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I am GenderQueer, Gender Fluid, Nonbinary…

By Nicki Hangsleben

I am gender queer / gender fluid / nonbinary. I use they/them and she/her pronouns. This is recent. In the last year… The inclusion of they. It better reflects the fluidity I feel daily, weekly, annually in my gender identity. When I told my mom, with a bit of trepidation, I was using “they” as a pronoun and as a way to represent my gender fluidity, she told me that makes complete sense. I was surprised. I had been pretty nervous to tell her, to tell my wife, to tell anyone. Which is kind of funny in my mind. I’m in my 40s. I’ve been out as “gay” for over 20 years.

Yet coming out as genderqueer felt scary and also SO liberating. 

I’m grateful for the younger generations who have created space for us to question our identity and proudly (or nervously) proclaim identities outside the “norm” of male and female. I’ve always felt like I lived outside of the rules of what it means to be a woman. As a queer person, this is one gift we’re given early in life. We see the humans in our queer community constantly pushing the boundaries on gender. Whether it’s wearing baggy blue jeans and baseball caps or a cute dress with combat boots. 

When I told my mom she said she wasn’t surprised. She said in my 20s when I would show up at her house in Southern California she never knew which version of me would show up… Maybe version isn't the right word… Version implies different selves but really, it was my one self, my only self, wearing, feeling, trying on, existing with a fluid sense of my gender. Does that make sense? 

It feels freeing to have language for something that has always been part of my identity. Genderqueer, gender fluid, not binary… Freeing to hold onto that language as a way to describe the fluidity of who I am and, honestly, who I think we all are, if we gave ourselves the opportunity to recognize the social constructs of gender and the freedom to exist outside of them. 

My friend once said we all have the right to try on different “gender identities” or “gender expressions,” and I fully agree. This is a journey. And a magical one.

Figuring out who we are and how we show up in the world can be both scary and also a privilege. 

I get why younger generations have taken back the word Queer. It’s an umbrella term that holds so much meaning and so much clarity, yet so much ambiguity. Using that word allows us to know we are part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community even if we can’t always articulate the full extent of what that means.

With gender and sexuality being so fluid and the language to represent this fluidity changing and evolving, Queer gives an opportunity to try things on, see if it fits, let it go if it’s not quite right and evolve into better definitions of who we are. Or maybe not pick one at all because gender and sexual orientation are not meant to be checked, not meant to fit in a box. They are only words that are constantly evolving to try to help us and the world around us understand who we are. 

But what if we could just be human.

What if I could just be Nicki. Just me.

Just a person trying to walk around this planet with an open heart and a passion to create space where we can all show up as our authentic selves.


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