What IZZ Activism

Photo courtesy of CCO

Izz LaMagdeleine, COPY CHIEF

When people learn my name, they always have to repeat it. “Izz?” they ask with a hint of confusion. My favorite way to react, if I am not tired and can think straight, is to ask, “Is what?” as it IZZ nothing but my name.

Izz is not my biological name, but it is my name, just as my biological gender is not the gender I identify with and my pronouns are not the pronouns that immediately come to mind when you look at me. I am non-binary, agender, someone who does not identify as either a man or a woman. To me, gender is the most pointless societal invention in the entire universe, just like capitalism, fat-shaming and not picking up every cat and kissing them on the forehead the second that you see them.

Sometimes I feel like I am a terrible member of my community. I identify as non-binary so strongly, but never talk about it at length. You are not going to find me on Twitter with fabulous tweets about the subtext of gender or incredible threads about being non-binary. At times when people use my wrong pronouns, I do not immediately correct them, even though it makes me want to punch them in the throat when it happens. I have not come out to all of the people I know and care about, even though I feel strongly that I should.

It is the same with all of my other identities, asexual and biromantic. It feels as if it is less prevalent than when I was in high school, or maybe it is just because I spend way less time on Tumblr now, but there are still many harmful ideas about people who do not feel sexual attraction. Having identified on the asexual spectrum since high school, I can tell you right now that I am not sick, do not need to be cured and do not have a disorder. Even with all of the disgusting discourse around it, I normally do not start any conversations about what being asexual truly is, or how wrong people who say cruel things like these are.

Identifying as bi comes with its own can of worms and cliches. No, I am not going to cheat on anyone I date just because I am attracted to men, women and everyone else human out there. Yes, I will fight you if you come at me with such accusations. However, as it is with my other identities, I often do not discuss it, and just retweet about it or mention it in common conversation.

The truth is that personally, I am terrified to come out, scared of an unwanted reaction from someone I love for something that I cannot change. It has happened rarely, but it has happened where, when I have come out, I have been invalidated immediately by someone I love a lot. I know I should not care, that I should immediately cut them out of my life and move on, but in some cases, I cannot, unless I wish to be kicked out of my home. That is a kind of bravery I do not possess.  

You could easily call me a coward or something worse, especially because of the passionate way that I feel about these issues yet the very disconnected way I often behave about it in public. When the Trump administration is trying to take away my identity one legal right at a time and the non-binary suicide rate is much, much, much too high for me to be OK, this is the last time to shy away from the activism that is desperately needed.

On a more personal level, it becomes even worse. When someone uses she/her pronouns referring to me in class, or assumes I am straight when they have no way of knowing how much my identity is rooted in my queerness, it makes me feel invalidated. Unseen. What is the point of slowly coming out to everyone I know, stating again and again who I am and what pronouns I use, if no one is going to use them? Why does it matter if I try my best to be heard if I am not loud and proud all of the time?

Because even though my activism is not loud, it is proud. Even with me being scared, I am out in almost every space that I wish to be. I have slowly but surely started to come out to my professors, when I never would have even considered doing so last semester. I may be the first openly non-binary member in my chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota, a women’s music fraternity that I will always swear love and roses to, when a few months ago I was terrified to even hint about identifying as non-binary there. (Anxiety.)

The first place I ever came out was this newspaper, Fourth Estate, the place that I happily give my everything to, and I received more validation than I ever had gotten before in my life as a result. I feel more respected and heard, allowing me to be more happy than I have ever been. In this place of respect and privilege that I hold, I pave the way for those after me, those who just want to be respected for who they are, not what they are expected to be.

For me, activism is not just storming the Capitol for your basic right to be, or bringing a case all the way to the highest court in the land to ensure that you are respected wherever you go. (Although both are pretty bada–.) For me, activism is in the quiet, when someone is telling me that I give them the confidence to be out one day or to learn more about their sexuality. Activism is a close friend telling me they appreciate a conversation about their gender, when I listen closely to her experience and make sure that she knows she can talk to me anytime. Activism is finding the courage to correct someone who uses my wrong pronouns once, twice, three times, as I look forward to the time that I will never have to remind them again. For me, activism is the little moments, the ones that look small but are huge, that normalize my experience and help me spread my quiet pride to those who need it.

I find it is an honor to be non-binary, to be bi, to be on the asexual spectrum—because this world does not see belonging to these communities as such, when they are the best things that have ever happened to me.

Whether or not you are gay, lesbian, bi, pan, trans, non-binary, gender fluid, in or out of the closet, afraid to tell your closest friends about your sexuality, in the process of coming out to your closed-minded cousins or all of the above, “a lil poly pansexual papa hello good morning,” as our savior Kehlani has said in a now-deleted tweet. You are valid. You are good. You are still you, regardless of what someone is screaming at you over social media or quietly saying to your face, making you feel wrong and small, breaking your heart in the process. Whoever and whatever you are IZZ amazing and incredible and fabulous, regardless of whatever anyone else might say.