As a non-binary individual who has been part of the Boston
Bisexual Women’s Network for years, I feel like I have an interesting
point of view on “women’s space.” I will admit, part
of my motivation for writing is to justify my own presence; for
many months after being aware of the topic of this issue, I felt
attacked by its very prompt. Why must “non-binary world”
be contrasted with “women’s space,” as if the former somehow
challenged/negated the other? And, given that the concept of
“women’s space” was made to be the central topic, how could
I not feel anything other than, well, “othered”? But I wouldn’t
truly be part of the LGBTQIA+ community if I didn’t put aside
my pride for the greater good, now would I?
So now that I have paved my self-righteous war path, let me
tramp down it. First, there is no one agreed-upon definition,
nor has there been, nor should there ever be, of what it means
to be a “woman,” nor is the very idea of “woman” some sort of
platonic truth. We all have different experiences, and it is beyond
any individual’s rights to deny the experiences of others. It is
not contradictory to value one’s views and experiences, while
realizing their limits. To do otherwise is to lack humility. On
these grounds, I can assert my views on the topic of women’s
space as valid, if not universally espoused.
If you as a reader are politically minded, you might wonder what
right I have to assert my views on womanhood while rejecting
that label. In response I have two lines of thought. The first is
to assert that, to the best of my knowledge, womanhood in the
West has never been defined (contested?) in isolation; there is
indeed a reason why people use the phrase “the opposite sex,” for
womanhood and manhood [to say nothing of androgyny] have
always mutually informed each other in the popular consciousness. Whether we like what “the other half ” has to say on the
topic does nothing to negate my point. My second assertion is
that perhaps I do not fully reject the label of woman at all, not
because I internally espouse it, but because it has been applied
to me. At a certain level, yes, I am “othering” myself in the way
I decried a few sentences ago. On another level, how others see
me has practical implications. I have been discriminated against,
and have been socialized in certain ways despite my best efforts,
born with a body that bears certain consequences in this world.
I therefore partake in the experience of “womanhood,” whatever
that is, even against my will. So how “invalid” were my thoughts
on the matter to begin with?
So why have I participated, you ask? Well, for one thing, I didn’t
fully know the words to understand my non-binary identity
at the time I joined the group. For another, I wanted to meet
people and make friends, especially with women, which I have
always sucked at. I can’t say I’ve gotten much better. But the
main reason I’ve stayed is because I’ve had a place. I could DO
something for someone, even if what I do is small and I’m not
the only one who could do it. To be given the chance to do it
meant something to me because it is harder to fight against
concrete actions. I can also say that this group helped me get
over my abusive lesbian ex-girlfriend. That was huge. Thanks.
So, yeah, fine, I’ll affirm this place so that you all can feel comfortable
while my own position, for all I know, remains tentative
(I await this issue with bated breath).
Tamsin is a data analyst living in Boston. Their interests include
public health, history, and dogs.