For LGBTQ+ History Month, EDI Consultant and Proudly King’s Committee member, India Jordan, writes about their experience of gender – beyond, and in-between binaries.
Have a think about gender, do you really know what it is?
I’m not really going try to answer the question, but give you an idea of my lived experience and what goes through my mind on a daily basis.
One of the most annoying things in the world for me is being called ‘madam’, ‘miss’ or ‘lady’, or when I’m with friends or my partner, being called ‘girls’ as a collective. It ignites some sort of deep anger and discomfort that I can’t really explain. It’s the same as when some men open doors for me and say ‘after you’ just because they perceive me to be female. It feels so inherently counter to my sense of self and has never felt right. It’s the fact that someone has made an assumption about me and is interacting with who they think I am, whether that’s ‘madam’, ‘miss’ or ‘lady’. And in this moment, I lose the ability to exist in the way I see myself.
That said, if someone asked how I do see myself I would probably say ‘I don’t know”.
I have no idea what gender is or what gender means. I know it is fluid and ever-changing. It feels easier for me to say what I think I am not: I’m not male, I was a female-assigned a birth (AFAB) but I don’t really identify as a female. Woman feels more comfortable sometimes, but often that feeling is fleeting.
What I do know, or what I feel is that I exist in this neutral space where I don’t really see myself fitting into an either/or man/woman binary. I guess that would mean I fit within the very broad spectrum of ‘non-binary’. It’s taken me a while figure out and included a lot of self reflection and understanding to get to this point (and I’d say I was probably on the start of this journey rather than the end).
For a couple of years now this ‘neutral’ identity has very much existed at the forefront of how I see myself, however I’ve been afraid to take up space asking others to see/treat/identify me in the same way. This was up until very recently, where back in December I made a public Instagram post asking people to refer to me with they/them pronouns or simply by my name. This came about after months of deliberating, conversations with friends, and googling desperate questions like ‘who am I?’ ‘what is gender?’ ‘am I non-binary?’ ‘do we even exist anyway???’.
Outside of my life at King’s, I am a DJ and music producer. This means I have public social media pages, and people write about me sometimes. So, this Instagram post came about around the time I was receiving more press/publicity (as an artist) than usual due to featuring on a mix series podcast, a couple of gigs and a single release. I knew I had to say something because every single time I read ‘she’/’her’ in the write-up’s, I immediately disassociated and didn’t feel like they were talking about me. It felt super jarring. Publishing the post felt terrifying; I was exposing myself, being vulnerable and also publicly declaring that I should take up space and demanding that others respond to this request. It felt very unnatural but I know now that it was really really necessary.
Since then, I’ve requested people at work refer to me as they/them. I guess you could take this blog as a formal coming out post to King’s. A simple changing of pronouns, whilst some may perceive this as small, feels like an absolutely massive thing for me. It means I don’t get a pang of anxiety/gender crisis every time someone calls me ‘she/her’.
Whilst I am nowehere near feeling sure about what my gender is (or what gender is at all), it really does help alleviate that weight and constant confusion I carry around with me daily.
I’ve found reading, listening to podcasts and joining online communities really helpful in this gender journey so far. Here’s a couple that I recommend:
Life Isn’t Binary: On Being Both, Beyond, and In-Between – MJ Barker & Alex Iantaffi
Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen, Amrou Al-Kadhi
NB – My Non-binary Life (Podcast), Amrou Al-Kadhi & Caitlin Benedict