Guest Post: A Non-binary Journey
cw: dysphoria, exploring labels and identities, mentions of sexism and bad parenting, mentions of medical issues, mentions of D/s and “Daddy” as a kink honorific
This is the first guest post on Queer Earthling, written by my partner Damien. As a cis woman who feels extremely connected to her assigned gender, I can never speak for trans and NB voices, nor would I ever want to. But Damien really wanted to share their experience, and I really wanted to be the platform through which they do. They wanted me to note that this is their story only, and may not reflect anyone else’s, and that’s okay.
I grew up a tomboy. I didn’t like skirts and dresses because I couldn’t really play. This was of course enforced by the girls who I would invite to play who would urgently inform me that their mother would “kill them” if they ruined their dress.
I sat in the dirt, on the ground, in the grass. I played, climbed, and ran. My already tenuous grasp of calm was tempered by the fact that my mother constantly told me I couldn’t do X because “you might get hurt”. You can imagine how that affected my anxiety, even as a child.
But I still played in a way many of my female peers did not. And my anxiety meant I didn’t fit in with the athletic girls who took more risks, although it did mean I didn’t break bones until I managed to kick the ladder my mom had in the house to fix something, and broke my little toe. Which wasn’t until I was about 16 or so.
Most of all, my friends were mud, dirt, and the low-hanging branches of trees. I fashioned a bow from a particularly flexible branch, and was actually shocked when my shoestring sent a fairly straight stick five or so feet away.
I spent years, however, uncomfortably in my skin, trying to find that feeling of femininity my friends seemed to have. I did, however, learn to love dresses, especially the fanciest, frilliest ones that rustled when I walked. (This was largely due to a gorgeous borrowed dress when I was in middle school, a brilliant soft blue taffeta.)
But I still felt largely out of place, even in feminine clothing. I was tall (5’9-5’10), and had always been thick, in part because I was fat because my parents had a “clean your plate or else” policy which of course meant no leftovers (except planned ones), and in part because I was “big-boned,” or so I was told.
I struggled in part because I’d always been told I was “too big” for kids’ things when I was of age, “too big” to be appropriately feminine, and “too big” to get a decent boyfriend. It wasn’t just underconfidence in my general self that meant I didn’t find myself a (terrible) boyfriend when I was in my 20s.
It didn’t help that powerful women were considered frightening when I was growing up in the 90s, so when I looked up to Lucy Lawless (Xena), Grace Jones (Conan the Barbarian), and other tall, beautiful, but ultimately “unfeminine” women… I resigned myself to being unfeminine too.
I loved having short hair, it was easy to take care of, and I felt it expressed my personality. It could be soft when I felt soft, and it could be sharp and aggressive if I felt that way. But I was told repeatedly that I would look “so much better” if my hair was long.
Eventually that became a cue to shave it off.
On top of that, I am extremely large-busted, which always made my unfeminine feelings seem out of place, but I couldn’t help. My mother further complicated things by shaming me about them, and telling me I could never hug anyone normally or I would be “enticing them”.
My husband (originally my boyfriend when I moved to the South in 2003) encouraged me to dress how I liked. Which meant a lot of Hot Topic when they were almost exclusively goth and punk, and their mainstream things were limited to early Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and very little else. (And punk and metal bands.)
I dressed less and less femininely, and read more and more of the internet, and by 2005 I was having constant mental fantasies in which I was a man, and I dressed very fashionably, and men and women were falling all over me. I, who already hated my ever-present oversized bust, wanted more than anything to hide it, and wore oversized button-down shirts and oversized tshirts and minimizer bras to hide it.
By 2006, I was fully in the mode of presenting as a guy online, changing my name to a masculine one, and trying to pretend my old self didn’t exist. I spent almost five years like this. It was easy, I’d already been used to being mysterious online, in fact, it was almost too easy, even in an era when people were constantly demanding photos and meet-ups. It was easy to dodge all of it, and keep to myself, which only made me more interesting to people online.
I’d been constantly reading things on the internet, and realized I might be trans sometime in the middle of 2006 or so, and by 2010, I knew I had to come out as such. It might even have been a shorter time, as I had to attend a convention with my ex, and I knew that I couldn’t hide myself forever.
