I told my husband I now use they and them pronouns after 15 years together. We are both learning how to not misgender me.
Just before I turned 40, I told my husband of 15 years that I'm bisexual and nonbinary.
I told my kids and everyone in my life, but people sometimes misgender me by mistake.
When I accidentally misgendered myself, I realized this was all a journey and we're growing.
My partner and I got married over a decade ago, knowing we might end up hating each other. We understood people grew and that sometimes meant growing apart. But still, we thought our chances were good.
Fifteen years later, we're still happily married, but boy, did we grow. I now identify as a bisexual, nonbinary person, and my family is learning to adapt.
I realized I was bisexual and nonbinary when I was almost 40
I came to the realization in a WhatsApp group — of all things. One of my friends sent a message about changing the group name. At one point, she wrote, "We're all bisexual, so…"
No, I thought. Bisexual? I'm married to a man, and we have two kids. That experience I had in grade school was just kids being kids, right? Those high-school rumors that I was a lesbian were wrong, right? My porn searches were just out of curiosity, right?
But my friend was right; I'm bisexual — and that wasn't all. A few months later, I discovered another part of my identity: I'm nonbinary.
At first, it was difficult to reconcile the fact that I'm bisexual and nonbinary at 40 years old. It felt like I was co-opting a label designated for younger generations. But it all felt right; they weren't labels. They were my identity.
The next step was to come out to my husband of 15 years
I started blushing before I even started the conversation with my partner of 15 years. We talk about everything, but this was new territory. I began by telling him what I was about to say wasn't going to change anything — that this was about me and what I had realized about myself.
When I finally came out, his first question was: "If nothing is changing, why does it matter?"
I told him it mattered because it's who I am. That clicked for him, and he has been incredibly supportive since. He is still working to understand the complexities of my identity, but I know that he is trying.
For example, he recently apologized for not defaulting to "they" when he talked about me.
Next, I had to come out to my 2 kids
I suddenly decided to tell my kids in the car one day. They were in their booster seats in the back, and my partner was driving. Looking awkwardly back at them, I told them I never wanted to stop growing or getting to know myself and I recently realized that I'm nonbinary. I also told them that if I weren't with their dad, I now knew that I would be open to relationships with those like me and those who're different.
"Can we still call you mom?" my 9-year-old asked.
I hadn't thought about it, but the "yes" came out of my mouth before I could. It felt right. My 6-year-old is my resident fact-checker, promptly correcting anyone who refers to me as a woman.
None of my discoveries changed anything on the surface of my life. My world looked the same from the outside, so I have the privilege of passing — of living without daily threats or abuse. But this also means I'm forced to come out over and over. It's far less harrowing, I know, but it's definitely weird at 40.
I came out in a Facebook post to everyone in my network. The likes, hearts, and comments were very affirming and helped me avoid many awkward conversations. I then changed my pronouns on all my social-media accounts.
After telling everyone in my life about my preferred pronouns, I accidentally misgendered myself
I was giving a speech at a grad-school reunion. I nervously introduced myself as the former student known as "that girl who sings."
My horror set in quickly. How could I misgender myself after making sure everyone in my life referred to me properly? I worried that maybe I was not really nonbinary.
But then I realized memory, time, and language could be tricky. I lived as "she" for 40 years, and society still sees me as "she." That's part of who I am. In that sense, I understand when people make an honest mistake and refer to me with those pronouns. For that reason, I still use "she/her," but I prefer "they/them." It's beautiful when someone refers to me as "them."
While my husband and kids have accepted my preferred pronouns, they still slip up — and I do, too. While misgendering can be and often is an attack, it can also be an honest mistake. Growth and change in my family can breed mistakes, and that's OK.
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