class, which was proof that men were smarter than women. Right?
So, when I learned that I could just stop being a woman I jumped at the chance! It was the ultimate declaration that I really, really wasn’t like other girls. It let me get away with holding all of my misogynistic beliefs dear without applying them to myself. Women were irrational and emotional, fit to be sandwich-makers and not much else. I was good at math and exceptionally bad at doing my makeup, how could I be a woman?
Obviously I didn’t see my beliefs as misogynistic at the time, I truly thought that biology made men better than women. It was just science. I liked the terms ‘trans’ and ‘non-binary’ so much precisely because I disliked women so much. Why be a woman when I didn’t have to be?
(I wanna take a second to clarify that I don’t mean that those terms themselves are misogynistic, nor that anyone who identifies as such is misogynistic. Just that when I learned that it could be okay to not be a woman I jumped at the chance. I in no way want this post to come across as invalidating anyone’s gender identity.)
Can you really blame me for not wanting to be a woman when I grew up believing that women were naturally inferior to men? It was so so SO much easier to say that I wasn’t a woman at all than it was to face the lingering effects of a long history of oppression and challenge the stereotypes women face on a daily basis. I knew first-hand just how much people dislike, disenfranchise, ignore, and abuse women and justify it with outdated medical beliefs. So taking on a non-binary identity was my way of fighting back.
It was easier for me to face my own internalized misogyny with a non-binary identity. What I didn’t realize at the time was that by rejecting the identity of woman I was accepting the stereotypical woman as a natural truth. I was agreeing that women couldn’t do xy or z when I should have been saying “Yes we can!”
By embracing a non-binary identity I was able to see the beauty in femininity. Not right off the bat, of course, but my appreciation for women came with time and education. They could be beautiful, I always knew that, but I started to see that women could also be strong and smart. I saw women making themselves vulnerable again and again just to help others in need.
I thought of it back then the same way as I do now; like exfoliating. Sure something bad may happen, but it just gets scrubbed away and washed down the sink, leaving behind a face as soft as a babies bottom. Honestly, it’s pretty bad-ass. It takes so much more effort and vulnerability to stay soft than it does to just callous over, but people do it anyways!
Eventually I started to ask my self why, oh why, couldn’t I just be a woman who wasn’t inferior to men? Was biology really so biased?
See, it’s really easy for women to not like themselves. Multi-million dollar industries literally thrive on women’s self-hatred. I never had the confidence to actually fact check any of the bullshit claims guys would make because I already believed them, so why would I question them?
Taking that Women’s Studies class was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Learning women’s history helped me learn why societal attitudes towards women are the way that they are. It taught me that the biological arguments for male supremacy are all false as hell. It made me dismantle my own set of misogynistic beliefs and really examine why I thought women couldn’t be women unless they acted a certain way.
Before, I didn’t want to be a woman because of how people often treat women. My solution was to ignore women altogether, to try and say women’s problems weren’t my problems because I wasn’t like other girls.
After years of identifying as non-binary I learned that people still sucked. They still treated me like shit. People talked down to me, made assumptions based on stereotypes, interrupted and talked over me, told me what they thought I should or shouldn’t do with myself, grabbed me and catcalled me and threatened me and a whole bunch of other stuff that women often deal with on a much larger scale than most men. Because at the end of the day, people freaking suck. They just do.
Telling people to respect me because I wasn’t like other women (because I wasn’t a woman at all) did jack to change just how shitty people are. People will probably always be shitty, too.
So I decided I’m just done listening to them. Oh, people think women aren’t biologically suited to STEM careers? I think not. Did someone say that women shouldn’t have body hair? Clearly they’ve never seen a woman. Women can’t drive? Bullshit.
I was non-binary because that identity let me make my own rules. If I could make my own rules and identify as non-binary, then I could do it while identifying as a woman, too!
But to tell you the truth, I identify as both non-binary and as a woman. How, you might ask? Well, I reject the idea that all males are men and men are naturally predisposed to be a certain way and that all females are women and that women are naturally predisposed to be a certain way. It’s just not true. But I was socialized as a woman and don’t see anything wrong with being a woman, so I am one.
For me, identifying as non-binary is a rejection of the (false)biological arguments for male supremacy.
Now OBVIOUSLY not everyone believes all the sexist bull that I did. But enough people still do to make it a problem. My point in sharing this story is that I was a piece of shit garbage person because I believed in stereotypes. My point is that everyone should be allowed to identify however the heck they want. My point is that identities can change, and that’s okay.
You do you, boo. Just don’t hurt anyone else along the way, and research your worldviews.