Nonbinary Insecurities and Thoughts on 'Passing'

March 30, 2023 Hayes Mitchell

I have nonbinary gender insecurity. In America, there are two genders. There are two sexes. It is not common knowledge that sex and gender are different and that there are multiple sexes. When I applied for jobs, I was asked about my gender and given two options: male or female. I didn't even have the option I needed to answer an optional question. I wasn't sure if they meant to ask about my sex or my gender. I was forced to choose or decline. 

I don't have any options. I don't have a choice. In public, anyone will see me walking down the street and immediately label me as a man or a woman. They will rarely need to think about it. The assumption is instantaneous. Behavior and appearance are immediate indicators. People read you: your body movements, voice, sex characteristics, hair, and clothing are some things people pick up on to understand who you are before they even speak to you. I am nonbinary to me, but to everyone else, I am not. That's what my mind tells me. 

It is an internal battle between who I am and how I want to be seen. What does it mean to be nonbinary when the society I live in is built around two genders? Sometimes I feel insecure about my nonbinary gender.

I want to "pass" (be recognized) as nonbinary. I want to be androgynous. I want to be confusing. It hurts that I feel the need to choose. Instead, I want to remove those two options when people see me. I will feel gender euphoria when they fumble about how to address me. When they say, "Maam?" I'll say "No." When they say, "Sir?" I'll say, "No." 

My nonbinary identity comes from within me. I can explain my gender to others, and they can try to understand it, but only I will truly understand my gender experience. There is no right way to be nonbinary or look nonbinary. Sometimes I feel myself leaning into the identity of a transgender man in the hope of passing one day. But that identity isn't right for me. Instead, I take comfort in the concept of gender fluidity. My gender experience changes with me. My gender presentation changes along with my internal sense of self. 

Getting Over Nonbinary Insecurity

I am surprised most days when I meet people who are accepting of my pronouns. My co-workers at my last job used my correct pronouns and corrected themselves when they didn't. My manager was a transgender man. We talked about getting our names changed; I felt seen. I felt more comfortable knowing there was someone else like me at work. In any given social space, I feel better when I'm not the only queer person in the room. My gender is irremovable. I won't hide it. I want to be seen. 

Although I have no plans to change my legal name, I'm bothered daily by how often I need to use it. Whether it's applying to jobs, schools, or apartments, my legal name follows me. It gives people the option to refer to me by my legal name rather than my preferred name. It gives them power over me. When people use my legal name instead of my preferred name, I feel the tiredness set in me like a dead weight. Was it an accident? Or was it a purposeful choice? Sometimes I speak up. Sometimes I let it go. 

Passing is not the goal of every transgender person. Ultimately, my goal is to be confident in my identity, no matter how I present myself or how people perceive me. The concept of gender is unique to the individual. Not just genderqueer people. Ask a cisgender person (a person whose sex matches their gender), what does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? It is not a question about sex. Pull sex and gender apart; remove sex entirely from the concept of gender. What do you have? It is not a simple two-choice answer. 

APA Reference
Mitchell, H. (2023, March 30). Nonbinary Insecurities and Thoughts on 'Passing', HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Hayes Mitchell

Hayes can be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, and his personal site.

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