My entire education of trans and non-binary identities came almost exclusively from Hamilton fanfiction, which was definitely not my intention when I went to read Hamilton fanfiction. It happened completely on accident, though to be fair, on Archive of Our Own there is a substantial tendency within the Hamilton fandom towards making various characters non-binary or trans. In fact, a very minimal search I did shows that approximately 7% of the fics in the Hamilton fandom have a trans and/or a non-binary character (even though canonically, none of these characters are trans or non-binary). The same search in The Avengers – Ambiguous Fandom shows only 0.03% of the fics having trans or non-binary characters. So in some ways, running in to trans or non-binary identities when reading Hamilton is inevitable. As to why this phenomenon happened, I have no idea, other than that it happened in the same way that a lot of other headcanons do. Someone came up with it, and it caught on. For whatever reason, trans and non-binary characters really took off which is great for me, because when I finally started hanging out with trans people, I already knew what was going on. I had a handle on using they/them pronouns (which really does take getting used to) and I had a great understanding of the way gender lines can be blurred.
What all of this did not prepare me for? The general lack of knowledge by the entire rest of the population. Even the queer ones, which is truly ridiculous to me, though perhaps it shouldn’t be. And this wouldn’t have mattered to me if I hadn’t gone over to the Harry Potter fandom, who is marginally better than The Avengers with a non-binary/trans percentage of 0.04%, and found one of the top-rated Sirius Black/Remus Lupin fics which just so happened to have both a genderfluid and a trans character. It truly was a unicorn of a fic considering the fandom I found it in.
The difference between this fic and a lot of the other fics I’ve read is that instead of presenting the genderfluid character as having all of their shit figured out, he struggled. Gender is tricky, especially non-binary ones, and this character was all about talking about how tricky it was.
And then, we enter into my month-long gender crisis.
‘Crisis’ probably makes it sound more dramatic than it was. It was the last month of school so I was already worried finals, and then on top of it, I was spending an inordinate amount of time sitting on my couch trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. Because most days, I like make-up. I like dresses. All of a sudden though, I was thinking, Maybe what I thought was my gender isn’t my gender. Maybe my gender is it’s own thing.
After settling into the idea of non-binary and determining that my preference is for they/them pronouns (though she/her is still okay) I came out to some people. The first two were amazing, totally understood what I was talking about and didn’t ask any strange questions because they are both very informed about various trans identities. The next two people? Not so much.
It’s not that it was bad, exactly. It’s more like, the next two people I came out to (a gay man and a gay woman) just didn’t have any sort of context for what I was talking about. I got a dismissal from one and a lot of questions from the other, which I was happy to answer. But on the other hand, shouldn’t she already know this stuff? Isn’t this just something that you end up absorbing when you’re part of the LGBTQ community?
Apparently not. Apparently the fact that I developed so much background knowledge about gender identities is unusual, especially considering I acquired this knowledge while thinking I was cis. Really, it’s a miracle I didn’t catch on to the whole non-binary thing sooner.
I kind of resolved myself to not telling anyone after that. Yes, my bios in lit mags use they/them pronouns and occasionally I feel the need to wear a binder, but I wasn’t going to go out of my way to tell people. That is, until I attended a reading by Eileen Myles, a very famous, very talented poet who I’ve seen read before. This time was different, though. This time, the person who announced Eileen Myles used they/them pronouns.
I almost started crying. I’ve only ever heard Myles referred to as ‘she’ and now I was hearing ‘they.’ I didn’t even know I wanted to see someone like me , someone non-binary, as an author until I heard that introduction, until I realized that I am not actually alone in doing this.
So in passing conversation after that reading, when the woman I was speaking to mentioned how Myles kept being mis-gendered, I told her that I use they/them pronouns. In response, this cis-het woman who I barely knew smiled and thanked me for telling her that, then kept right on talking about Myles’s amazing reading. She knew exactly what I was talking about, excepted it, and then kept going like everything was normal. And it was normal. Because I’m normal. It was more of a relief than I expected.