What is the importance of gender, biological sex status, and sexual orientation to you versus in mainstream culture?
Mainstream culture works to separate, classify and categorize things – in the name of capitalism. The gender binary is another mode of that division. Gender, ability, other identities, are fluid – which is difficult to measure and market for.
Detail when (at what age, why etc.) you first started questioning gender, gender identity and gender expression.
I’ve always wanted to do “as much as I could” and there was pushback from my family, as I was doing things that “girls shouldn’t do”. So I was restricted/forbidden because I was read as female. I read myself as gender-neutral, and still do. I was/am also asexual for long periods of time. I seek to accomplish things that are unrelated to gender. The projection of a female identity onto who I was and who I am continues to the present. I think partly because I have long hair. It’s really frustrating. I don’t consider myself as female but have to keep reminding those around me that this is my identity (gender non-binary).
Tell me about your journey to deciding to use they/them pronouns.
***include when exactly you started feeling that he/she pronouns were not appropriate and exactly when you decided to use they/them pronouns.
Even though I always considered myself in between genders or categories, more like a robot or blobby creature, I only started using “they/theirs” in 2014 as a result of being told I was a “cool lady” all the time. It was irritating people constantly pigeon-holing as this gender, so I had to start asserting that I wasn’t and am not a lady. People forget a lot, and that’s okay, but it’s that initial assumption/insistence that really gets to me.
Why do you personally use the pronouns they/them?
So that “language” finally reflects the way I consider and know myself.
Who did you inform about this decision and how did they respond?
My immediate friends, my housemates, my teenage sister, the people communicating with me the most at the time.
Do any of your other friends use they/them pronouns and if so, when did they decide to use those pronouns and why?
Yes, many friends do, but I can’t speak to their experience.
How has it affected your everyday life?
It feels nice when people get it right, like I fit in my skin, or like they know me properly. And when people forget or misgender me, it kind of reminds me that they don’t know me so well, or maybe they don’t understand me. The same goes for my name. I’m known as “Anna Vo” or “Vo”, so when someone calls me “Anna” it suggests that don’t know me very well.
It’s semantic, but representative of a real social/emotional connection.
What kind of reactions do you receive from people when you explain what pronouns you’d like to be called?
Usually people are pretty accepting of it. Some people are accepting of it, but then don’t practice it. Different levels of engagement I guess.
What is masculinity and femininity to you?
They are false constructs based on historic performances of our ideas of gender. Sometimes they are words used to describe something aesthetically. Which are also ideas based on old paradigms/constructs.
If you could make society gender-free, what would you change first and why?
What would I change first? You mean a global society? I think there are less rights in some societies for girls/daughters – like female circumcision, shame killings, less choice about life directions, entry into certain fields of study, birth control – so I would erase the gender restrictions around gender-based laws and customs.
If society was gender-free, how would that change things?
I think this is answered above, but on top of that, I think people would stop performing to the things they think are expected of them. It’s that allegory of a flea being able to jump like 12+ inches, but once kept in a jar for long enough, it can only jump the height of that jar. People often fulfill only what they think they are limited to.