Agender is an unfamiliar term to many folks, even within the queer community. I didn’t even really take the time to understand the meaning of this label until last year, but when I did I realized I was looking in a mirror.
If you aren’t familiar with the wider concepts of transgender identities and binary and non-binary genders, start here. It provides an important foundation to understand this post.
For a long time I simply identified myself as non-binary – I knew I didn’t fit into either binary side of the spectrum and so neither “woman” or “man” felt like me. I’m still fine with the label, I consider it an umbrella term that isn’t inaccurate but simply incomplete for me. Many of my non-binary friends described their gender as something towards the middle of the spectrum, as a mixing and combining of masculine and feminine. This didn’t sound like me.
At a panel on gender identity, a non-binary person on stage described their own imagining of the gender spectrum as a wiggly line from masculine to feminine (this is just one of many interpretations of the gender spectrum and not something all non-binary folks identify with), placing themselves somewhere towards the middle or slightly on one side of center. When I tried to imagine myself on that conceptualization of the gender spectrum, I decided I belonged somewhere off the scale entirely, floating in space! 🙂 Anytime anyone described their gender in descriptive word pictures or beautiful imaginings of identity, I felt a little lost. I would search my brain for an illustration of my gender and come up with “ERROR 404: Gender not found.”
I was fine with that. I didn’t need to explain myself to anybody and was content under the non-binary umbrella. At the time only a few close people in my life knew that I wasn’t cis, and that felt like a much bigger issue than attempting to pinpoint a perfect label. A label didn’t matter, right? It wasn’t going to change anything, it was just a word.
Sometime in late 2017 or early 2018, I came across a video of a young person who described themselves as “agender”. While I’d heard the term before, it never really rang a bell for me until that moment. I started researching and reading the stories of other folks who identify as agender, and the feelings they described were so similar to my own. Chandler Wilson is an agender content creator who gave an analogy in an interview that really struck me. “Imagine gender as a sweater. You have this uncomfortable sweater that just doesn’t feel right, so you take it off and start trying on other sweaters and every single one just fits weirdly or feels itchy; nothing quite works. And then you realize – you don’t have to have a sweater. You don’t have to find one that fits, you’re just not a sweater person and that’s ok!”
That lighthearted little analogy was exactly what I needed to hear. Agender felt right as an identity, and I no longer feel that discomfort of not having a spot that felt like mine. Labels may only be words and having a label may change nothing about the way I live my life, but it feels comforting to know that there are others who feel the same way I do and to finally have a word that feels right.