“Hi, I’m Kai. My pronouns are they/them”
I’ve been ruminating on this sentence as of late. The small-ish company I work for was recently acquired by a large multinational, so making personal introductions is now a daily occurrence. The sentence easily rolls off the tongue, followed up by a quick summary of my job role and responsibilities. If I’m in a sharing mood, I might throw in the fact that I’m a keen cyclist or tell them about my amateur photography.
I think it’s important to note that this is the first time I’ve ever included my pronouns in an introduction. It’s not that I didn’t want to before - believe me, I really wanted to. But there’s always been an unspoken force holding me back, my heart catching in my throat and face flushed with embarrassment when someone refers to me as a woman.
It’s 2020 and — who knows if it’s growing up, years of therapy paying off, the global pandemic or all of the above combined— but this year, I cleared my throat and shared my pronouns loud and proud.
My Authentic Self
Me being non-binary is not a move to reject gender roles, norms or stereotypes. Although these should be binned — no one benefits from gender roles and they do real damage to everyone. But it was gender stereotypes that made me feel ashamed for being my true authentic self.
Because when I eventually realised that I’m not a woman (and a man neither) but a non-binary person, I felt that same shame and embarrassment I felt when I was told I wasn’t being enough of a girl. Whether that was being laughed at by my teachers for wanting to be a video game developer or mocked for playing football on the school playground.
At the time, I couldn’t see my fantastic gender identity breakthrough for what it really was. Instead, I was disgusted with myself. Why couldn’t I just be a girl? So I locked away that realisation deep in the dark depths of my mind and refused to look at it for years to come.
Two years ago, I began to openly self-identify as a non-binary person. My Brighton bubble gave me the confidence to finally live in my truth. To say that it was liberating is an understatement. It was life-changing.
All my life I have felt miles apart from everyone else whilst I hid my non-binary identity. When I am referred to as a woman, girl or female — cognitive dissonance kicks in. I can’t ever relate to that and it is what makes me feel alone, isolated and disconnected from the world.
I don’t want to feel alone anymore. I love being a queer non-binary person. The shame and embarrassment now replaced with pure euphoria as I live my truth.
So now I ask people to use my correct pronouns. In that simple act, I’m asking for the bare minimum of what any person deserves — respect and kindness. I know that people will get my pronouns wrong time-to-time and that’s okay. I can quickly correct people and move on. It’s not a problem. However, when I tell a person my pronouns and they don’t use them or ignore them, that’s what really hurts.
But someone using my they/them pronouns makes me feel seen. My heart leaps excitedly in my chest and I have to stop myself from grinning like a goof. It’s the equivalent of someone you really like giving you a massive squeeze of a hug. It’s a feeling that I hope never wears off.