Not a Girl, Thank You
I am agender. For me, that means that I don’t feel a connection to any gender, and also, that I use they/them pronouns. I can’t describe my gender in terms of what it is (if I tried it would be inelegant and pointless) so unfortunately I can’t tell you what feels right, but I can tell you what feels wrong. I am not a girl, woman, female, lady, miss, gal, girlfriend, sister, daughter, or any other term invented to describe that side of the gender binary. I am also not a boy, man, male, gentleman, mister, boyfriend, brother, or son. I am somewhere squeezed between those expectations, or better yet, fully removed from them.
Obviously, navigating life outside of the gender binary creates complications. I don’t conform to cis people’s expectations of what a woman should be—I affirm myself by often cutting my hair short, tailoring my style to what makes me feel more masculine, confiding in close friends about my pronouns, and binding my chest. These things bring me joy, while also complicating my life with intrusive questions from strangers and guilt trips from my family urging me to be more feminine. Because I was assigned female at birth, and raised in a church with highly rigid expectations for women, I am also consistently misgendered. While violence is a loaded term, I feel it is applicable here—constantly being referred to incorrectly is excruciating. Like a tree being felled by an ax, I bleed while standing rigid, unable to escape; misgendering is a brutal sting inflicted by those who do not realize I consciously feel it.
And while it may seem contradictory (though, I guess my whole existence is somewhat of a contradiction while being queer at BYU) I am also attracted to women. I have gone through a long and complicated journey with discovering my sexuality. At first, I identified as bisexual, then lesbian, and now. . . I’m not so sure. I know that I like women, and I think I might like men, but what I am sure about is that an emotional connection is really important to me. This mess is why I’m so grateful for the word ‘queer.’ My experience is fully encompassed by the word’s broadness, because both my gender, and by extension, my romantic and sexual attraction, are queer. In short, I’m not a woman, but I do love them.
Navigating these identities while going to a school that prescribes cisgender straightness as the single road to lasting happiness is a challenging path to tread. I hear homophobic and transphobic comments in classes from professors and other students quite frequently on campus, making me very aware that I exist in defiance to a culture that does not want me. Fortunately, I’ve cultivated a community who embrace me as my whole self: USGA. I am so grateful for the people in USGA who have stood with me throughout my journey, and who have made BYU a safer place to exist. USGA is an organization that has truly changed my life for the better; I am privileged to be a part of a group that is so committed to inclusion and community building.
Although realizing my queerness was a struggle that still impacts my life, I view my queer identities as gifts. I see them as gifts from a God who loves me, and gifts from myself—someone who had to do a lot of work to see themselves as blessed because of their queerness, not deficient. I am blessed with the soul-expanding gift of understanding by allowing myself to explore who I am and who I am becoming. My joy and my peace are centered in my queerness, which may seem contradictory in a society that does not value non-cishet identities, but which is profoundly true. I believe that one day, BYU will also be able to recognize how much good queer people are, and how much good we can do.