As a gender studies major, I should know this. I should know where non-binary, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming individuals fall into a contemporary feminism. But I don’t, and theory doesn’t give me what I need to know. Feminist practice leaves me feeling oddly empty where I know I should be full. In nearly every feminist scholarly reading I’ve encountered, the same narrative continues as followed: women versus gender, with women on the inside, and the ever-ambiguous “gender” on the outside looking in. Maybe the only exposure I’ve had to a non-binary feminism was about the mythical nature of it, of how we don’t exist within a feminist scholarship, and by that extension, don’t inhabit feminist spaces. As isolating as this story we’re told is, it’s a reality we as non-binary people face on a daily basis, our negotiation of the spaces we inhabit, and the spaces we can hold a claim to comfortably, safely, and without the fear that we’re “deceiving” people of our perceived femaleness or maleness in the process.
Sometimes I feel as though I have come close to a feminist non-binary space, only to be thrown back into the ever-familiar identity categories consisting of some permutation of maleness or femaleness. This familiarity I have grown so used to, and have come to expect from feminist spaces only reminds me how feminist thought remains a binary one: the bodies that matter are the ones that align with either a masculinity or a femininity. For us who do not find that we fall comfortably within this harsh dichotomy in feminist spaces or theory, we are subjugated to queer theory, which is the all-encompassing space that describes the indescribable, otherwise known as the non-binary person.
As non-binary, we are the inhuman, inconceivable lovechild of sexuality and gender nonconformity, the ultimate question mark to what gender is and how we can conceptualize it. In academia, non-binary persons are still seen as the invisible, invalid space that was formed out of nothing, begging to be something. Outside of the academic question of what we are, we live in communities that render us as fictional, with neighbors consistently misgendering us, and parents who violently refuse gender neutral pronouns in defense of archaic grammatical norms that are somehow more dear and important to them than their own children. In the midst of all this, mainstream feminist spaces offer little to no protection of us; we are still neatly boxed into a binary many of us have spent the greater part of our lives trying to reject. At the end of the day, we are nowhere.
What I tirelessly look for day and night is a space where we don’t have to fit into the feminist mold that is created for us, or place ourselves into a loosely constructed queer theory that maintains us as a purely academic phenomenon. I want a place to go that accepts us as we are, and graciously gives us the humanity we have been denied in a contemporary feminist language. I want a space for us, for all of us that will make a stake for our bodies and minds in feminism, and give us the validity we have rigorously begged for so long. I want a space that is beyond the table scraps pushed onto the floor for us to cherish and be profusely thankful for. I want a space beyond sympathetic smiles, and the nervous sweats of having to state your pronouns in a room full of those all waiting for you to be the “different” one. I want a non-binary, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, genderscrewed, genderswallowed, genderspat-out feminism. I want a feminism for us.