Gender has always been complicated, for me. I knew from a young age I didn’t fit into Box A or Box B – coming to terms with being non-binary helped me realise that gender can be more nuanced than just being a man or a woman. Knowing I didn’t - or that I didn’t have to - exist on those terms and could simply be myself – whether that be a bit of both, neither, or something else entirely – was one of the most freeing realisations I’ve had.
While I always leant more towards the masculine side of things - at least in terms of presentation – I knew I wasn’t part of that binary. It’s a choice in presentation that I actively make, because it makes me happy and feel more like myself, more than a sense of obligation or having to fit into an assigned role.
Gender expression or gender identity?
Things such as clothes, make up, hairstyles and even mannerisms in our society tend to be gendered a certain way – but they don’t have to be. People can enjoy these things no matter their gender and express themselves in ways that make sense to them.
Gender expression and gender identity can be the same, they can be exact opposites, or they can vary – and they can change. Your relationship to them will be very personal, and not everyone experiences them the same way.
For me gender expression tends to be more external. It’s about how you present yourself to those around you, and how you wish to move through society. Gender identity is more intrinsic, and internal – your sense of self, of personhood, and how you feel or know yourself to be.
The topic of pronouns
Including pronouns in email signatures or on social media platforms is one way to help gender non-conforming folks see that you have an understanding that someone’s gender identity can’t be assumed by our perception of them.
By making the choice to share or include your own pronoun information on your email, it not only communicates how you want people to refer to you, importantly it is a green flag that you’re going to be safe for us to interact with.
Some people within the LGTBQ+ community may not include pronouns for good reason. For example, they might not be ready to share their gender identity and it’s unfair to expect them to do so or have them misgender themselves if they’re not ready to.