Pick a side…it’s just gender.

I would like to preface this post by saying I have identified as non-binary and queer for a very long time. I struggle with proclaiming my pronouns as they/them/theirs because I have watched other people in my vocation struggle with it in their churches. You see, I direct music in the Episcopal Church—a church that is very affirming of the LGBTQIA+ community. I direct the choir and the handbell choir, and I play the piano and organ for services. I don’t change my pronouns because I don’t want my time to be me explaining my pronouns and my identity; I just want to do my job well. I advocate for the trans community, and any place I can find to incorporate inclusive language in our liturgy—I do my best. Maybe one day I will fully come out as non-binary—but for now, I am just me, and he/him/his or they/them/theirs is ok with me.

*If I used they/them/theirs exclusively, I know that my church and many other Episcopal Churches would support me. I choose to use both pronouns mainly because I don’t want to explain my gender and personal life to every person I meet in my job. I am not fearful of what people will think; I honestly am just taking the easier way out. Maybe that is wrong—but it is what works and has worked for me in my career.

Now, my story!

First grade came with a lot of challenges, but it also came with my first girlfriend. Ashley transferred to our school from the Catholic school across the street. She had cotton-white hair— just like me—and we became best friends right away. We hit it off so well that she called me her boyfriend. OOOOOH. Boyfriend!

The only time we actually got to hang out was at recess. Midmorning, we would all get in a single file line and walk outside for recess. It truly was the highlight of my day, but there was one catch… Boys had to stay on the grass, and the girls had to stay on the concrete. In the land of grass, there were balls for kickball and other activities, and in the land on concrete, there were sidewalk chalk and hopscotch patterns painted on the ground. Ashley and I would walk back and forth while I stayed on the grass, and she stayed on the concrete. It really sucked that I was never allowed to play with the girls because I hated playing with the boys.

I look back on this experience and can think of countless other stories about me not fitting on one side of the gender lines or the other. In the two binary genders that society has put in place, there are pieces of each in which I identify. My gender is much more than the garments I wear or the way I style my hair. My gender is personal; it’s in my heart. It’s little things like when my dad tells people I knit because I am a pianist. That gets under my skin. That isn’t true! I knit because it is fun and I love it! I do lots of things that our society tells us that men shouldn’t do.

Growing up, all my friends were girls. As an adult, if I had a friend that was a guy, he was usually gay. What is funny now, my best friend is a straight guy. I just got lucky with this friend that he doesn’t judge me, and he meets me where I am in every aspect of our friendship.

Have I learned anything along the way?

Why, yes—I’ve learned a ton.

  1. Always be yourself.
  2. Don’t let anyone limit your light.
  3. Love yourself.
  4. Love others.
  5. When life gets hard, remember how much you have overcome and keep moving forward. Our hardest times are just there where we have prospective to identity the really good times. If everything were amazing, we wouldn’t know what amazing felt like.

© 2020, Westley Hodges (whodges@westleyhodges.com)

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