“Decline to self-identify.”
I feel queasy whenever I see it on job applications. It feels like claiming something you know has a name has no name at all, or at least a name that you don’t dare to speak.
It’s easier when there’s just a text field on job applications that asks directly for your pronouns, leaving room for those who exist outside of “he/him,” “she/her,” and “they/them.” It’s harder to explain that some of the time, some of these pronouns resonate with who I am and other times none of them do, that other time I need more overlap.
“She/they” is the answer I give when I’m given the chance to speak for myself, always “she/they” and never “they/she,” because I am not nearly as brave as I would like to be.
I don’t mind being called “she” because it’s what I’m used to, and sometimes I do feel like “she” but most times I feel like “they” and I don’t expect my employers to keep up – so I give them the option of “she.”
“She” is safe. “She” is what people expect.
I like to wear dresses with pleats, dresses with flow. I like it when my wife – typically in sweatpants and a graphic tee – tries to waltz with me through the kitchen, the both of us ending up giggling messes of laughter when I can’t even perform a box step, given that I have the same sense of rhythm as a cardboard box.
That’s what a “she” is supposed to feel like, right? If femininity is what I’m vibing with, I should go with “she,” right? Now, I overanalyze it, trying to figure out what each pronoun is supposed to mean instead of just using the one that feels right. But when I’m with my wife, I don’t overanalyze things. When I’m with my her, I simply am, because she knows who I am. She gets me. She doesn’t need me to put a label on my gender.
I like to wear vintage dresses that fall below my knees and fancy blouses with billowing sleeves. “They” is what feels most like me. Someday, I hope to buy a family farm and turn it into a commune, walking barefoot through tall grass and tossing watermelon and grapes into chicken coops. They. “They” feels like the version of me I am when I am writing, when I’m not male or female or anything in between, really, I just am, and the words come or they don’t come but I try to be a conduit to them either way.
“They” comes without restrictions and expectations. “They” doesn’t ask me to be anything other than who I am, without predetermined definition.
What am I going to do? Petition every job I apply for to include a “none of the above” option, or the chance to type into a field who I am and how I want to be referred to? And beyond wanting to be referred to a certain way – who are they to ask me about my gender, something sacred and intrinsic to me?
I know how I would want to self-identify. Genderqueer.
But genderqueer is not “safe.” It just makes me feel safe when I whisper it to myself.
“They” is me, but “she” is what people expect. And I have always been a people-pleaser.