I make no secret on my social media that I’m nonbinary, which I suppose qualifies me as a queer person. I’m not trying to nope out of that, I just have difficulty embracing it because it doesn’t seem like I’m queer enough to qualify. I could probably write a whole essay about that, but let’s do something more entertaining instead. I’d like to write about how a ritual is what made me realize that I’m nonbinary.
I wrote about how I swore to keep silent about magic for a year, and also what I’d learned from that experience. This is one of the things I could not share before, and while it risks being the sort of thing that could have the patina worn off by telling, I think it’s worth it in this case.
However, it was in the midst of a ritual in the Bardic course of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I agreed not to share details of the work of that course outside the order — don’t freak out or think it’s a cult or something. It’s just that it’s got a very specific order to things, and they want people to approach each work piece with fresh eyes. What that means is that I can share with you some of what I experienced, but not what I did to get to that point. So this might be a short post.
What did I see then?
In the course of a ritual, I perceived a druid figure showing me certain things. The significant thing here is that the druid was as stereotypical as you can get: big grey robes, big grey beard, the works. As the ritual continued, I noticed something strange. If I focused on the druid’s face, the beard was fake, and it was strapped onto the face of a young woman. The images kept flickering back and forth. It’s the sort of thing that would knocked me over backwards had I not already been sitting.
It’s not just that I saw this thing, of course, that’s never all that happens when you get geared up in ritual space. Something popped and suddenly I remembered a bunch of things. See, I didn’t know that a person could transition until I was in my 20s. So when I was 13 and depressed, in my mamaw’s house, saying to myself that I was so angry God had made me a boy, there was nothing to do with that thought. And I didn’t do it on purpose, but because there was nothing to do, it just got tucked away and buried.
I also distinctly remember saying to someone I’d rather just be a lesbian, like if I could suddenly be a woman I wouldn’t be into men.
And my predilection for romances — not necessarily pornography, but simple romance fanfic — about lesbians? Dear reader, these are what we call subtle hints. But, again, I didn’t know it was an option.
Even, in the Venn diagram’s center, when I knew people could transition but didn’t remember that I had wanted to, things kept happening. I suppose that’s life: things continue to happen. But in this case, a friend who was transitioning hurt me very badly by claiming that I was inherently frightening because I was a man. It took me a few years to discover why this hurt my feelings so badly: there are two things that are incorrect about that statement! I’m not a man, baby!
I said sad and defensive things in that conversation as well, so don’t think I’m trying to just subtweet a person here. It’s just one more note in the chord of "hey dumbass pay attention to your gender dysphoria here."
The last one I’ll mention is an old joke among queer academics: I was so relieved when I got my doctorate because then students could stop calling me "mister." They still do, mind you, and sometimes they continue after I correct them, but at least now I have an option.
So all that stuff was tucked deep down in the back of my mind, just festering, like things do, until this ritual sort of made me turn my head. It wasn’t like a bandage being ripped off, or a flood of realization. It was just like someone said, "hey, look over there" and I saw the thing that was over there the whole time.
And then what?
Well, I already thought all the gender binary stuff in some magical practices were bullshit, so it didn’t really change my magical practice much. There was a thorny moment where my partner kind of said exactly the wrong thing, when I told her, but it seems that she was basically two sentences behind and not responding to what I’d just said, which was, "and I think I’m nonbinary." So that was tough for a while. The year following I executed the very stereotypical "just realized I’m queer gotta get a haircut" plan, and that helped honestly. I have some skirts which I only really wear when hanging out with friends, because I’d like to not lose my job, and I don’t have tenure.
I’ve been very short and funny and pointy in this post because I tend to view my blog as fairly formal, particularly as compared to the way most everyone else thinks of blogs. So it’s hard for me to be personal like this. Not vulnerable, as I feel that I do that all the time in my writing, though maybe it’s not clear. Or maybe I’m wrong about that. But the point is that when someone in an online OBOD community asked what the most important thing we all got out of our druidry was, I said, quite easily, "Well, I realized I was nonbinary."
Nobody responded, which isn’t the best sign, but you can’t have everything.
If you’re wondering how I went from wanting to be a woman to deciding I’m nonbinary, instead of transitioning, that’s a mixture of personal things and also up in the air things. the one time a student called me "ms" I was far less mad than the many times students have called me "mr" so who knows? Not me.
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