Is There Room? Being AFAB Non-Binary in Women’s Spaces

Today, I browsed GC2B’s site for a new binder (they’re having a Pride Month sale) while wearing a hot pink T-shirt that read “Women’s March on Washington, DC” across the front. Women’s March participants varied in gender, but I couldn’t help notice the irony as I looked at products tailored toward men and non-binary folks while in a shirt that so strongly aligned with womanhood and femininity. The scenario brought me back to an ongoing inner debate about where I, as a non-binary trans person, fit within feminism and women’s movements.

Earlier this year, I struggled to decide whether I should participate in International Women’s Day/Day Without A Woman. Unlike the Women’s March, DWAW sought only female participants who agreed to take a one-day hiatus from the world and encourage people to notice how important women are in our lives.

On one hand, the answer seemed clear: I do not identify as a woman, so International Women’s Day is not about me.

On the other hand, because of my body, voice, and over-all expression, the world reads me as a woman. This includes everything from using she/her pronouns (which is okay; I use both she/her and they/them) to devaluing my body and my mind in the same ways that those of people who identify as women are devalued. In my everyday life, I experience the same difficulties and privileges as most white women. Or, at the very least, most white women who are assumed to be queer.

Even when I don a necktie or sit with a masculine posture, people assume – at most – that I am a masculine woman.

The contradiction emerges when I try to make sense of where I belong as an AFAB non-binary human. Being read as a woman erases and invalidates my gender identity, but being assigned female and not having pursued any means of medical or legal gender re-assignment still makes me fair game for sexism in all its forms (wage gap, restrictions to reproductive rights, etc.). The way that my body moves through the world is as a woman…

…but also not. There are the extra aspects of binding my chest, finding men’s clothes that fit, coming out, telling people about my pronouns, deciding which spaces are okay for me to be openly non-binary and which are not.

A certain level of cis privilege accompanies my presentation. I can easily pass as cis-female when needed and am not above putting on a dress and pretending to be straight and cis when it feels necessary to my safety. I typically use women’s restrooms for the sake of convenience. A lot of trans people don’t have that ability.

But I still feel like an imposter when I enter all-female spaces, concrete or virtual. Adding an International Women’s Day frame to my Facebook profile photo felt somehow wrong, as if I was overstepping into a movement that wasn’t my own. Yet International Women’s Day stood for me in a lot of ways.

It’s complicated and nuanced and I don’t have a solid conclusion about where I fit within these conversations and spaces. While I may never arrive at a fully fleshed-out answer, I know I remain closely connected with the essence – and many experiences – of womanhood, even if “woman” doesn’t entirely describe who I am.

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