Graphic by Christopher Ikonomou (guest)
This is intended as a continuation of a previous article “The Feminine Man: Homophobia, Femininity, and the Cisheteropatriarchy”
Content warning: homophobia, misgendering
I know who I am.
I know what inspires me, what ticks me off, and what I love. I know why I believe the things I do, who I want to be, and how I navigate the world. My ears are pierced (twice), I wear cool shoes, and I have never felt more myself than I do now.
At the same time, I hesitate to introduce myself with pronouns.
In the classroom setting — where I find that introductions with pronouns are often encouraged — I feel better about introducing myself with pronouns. The academic space creates an expectation of mutual respect and humanity; my peers will respect me and my pronouns, and I will respect them and their pronouns.
However, I haven’t experienced the same confidence even in spaces that elicit introductions with pronouns. People might stumble over introducing themselves with pronouns. They’ll say, “I feel like I’m forgetting something.” Someone will remind them: “Pronouns!” And they continue, laughing, “Oh, right. He, him.”
In the case I’m referencing, I intentionally didn’t offer my pronouns. No one said anything, and I felt better about not doing so. Seeing pronouns being treated as an afterthought — as something to be belittled — only affirmed my reason to hesitate. The space wasn’t safe.
I do not express in an androgynous way, and as a result, I am perceived as a cisgender man. My hair is relatively short, my legs are hairy, my body is mostly box-shaped, and my facial hair is getting thicker. At the same time, I might be flagged as feminine (or gay) because of other gendered identifiers. Although I do not cross the arbitrary line between “third gender nonbinariness” and masculine presentation, my non-androgyny doesn’t define my nonbinariness; still, it is the tension between the way I’m perceived (in my masculine appearance but apparent femininity) and my reality of being nonbinary that causes me to hesitate to introduce myself with pronouns. The nail in the coffin to my “he/him” life was the moment I realized I would never be treated like a man.
I find that because I’m male-passing and apparently feminine, I experience the world in ways both similar to and different from cis men and women. On the continuum of male femininity, I fall at a point where some cishet men aren’t afraid to engage with me like a peer. They tell me borderline misogynistic things that they might tell their “bros.” Here, I’m interpreted and treated as a man — like a peer to straight men — though I experience their misogyny as queerphobic violence. It’s a toss-up of whether I’m seen as an equal despite my femininity or ostracized because of it.
Because of this, I experience a sense of danger and remain hypervigilant in the presence of certain cisgender men. My body will prepare to defend itself against the next instance of queerphobic violence. I can’t exist in masculine spaces without immediately feeling on edge — though why would I want to exist in these spaces? So many of my experiences have been marred by this violence as an extension of misogyny, where my peers and parents alike were homophobic toward me before I even knew what “gay” or “feminine” meant. However, it’s true that, to a certain extent, the legitimate physical danger I face is not as severe compared to feminine-presenting, female-passing, or transfemme people; I’m not at risk of becoming a target in the same way because I am still certainly male-passing and relatively masculine-presenting. The danger is more psychological, where I fear being berated, threatened, or made a punchline.
Still, in romantic contexts, I’ve been called explicitly “feminine,” where their acknowledgment of my apparent femininity signaled a specific way in which I was expected to engage. My femininity in the context of romance leaves me vulnerable to policing — by both myself and others — and objectification that’s familiar to cis women and other feminine people under the cisheteropatriarchy.
The apparent dissonance between how I exist and the definition of “man” — because of my attraction to men and my femininity — is something that cannot be rectified under the cisheteropatriarchy. Only by identifying as nonbinary — beyond the binary — do I feel my experiences and my authentic self are acknowledged. My nonbinariness is a recognition of who I am and how I want to be understood, where the cisheteropatriarchy’s binary definitions and scripts of gender fail to capture how I experience and understand the world.
In choosing whether or not to offer my pronouns, I gain an illusory sense of agency over being hurt. There are two kinds of hurt in this decision: one that is more vulnerable and one that is familiar. If I do offer my pronouns, I’m exposed to the possibility of a more explicit rejection of who I am after I’ve asked to be seen. This is often the case; even after offering my pronouns, they are not respected. The other is the default of having my reality denied anyway. Whether or not I offer my pronouns, my appearance leads others to use “he/him” by default. I am indiscriminately denied the recognition I seek. By not introducing myself with pronouns, I compromise my reality to satisfy the reality of others in an attempt to avoid this vulnerability.
But I shouldn’t have to compromise. It does mean a lot to me when someone respects my pronouns because it’s more than just pronouns. My nonbinariness is real, and I deserve to be seen the way I want to be seen.
So, as I write this, I realize I shouldn’t hesitate. Even if others might not see me beyond a feminine or gay man, hesitating in order to not disrupt others’ reality would allow the cisheteropatriarchy to continue to deny my reality.
In an act of resistance, I must not hesitate. Why wouldn’t I do everything in my power to assert my humanity and hold others accountable for seeing me the way I want to be seen?
Author: Jericho Tran-Faypon (They/Them)
Artists: Christopher Ikonomou (Xe/He), Jessie Blattner (She/Her)
Copy Editors: Maya Parra (She/Her), Bella (She/Her)