Why I’m Coming Out As A Non-Binary Pansexual
By Fluttershy Hollier
This is, essentially, my second big “coming out”.
I’ve had to do it a fair number of times in my life: coming out as a Christian, coming out as a drama geek, coming out as an Atheist, coming out as bisexual, coming out as gay, coming out as in love – the list goes on.
When we “come out”, we’re essentially telling the world we’ve figured out who or what we are, and that we’re okay with it. Usually we have to come out because we’ve spent a good deal of our lives being repressed, and if we didn’t take a stand our true selves would continue to fade into the background – which often leads to some troubling mental health problems (I can personally attest to this).
Unfortunately there’s often resistance, sometimes from people we look up to, which makes this process a reasonably difficult one to undertake. In coming out we risk losing relationships, we risk losing credibility, and we risk being ostracised. But overall, in my own experience, this usually leads to finding better friends, more meaningful purpose, and more supportive communities.
This wasn’t entirely the case for me when I came out the first time.
“I’ve gotta tell you guys something,” I choked while lying on a friend’s couch after returning home from Wagga’s only nightclub, chewing my cheek due to a mixture of MD-induced euphoria and potentially life-changing moment nervousness.
“I’ve got this secret, idk how you’re gonna react though.”
“Awh, we love you Dave! It’s all good, you can tell us whatever.”
I shuffled under the covers, delaying the moment a little longer.
“Ok, well… I think I’m bi.”
“Oh… Yeah, that’s cool! No problem.”
“Yeah man, all good. I admire your courage, thanks for telling us.”
I honestly could not have asked for a better coming out from my straight friends. My family was a slightly less ideal affair, but the worst coming out I had was to my one gay friend.
“You’re not bi, you’re gay,” he said, unsettlingly decisive in his delivery.
“You’re just confused, but it’s okay you’ll come out as gay soon!”
I insisted that I wasn’t, remembering the multiple crushes I’d had on girls in high school, but he seemed to know more about these sorts of things, and I was used to answering to a higher power, so I worked at fulfilling his prophecy.
“I’M GAY!” I practically screamed to the world. I started straightening my fringe and wearing tight shirts, and at 18 I lost my virginity to a boy (about half an hour after having my first kiss). Things were actually pretty fucking fantastic; I was relieved of the bonds that kept me restrained my whole life, and I was ready to take on the world as a proud, gay man.
I moved to Sydney about a year later, and things really took off. There were dicks flying everywhere, and it was practically heaven – for a short time. Everyone I met was so comfortable with their sexuality, and I was allowed to express myself in ways I hadn’t before. I fell in love, I fell out of love, I had lots and lots of sex. Life seemed good, or at least fun, and being gay was something I clung to for dear life as it dragged me around like a rag-doll. Suddenly I looked around and realised my sexuality had claimed me, shortly after I had claimed it. I started to feel restricted again in a way I hadn’t for a while, so I decided to move.
Having grown up in a small, queer-unfriendly town somewhere between Sydney and Melbourne, one often decides to make a choice between the two.
After my experience in Sydney had utterly failed me I decided to give Melbourne a try. It’s hip, it’s funky, it’s friendly; everybody says so. I wasn’t here for long before I started to feel at home. There seems to be less division among people here – the lines in the sand aren’t as clearly drawn, and the bubbles aren’t as sticky. Queers aren’t herded into Oxford Street, they kinda just go where they want. I started mingling with people much more diverse than those I’d known before, and my eyes were opened to a few of the multiple lenses the world can be viewed through.
I had a few chance (but entirely memorable) encounters with members of the local trans* community, which led to my increased attendance at their events. What I witnessed was so vastly different to what I was subjected to in the predominantly white, able-bodied, wealthy cis gay community I’d been involved with in the past.
Everybody supported each other with a constant consideration of alternate perspectives and needs. There was widespread involvement in very creative and philanthropic endeavours, and conversations were easy and thoughtful. Still feeling on the cusp of being a cis gay man I found myself in the position of outsider looking in, but when I talked to these wonderful people they reassured me that my identity was valid in whatever stage it’s at.
I began looking at myself in a new light, and made space inside for dormant feelings to take flight. I allowed myself to reminisce over and validate all my crushes and deep loves for people who identified on all places of the gender spectrum. I remembered young me hiding photos of myself in dresses from my Dad, choreographing cute lip-syncs to nu-disco for the school talent quest, but never entering – an expensive obsession with wigs and nail polishes and sparkly earrings – and bawling my eyes out when I was forced to play field hockey on Saturdays.
I have never really identified with the concept of being a “manly man”, and I’ve experienced countless real, heart-squeezing attractions to people of all gender identities (or “lack” thereof). As my understanding of gender has evolved, so too has my understanding of sexuality/attraction. The less I believe in gender as an indicator of personhood, the more blurry the lines between identities have become. Due also to the socially constructed and oppressive nature of gender roles in general, I recently came to the realisation that I am both non-binary and pansexual.
At first I wasn’t sure which labels to use, but as per usual my old friend the Internet came to my rescue.
I have a very serious love affair with the WWW, particularly Facebook which I often use as a sounding board for my thoughts and feelings (like most people, I think?).
I recently made a couple of posts regarding my second coming out, and was immediately met with cries of “Labels are divisive!” and “We’re all human!” I also used to think like this, not even that long ago; I viewed labels with contempt or disinterest, but I soon realised that this was a privilege afforded to me by a life hardly affected by oppression.
I didn’t care for labels because I’d forgotten about their usefulness, and the immense power I’d felt when I first took the stage and proclaimed “I am not the same as you, and I’m okay with that.”
We are all human, yes, but we’re not all the same, and we’re pretty damn far from being equal.
While in the process of confident self-identification I’ve been told I’m too politically correct, too divisive, not willing to let go of inequality, putting myself in a box, and my personal favourite, “alphabet soup” (a highly dismissive insult against the many valid identities contained within the LGBTQIA+ acronym).
I’ve been told multiple times that we are in fact all the same, but we just aren’t. It’s the same rhetoric employed by MRA’s and #alllivesmatter-ers, and while I have no doubt that the people I associate with have nothing but good will for me, it does nothing but divert attention away from the structures of oppression which most definitely exist.
I would love to wholeheartedly share the view that there’s no need to label oneself, but as long as inequality exists there’ll be a need for oppressed people to assert their identities. It’s an incredible privilege not to have to pull strength from unapologetic self-assertion made necessary by a history of theft, incarceration and murder. Our asserted identities also give us strength by helping us find each other, which creates wonderfully supportive communities like the one I mentioned earlier.
Honestly, without this group of queer little bb’s I now identify with I would never have gotten to know myself on such a deep level, and for that I will forever be thankful.
Diversity should be celebrated, not glossed over, and acknowledging that we are in fact all different is an important step towards helping our most vulnerable gain the recognition and right to life, identity and belonging they deserve. Love yourself, all of yourself! And love the fact that you are different to your friends, because that’s okay.
I’d like to acknowledge that the land I stand on is stolen; the house I live in, this laptop I am writing on, and the privileges I enjoy were all built on the backs of the people of the First Nations of Australia, more specifically the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation who are the traditional owners of the land my colony lives on. I wish to pay my respect to Elders past and present, and recognise that white sovereignty is still yet to be ceded.
I would also like to confess that this assembly of words came from the nimble fingers of a person who has largely enjoyed the privileges that come from living as a mostly cis male-presenting, white, able-bodied, middle class person, and that these views are not representative of gay, queer or trans* people on the whole. As such, if there’s anything in my writing that effectively oppresses any groups I share no lived experience with, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to address your concerns in future pieces.