This post was originally written as part of my process of coming out as agender. I shared it with family and friends on January 1, 2019. Coming out is an evolving process, so I’ve since adjusted it to keep the details up to date.
You might have known me since I was a kid. You might have just met me in the last few months. Either way, it’s likely that until now, I’ve let you assume that I’m someone I’m not. As tough as it is, I want to be real with you.
The thing people assume is that I’m a woman. I’m not a woman, and I never have been. I’m something else entirely.
This fact is confusing to many people. We don’t yet live in a world that’s very willing to accept people like me. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you care about me and are interested in understanding, I wrote this for you.
A few TLDR points:
- I’m agender, which is a subcategory of nonbinary, which is a subcategory of transgender.
- They/them are my pronouns.
- I go by Adrien now. I also use a gender-neutral artist pseudonym, Lurm, which friends use for me as a casual nickname.
- It’s OK if you have questions. I created this site to answer them.
There’s more about all this stuff below.
What does it mean to be agender?
Agender simply means “having no gender.”
I’ve heard other agender folks describe their experience like this: there’s a part of peoples’ minds that tells them “I am a man,” or “I am a woman,” and for an agender person, that’s just absent. There’s no sense of belonging to either of those groups.
To agender people like me, gender feels like a performance that humans seem to require of each other for no comprehensible reason.
Agender is a specific identity that fits under several umbrella terms.
You might be unfamiliar with the lexicon around gender, orientation, and sexuality, so let’s cover a few major definitions that will help you engage in the dialogue.
This term includes the community of people who were assigned a gender that isn’t really them when they were born. It’s often shortened to trans, and it’s represented by the “T” in the term LGBT. It’s the antonym of cisgender, which is someone whose gender does line up with the one they were assigned by doctors when they were born.
This term includes the community of people whose gender is outside of the gender binary (strictly man or woman). It’s a subgroup of trans.
There are binary transgender people (people who transition from male to female, or from female to male), and nonbinary transgender people (people who transition away from binary gender).
Agender is one of many different nonbinary identities. It’s unclear how many nonbinary identities there are—they’re still being uncovered. (Genderfluid is another you may have heard of, in which someone’s gender varies depending on the day or situation. This is an extremely different experience from my gender, which has never changed a bit my entire life.)
How did I know I was agender?
Typically people associate gender with biological sex. But gender and sex are two different things. Gender is a social role construct, and sex is biology.
You might think that anyone born in a female body (like I was) is a girl. As I’ve heard many cisgender people say, “those are the facts.” But facts aren’t always so conveniently black and white. Like most things, with gender, there’s nuance, and there are outliers. (Not to mention the biology isn’t so straightforward either—many people are born with combinations of male and female sex characteristics.)
When sex and gender line up and confirm each other, it’s easy to think of them as the same. And those things seem to line up just fine for most people.
But for many people, those things are at odds with each other.
For example, in my case.
As a kid, I’d be trying to just go about my life, but I’d be constantly getting in trouble for not acting like a girl. I didn’t like the right things, move in the right way, say the right words, put on the right clothes. I had to act completely unnaturally at all times if I was going to avoid punishment. My gender was constantly being policed.
I learned what airs I had to put on to avoid being mistreated, but my real self didn’t go away.
I never had a word for what sort of person I was growing up, and I didn’t know there were other people like me.
As confusing and complicated it might seem to cisgender people, I’m so grateful to live in a time when we’re actually developing language that helps us describe gender identities that aren’t just man or woman. Otherwise I would probably have to keep my real self in hiding my entire life. (And I know that’s what nonbinary people in the past usually had to do.)
A big issue among nonbinary people is pronouns. The English language has “she/her” and “he/him.”
There’s been a movement to adopt the singular “they/them” pronoun as a gender-neutral one. For example, “Adrien forgot their wallet.”
Not everyone is accustomed to using this pronoun, so it can take some getting used to. It’s not that it offends me when people use the wrong pronouns for me, but it always hurts a bit. I could just take the hit, and I often do—that’s actually a lot easier to do than asking people to use my correct pronouns—but because language really does shape thoughts and minds, I try to do my part in helping normalize they/them pronouns. Not just for myself, but for others like me.
There are two main reasons it’s best when they/them pronouns are used for me:
- They aren’t dishonest. “Her” or “him” just have a strange sort of fakeness when I hear people refer to me with them. (Yes, people do think I’m a man sometimes. It feels just as weird as it does when people think I’m a woman.)
- I care about helping the English language evolve to be more accepting and friendly to people like me.
It’s OK if you struggle to use they/them for me. I’m not judging you if you get it wrong. It just hurts. I can take it, and usually do, but it’s nice when I don’t have to.
I wrote an article to help people learn about using they/them pronouns.
Lots of transgender people change their name as part of their transition. I changed my name to Adrien.
I also use a gender-neutral pseudonym as an artist (Lurm). I started sneakily using that name for a while before I even came out as agender.
We’re part of something bigger
I’m an individual human in a subgroup (agender) of a subgroup (non-binary) of the transgender demographic, which is already only 0.6% of the population.
Add to that the fact that a lot of my connections were made in environments that those 0.6% of humans stay far, far away from, often for their own safety — conservative evangelical circles being a prime example.
That means I might be the only transgender person a lot of people in my life have ever known (let alone the only agender person).
I care about spreading love and acceptance. I’m hoping I can help share information that helps eat away at the ignorance that often leaves trans people shunned and demonized.
That’s why I want to help break down vocabulary, thoughts, and explanations for friends who want to understand.
Thanks for reading, and for your friendship, interest, and care. By engaging in this topic with me, you’re helping to carve out space in the world for people like me to exist.