The drain of self-advocacy

It seems it’s International Non-binary People’s Day. Which is cool.

I had no idea it was today until I saw the posts. What can I say? I haven’t flipped through the gay agenda in awhile.

The post that brought it to my attention contained one of the many articles that queer organizations publish on these sorts of days to help people learn how to be a better ally.

“Great!” I thought. “I can share this! And people can pass it around and learn some important things!”

But I hesitated.

I haven’t talked about this much outside a few passing comments, but self-advocacy is exhausting. I feel like I’m always saying “look at me!” I’m imagining all the people who don’t show engagement (in any way I can see, at least) are rolling their eyes at yet another self-centered Mattie post.

Which, this is one of those, isn’t it? Hah.

Eventually I settled on sharing it with a statement that the post in question is good to share around! (Hint, hint.) I explicitly approve it, thinking about all the times I’ve had the desire to support a marginalized group I’m not part of, but being unsure… would an actual member of this marginalized group find this helpful? Or is it someone else’s idea of what’s good for a marginalized group? Or…

Anyway… I’m hoping I headed that off. I am careful not to continue to post prescriptive things for the rest of the day.

I used to be a much stronger self-advocate. I think it was the newness of being out, maybe? Coming to a waypoint in my gender journey that felt like it finally had some sharable clarity to it?

But along the way, I just got tired. There’s a lot of deafening silence, perhaps from people who are afraid they’ll hurt me somehow. There’s a lot of apology, which I know doesn’t come from a bad place, but violently grabs hold of my empathy anyway, draining me, leading me to feel like I should be making someone else feel better.

There’s even been some pushback. The memories of those first few times I ran up against that and broke down as a result… I still have scars from those. Scars I’m not keen on putting out in front of me once again.

I find myself desperately wishing that cisgender people, who don’t have their own skin in the game, would educate themselves, take up the sword here, and fight. I find myself wanting to define “cisgender” nonetheless, for those of you who maybe somehow have not managed to hear it yet, and exhaustion weighs on my shoulders yet again.

There’s one huge, huge bright spot in all this. I have a colleague who reached out to me after hearing me misgendered so many times in our day-to-day work—they wanted to help, but wanted to make sure they were doing it in a way that would be helpful! I value them so much and I hope they know that.

I wish everyone was like that. I’d still need to expend some energy, but… it’d be to help someone understand how they can spread the advocacy fire. Someone who isn’t non-binary could wish me a happy International Non-binary People’s Day, drop some knowledge on the rest of the world, help address problems one-on-one, that sort of thing.

There’s an in-joke going around about how it’s our birthday today. Which, you know, is kind of apt when you think about all this. I don’t wish myself a happy birthday. I wish you a happy birthday. And I bring you gifts.

In that vein, my birthday wish today is not tolerance with its endless self-advocacy, not acceptance with its disinterest, but celebration—the joy you find in me being me, and the desire to share and defend that follows that joy.