Xim: My preferred gender pronouns are “they/them.” It is a singular pronoun, but you still follow the same general rules. You still use “They are coming,” not “They is coming.”
JOSH: THANK YOU, XIM. I SAW ONE OF YOUR POSTS ON FACEBOOK RECENTLY ABOUT OTHERS NOT ACCEPTING YOUR GENDER IDENTITY. WE, THE AUDIENCE AND I, ARE LISTENING TO YOU. CAN YOU HELP US UNDERSTAND YOUR JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY?
Xim: It’s been weird because it’s never been something that’s been said. Growing up, I would kind of jokingly play dress up. Then I did some drag with Valley Fair/Valley Scare for 3 years as a full drag character. The first time I ever did it, I did it as a “joke” – testing the waters. And I realized how much fun, and how much happier I was with that exploration of that part of me I never let myself explore.
I grew into it, the more I explored other parts. A lot of my discovery came from me doing haunted house stuff. Scaring people! The really cool thing with that is that I can do anything you aren’t normally allowed to do. A couple years ago, I started working with the Haunted Basement, which is an aggressively queer-friendly organization. If you don’t accept someone’s identity, then you aren’t welcome in the space. That kind of safe space is phenomenal. There aren’t a lot of places like that. And just to have some place where people respect you, and where they expect other people to respect you, has helped a lot. I’ve never had to hide who I was there. There, I could be something I never let myself be.
JOSH: I DON’T WANT TO RELY SOLELY ON LABELS, BUT… SOME PEOPLE WOULD SAY “GENDER FLUID,” OTHERS WOULD SAY “AGENDER” OR “TWO SPIRIT.” HOW, MORE SUBJECTIVELY, DO YOU EXPERIENCE GENDER?
Xim: The more I come to understand, the more I come to understand that I don’t understand a lot of it. There’s so much ambiguity to the process. The more I hear from other people, the more I learn. I realize, “Oh, maybe what I thought I was wasn’t the whole picture.” I recently adapted the non-binary label, and the other day, someone asked me what the difference was between non-binary and gender fluidity. And I still don’t quite know what the difference is. With non-binary, you don’t conform to masculinity or femininity. Gender fluidity – it changes. My identity changes dependent upon how I’m feeling that day. It’s not consistent, but realizing that it’s not consistent is the realization.
JOSH: IN THE GAY MALE COMMUNITY, WE CAN EASILY THINK OF GAY MEN – WE MIGHT CALL THEM “QUEENS” OR “FEMMES,” – WHO ARE BIOLOGICALLY MALE, IDENTIFY AS MALE, BUT ACT EFFEMINATELY TO SUCH AN EXTENT THAT THEY ALMOST TAKE ON A FEMALE IDENTITY. YET THEY WOULD NOT USE ANY OF THE GENDER TERMS TO DESCRIBE THEMSELVES. FIRST, DO YOU IDENTIFY AS GAY? SECOND, WHAT DIFFERENTIATES YOU – A GAY, NON-BINARY PERSON – FROM AN EXTREMELY EFFEMINATE GAY MAN? TO OTHERS, THEY MIGHT LOOK IDENTICAL.
Xim: I am homoromantic, asexual. The simple term is “gay,” yes. And that’s a tough question. I would say that for someone born as male and identifies as male, it might be more of a stylistic choice, vs. someone who is non-binary, it is what feels right inside. It’s a much more inner feeling vs. an outer. Having the clothing is just an outward expression of how I’m feeling. I haven’t thought about this specific question.
JOSH: AND I WANT IT TO BE CLEAR THAT NO ONE EXPECTS YOU TO BE AN EXPERT. I AM CURIOUS, THOUGH, YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS. I HEARD SOMEONE COMPARE GENDER FLUIDITY TO BISEXUALITY, IN THAT SOCIETY COMPARTMENTALIZES THINGS AND CAN’T SEEM TO MAKE SENSE OF EITHER. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU, YOURSELF, WOULD EVER IDENTIFY AS TRANSGENDER?
Xim: I said it out loud for the first time about a week ago. Yes, but not in the formal, current way that we understand cisgender and transgender. I’m not cisgender, so with the terminology we have, I fall under the trans* umbrella. It’s weird, because this is something I’m very recently discovering. Am I trans*? I think I am.
When you are following the binary, you are trans* if you are the opposite of what sex you were assigned at birth. Removing the black and white of “male” and “female,” the newer understanding is just that you are “different” than what you were assigned at birth. Within my very new understanding of what it means to be trans*, I feel like I have an identity with trans*. And this is a new development for me, too!
JOSH: I AM SO, SO HAPPY THAT WE GET TO BE A PART OF THAT. AND THIS ONLY HAPPENED A WEEK AGO! I REALIZE YOU’RE FIGURING OUT YOUR IDENTITY. WHILE YOU DO SO, I WONDER HOW OTHERS IN THE GAY COMMUNITY PERCEIVE YOU. AS YOU KNOW, THERE’S A HIERARCHY, AND PEOPLE OF COLOR, FEMININE, TRANS*, AND NON-BINARY PEOPLE ARE UNFORTUNATELY AT THE BOTTOM. HOW HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED GAY MALE CULTURE WITH YOUR IDENTITY?
Xim: I want to begin by saying that I am very privileged. By genetics, I am very masculine presenting. I have a lot of facial hair, and I have a masculine appearance. So compared to a less conforming person, I have not experienced as much discrimination. I also have an immense body of support. I have lucked out immensely. And others have not. My personal circumstance is hopefully becoming more normal, but I know it’s not for most people.
The asexuality is another part of it. That changes things, too. I am homoromantic, asexual. What that means for me is that, while I don’t like the binary, my attraction falls under the binary. I am typically more attracted to masculine presentation, but I don’t see people and think “I want to have sex with this person.” I want to engage with this person, and build that relationship emotionally. Being asexual doesn’t mean I don’t want to have physical intimacy, though. It just means my body doesn’t respond in the way other people’s do. It’s weird.
JOSH: IT’S NOT WEIRD TO YOU. IT’S NOT WEIRD AT ALL. IT’S WHO YOU ARE. BEYOND THE FACEBOOK POSTS… WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE STRUGGLING WITH THEIR GENDER/SEXUAL IDENTITY?
Xim: Don’t be afraid to explore different parts of you. You might find something about yourself, assign a label, and then realize later that it wasn’t right. It’s okay not to fully know who you are. Don’t be afraid of expressing yourself. Let yourself be yourself.
JOSH: ONE MORE CUTE LITTLE THING… WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED EXPLORING? I SEE YOU HAVE YOUR NAILS PAINTED, AND YOUR HAIR COLORED.
Xim: Makeup is so much fun! Makeup! And not being afraid. Finally letting myself live my life, without fear of being judged for my non-binary, whatever the hell I am identity.
Josh Elmore (he/him), singer and member of our small ensemble OutLoud!, created Humans of TCGMC in 2018. He graduated from Carleton College with a B.A. in Linguistics and has since worked in sales, higher education, and, most recently, as a bilingual insurance agent (Spanish). Endlessly curious, he has dabbled in improv theater, stand-up comedy, sword fighting, the cello, and modeling for fantasy-themed photo shoots.