Being non-binary is beyond exploring my gender
In a country as conservative as the Philippines, it still makes me wonder how I decided to identify as a non-binary person. When I was younger, growing up as a young girl in an all-girls Catholic school, it may seem out of nowhere to decide on something so “unconventional.” But that's what I like about being non-binary. It allows you to choose who you want to be and go beyond the gender binary of identifying as a man or a woman. Whether you define your gender by some aspects of the two distinct genders or a different identity entirely by your terms, this is the beauty of being non-binary.
For me, the process of coming to terms with being non-binary was not something I decided overnight. I wasn't suddenly screaming, “Hey, I think I'm cool with being non-binary!” Instead, it was realized through different experiences that had an impact on how I see myself and not through society's eyes.
In navigating my non-binary journey, there were different emotions I felt during key moments, which help encompass how being non-binary is like in the Philippines.
“People that haven't existed as male and female have been here for thousands of years,” non-binary artist @travisalabanza says and adds that the way society has treated trans people has contributed to their mental health problems.#R4today | https://t.co/NoHNIBJLOq pic.twitter.com/QBMlqXvg45
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) December 29, 2018
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Discovering I was non-binary made me curious
Back in my high school days, I wasn’t taught any lessons about other gender identities. And for someone who studied in an all-girls school for most of their life, I thought I was fine being and identifying as a girl! But I graduated high school a long time ago, and many personal experiences during the pandemic made me curious and made me question if I can define myself as more than just a girl. As the pandemic continued, I felt more disconnected from the gender I was assigned when I was born.
Then, I went through the exhilarating process of satisfying my curiosity about what I want to look like and what vibe I want to exude once I accepted that I am non-binary. I scrolled through Twitter and studied how artists drew different characters or images relating to their own non-binary experience. It was exciting to explore how artists would draw my favorite fictional characters as non-binary. Who could have thought a random experience like that would be such a treasure in my steps in learning more about myself?
@fresnopatrick Reply to @franceskasantiag NEED BA TALAGA NG SOGIE BILL? #pridetogetherph #educatetogether #eduwow #patrickfresno #lgbt #sogiebill ♬ BREAK MY SOUL – Beyoncé
Knowing I'm non-binary made me feel scared
Despite the euphoria I got from discovering I'm non-binary on my terms, it was not the same for the other parts of my life. The reality of living in the Philippines means understanding a lack of LGBTQIA+ representation in national legislation matters. Not only that, but the safety of everyone is threatened by cases of gender discrimination and gender violence seen all over the country. This is emphasized more by the close-minded people who will not discuss how and why the LGBTQ+ people deserve to be treated and seen for who we are and not for stereotypes that do them harm.
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Showing people I am non-binary made me feel invisible
It is heartbreaking to know that no matter who I choose to be, people will still see me as a reflection of what society sees—a young lady. After being misgendered, both online and in real life, it's as if I had to put more effort so that I could be seen the way I want. In experiences like this, I wish for more compassion from people to recognize that non-binary people exist, too.
Being non-binary gives me a sense of fulfillment
In my journey of being non-binary, I am grateful that I can do what I love: writing. In a craft as personal as this, I am proud to say that one of my very first published pieces is about non-binary beauty, and involved interviewing other non-binary folk—it was a truly beautiful experience. It was such a wonderful feeling that my new team liked the idea and the thoughts and feelings I wrote down; and I will continue to chase that feeling whenever I write.
Though I'm still in the process of self-discovery, there is nothing else I would rather be but myself. Similarly, I believe in creating a space for LGBTQIA+ people to exist, unabashed and loud about their pride.
Words Moira Luga
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver