Personally, it took me a while, until I was in my fifties, to understand what I felt as I was rediscovering and living in my bones(1), engaging to intentionaly embody myself, was the emergence of my own non-binary identity.
As a French speaking person born in Quebec, there were no such terms when I was growing up in the early 60’. In fact, there was very little representation of any trans bodies (trans as in other than binary bodies). The first public representation I was exposed to, in 1973, was Hosana, one of writer Michel Tremblay’s plays. Hosanna, was the story of a drag queen in Montreal struggling with gender and sexual identities, ageing, and social expressions of homosexuality (2).
As lesbian representation was concerned, there was almost none. I just knew they existed and I had been told that most of them hated men. A deliberated offensive image made up of lesbians and feminists. The truth, I would found out later, was that lesbian feminists didn’t eat 😆 or hate men, only the gender and sexual oppressions that patriarchy had imposed on women, girls, trans, and boys for thousands of years.
At the time, I was about 15 years old, my best friend was a not-openly-but-so-gay person figuring himself in the context of a very catholic society that was starting to break loose.
. . .
That being said, owning that I was a nonconforming person was not so hard since in my neighbor, family, close circle they were many older artists, activists for whom being non-conforming, in terms of defying political and religious institutions, was a badge of honor.
Because that’s what non-conforming meant to me then, not knowing that it could also relate to my gender. A discernment that I wasn’t aware of especially at that period, at a moment where the nationalist question was becoming the main issue for most French Canadians.
My identity was limited to being québécoise.
And as being a woman was concerned? I had declared that I was not one, at least not yet, to the doctor who was dismissing the pain in my legs with: there is nothing to do, it’s a woman’s problem. There is – not I can’t, or I don’t know – that felt like a condemnation. I suddenly was doomed because I had been born a woman.
. . .
Even though I was assigned female at birth (AFAB) and cultured as one, throughout the years I often felt like a male. In my early age, I remembered acting and being derogatively referred to as a tomboy. In my teens, often playing with my brothers and other male neighbors, I was openly engaging with them as if I was one of the boys. I am not sure they felt the same. 😆
Later on as an adult, I frequently worked in traditional men’s environments, knowing in terms of competence that I was as much at my place as in any traditional women’s environments I had worked in. Socially though, I felt alienated from both.
Nevertheless, I really never found the time to question this fluidity, these evanescent perceptions. Because they were evanescent, as soon as they appeared they faded, being drowned by the overwhelming health issues I was struggling with.
. . .
In autumn 1991, I fell apart spiraling down into an interminable nightmare. At least that’s how it felt at the time.
I was a single working parent of one pre-adolescent child leaving the job one day for what I thought was the flu to never return. To that job or any other job. I was first diagnosed with depression (1991), then fibromyalgia or chronic pain (1995), followed by multiple chemical sensitivity (3) (1998), and finally ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease (2016).
All immune system diseases, except for depression, that took root and could be traced back to my mom’s pregnancy of me – so you know I am the 8th of 9 children -, my birth, and then in the forms of ongoing colds, 3 pneumonias and 5 tonsillitis between the ages of 6 and 8 years old.
Did I mention multiple concussions along that? Of which I have to admit, their treatment became a blessing.
. . .
In 2014, after going through some brain repatterning for old and new concussions, I started re-experiencing buried perceptions of myself. The first, that I was petite. The second, that there was a male inside of me. It’s not that those perceptions weren’t there before, it was more that I have been rarely aware of them because of my brain disorganization. And because my attention was always focusing on where the pain was the most acute. Which is still true today.
That morning, in my bed, I started laughing… belly laughing. So many things were finally making sense. The tomboy, the feeling of being part of the boys, those jobs in traditional men’s environments. The awkwardness of most of my intimate relationships with men.
That’s when I was flooded by years of inadequacy, frustrations; the harsh judgments of most of my spontaneous, joyful, nourishing gestures/expressions. The pain of not fitting in, of being too weird, not conforming enough. To anything. To everything.
. . .
It was only in 2017 – as I was engaging in a decolonizing process, one of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commimssion about the genocide of Indigenous, Inuit and Metis people, historical and ongoing here in Canada – that I came to question all those other layers of what I had been told about the nature of things, including my identities.
As a québécoise and a descendant of white French European settlers; as a disabled person through an ableist’s lens; as a human being living among, and not in control of other-than-human beings. As a transmasculine person living in the body of an AFAB.
. . .
Not long ago, because my investigation didn’t feel complete, I started taking testosterone to support the male in me who was still struggling with his expression. Struggling to be seen. But after 2 years in the process, something disturbing called my attention. The changes felt too fast, too demanding, too…
No, it was not that. It was that this new equilibrium, predominantly male, didn’t feel right. No more than being predominantly female. That’s when I realized that I was both.
This landing within myself, so soothing, so calming, created so much freedom, so many possibilities, that my system took the opportunity to stretch my limits in an awesome, unexpected way.
I was now decentering from my humanness. I was not caught up anymore in the embodiment of the colonial worldview of human superiority. Its denial of other-than-human person/being’s agencies.
My newly revitalized connective tissues/energies were allowing me to be in relation with waters (ocean, rivers, rain), boulders, trees, hummingbirds, spiders, ladybugs in ways I had never imagined.
From there, using they/them as one of my pronouns was just obvious. A tribute to the felt multitude within. Because my identity as a non-binary person/being had stretched my conceptions/manifestations of self by bridging those parts that always seemed irreconcilable. And by finally making me/we coherent.
At least as this last iteration is concerned. 🤣