The formula most American offices use to determine where to set the thermostat was developed in the 1960s and is based on the body mass and metabolic rate of the average cisgender dude. Which I guess was fine in the ’60s, when the majority of office workers fit into that category. Now it’s 2019; the same old formula is still in use; cisgender dudes make up about half of the American officeplace, and the rest of us are freezing.
I get misgendered a lot. As an afab* person with an aesthetic I call “middle femme” (because it makes me sound like a lady Hobbit), most people who don’t know me identify me as a woman.
I know that this comes with vast privilege. Dominant culture’s ability to quickly and easily put me into one of the societally acceptable gender boxes, even if it’s not where I go, allows me a level of safety and ease that my more obviously gender-transgressing siblings, especially those who are also people of color and/or visibly disabled, do not share. Whenever I can, I use that privilege to speak and act in support of those who do not share it.
But this misgendering (or gendering, in my case) also carries isolation and invisibility. Not being identifiable as nonbinary by other members of the trans/nonbinary/gender-nonconforming community is incredibly lonely. Sometimes not being believed as nonbinary by other members of the community is heartbreaking.
It’s also cranky-making, because it feeds into a dominant culture myth, unfortunately creeping its tendrils into the queer community, that nonbinary looks a certain way: rail-thin, flat-chested, and narrow-hipped (which my short, round, descended-from-Ashkenazi-Jews-and-Welsh-farmers body will never be), wearing “unisex” clothes, which often look suspiciously like men’s clothes with muted color palettes, no pockets, and high prices. In my heart of hearts I reject that myth, but by doing so, am I perpetuating my own invisibility?
I’m often caught on the horns of two equally strong, equally aggravating impulses. I want to shave exactly half my hair, replace exactly half my wardrobe with clothes from the men’s section, and be so aggressively uncategorizable that even I wouldn’t know what gender box to put me in if we met on the street, in order to be a visible support and sibling to other nonbinary/gnc folks. And I want to keep on as I have been, promoting my fierce belief that nonbinary identity is rooted first and foremost in gender experience and only secondarily in gender expression, and that I don’t have to change myself in radical, costly, and often unhealthy ways to conform to dominant culture’s fatphobic, androcentric, Ziggy-Stardust-wannabe stereotype of what nonbinary looks like.
So, anyway, I made a vest.
It’s based on Janine Myska’s Aloha Vest crochet pattern, which I found on Ravelry. Everyone else I’ve seen has made it in a single color, but the pattern and means of construction make it well-suited to be crocheted in the colors of the agender flag: two stripes each of white, gray, and black around a central stripe of green. It took me forfreakingever, because I’m a slow and easily distracted crocheter, but I finally finished it this weekend.
Except that even here I messed up. The green yarn I had was much darker than I remembered it being: not the cheerful chartreuse of the agender flag, but a deep forest green the yarn company named “Dark Thyme” (man, I hear ya). Which means that my vest, which was meant to be both a bit of queer oomph for myself** and a subtle identifier for other agender folks, is instead just a stripey vest.
In a way, it is an awkward and all-too-fitting metaphor for my own gender identity. I, and those closest to me, recognize and honor me as an agender person. Everyone else sees a woman in a vest. That invisibility and misunderstanding hurts sometimes, but in the end, I know who I am, and maybe that’s all that matters.