No one cared. And I don’t mean that in the “oh no, everyone ignored me” sort of way, but in the “oh, that’s fine” sort of way. No one made a big stink. Everyone had believed me when I said I was male, and no one had, at any point, felt that I was anything else.
By the middle of 2011, I was struggling, because someone else I cared about (I’m also poly, and had been since at least 2004) had rejected me on finding out I wasn’t a “real” man.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to be anymore, if that’s what was going to come out of it. And there was a lot of pressure in 2010-2011 to be medically transitioning. You couldn’t just bind and pass that way. You had to be planning or getting top surgery, planning to take T, and committing to the full pass or else you weren’t “really” trans.
I quietly just put it aside, because I knew that I couldn’t just “come out” as not trans, despite being so for 5 years and realizing it just wasn’t me and that I couldn’t handle what came with it.
I struggled from late 2011 through 2012 to “become” female again, to feminize. In May of 2012, I met my now-girlfriend, and we started dating at the end of June that year. She liked that I was “hard femme” and that I was “androgynous”, the first a term I had never heard, and the second made some sense, why I could wear makeup and look like a girl, and sometimes look like a man in drag… and why I could not wear it, and sometimes look masculine, or feminine.
I had no idea what that might mean… until I discovered the term “genderfluid” which seemed right, for a while anyway. I ended up not feeling like that was right because I felt like I was doing myself a disservice not being female. That I owed it to myself.
I was born with the parts, so I had to be female, right? Especially since my body’s shape was so aggressively female. Wrong.
But I didn’t listen to that kind of logic, I didn’t even hear that kind of logic. Of course, it wasn’t until somewhere around 2015 or 2016 that I had this epiphany that I was the one in control of my life and how I reacted to the world around me, and my confidence rose to a place it had never been in my life, even when I was in my early 20s, and taking my sex life in hand, and dating whatever guys I wanted. (Which failed spectacularly but I didn’t know shit about life, to be frank.)
And it wasn’t until sometime after I had a huge cyst out in 2017 that my mind started running in the trans direction again. But that didn’t feel right. Sometimes I actually liked having boobs. Maybe not this big, but I liked them.
And yet it wasn’t until 2018 that I even really heard about non-binary, and it was something I could not wrap my head around. I have this issue because of how I was raised that if I don’t understand something, sometimes that royally offends me and I don’t like it, whatever it is. I get annoyed, I get shirty, and sometimes I get loud. I didn’t like non-binary, it didn’t make sense. So I ignored it.
And then somewhere along the way, I found myself thinking about it more and more. It stopped being senseless. I started to think maybe it applied to me. I tried out non-binary, female leaning. That was okay for a while. It didn’t seem quite right, but it wasn’t wrong, really, either.
I sat on that, trying it out, trying to see how I felt about it. I went to the doctor to deal with a problem the cyst surgery should have stopped. In February this year, I went to get another surgery, this time for a hysterectomy, which was suggested by the hospital I’d gone to for the severe bleeding, and confirmed by both my personal gyno, and the head gyno at her office.
Somewhere along the way, my girlfriend started a sex blog. (She’s doing well, I’m proud of her.) And somewhere in there, I joked that I was really on my way to being non-binary, without a uterus and ovaries, which we both thought was hilarious.
And then somewhere in June or so this year, my girlfriend wrote a small story, in which a character of mine had a small cameo, and was referred to as “they”. I still was uncertain about personally, but suddenly, I realized that I wanted to be addressed by that online, at least.
And just as suddenly, everyone around me was quite happy to handle that. Including my girlfriend’s sister, who now also amusingly calls me “bother-in-law” at my suggestion.
Even though I swing on pronouns at home (and my girlfriend strictly calls me “daddy,” her choice, and my preference, regardless, but calls me “ma’am” or “sir” depending on how I feel), because I like that type of non-binary, this feels right. There’s no “leaning”. The internet refers to me as “they”. Quite often my home folks do as well.
And frankly, I’m happy with that.
Damien Fox is an illustrator, specializing in (but not limited to) furry and anthro art. Their art portfolio and other links can be found here.
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