I’ve been hesitant to write about this for a while because I know how this kind of thing can be taken the wrong way if I’m not perfect in my description. And I am never perfect in my descriptions. I am a mess in progress so I start this by saying this is my specific experience. This is not a universal experience; just me.

Something I’ve been thinking about lately is how I’ve lost jobs because employers were looking for someone who was non-binary. And they assumed that wasn’t me. (I am non-binary…well, I guess. I’ll unpack that in a bit.)

It’s not something I openly announce to people but it’s not a secret either. I use all pronouns though I usually put she/they for simplicity sake. It’s in my email signature but no one reads that. I’ve had it there for years and my managers just asked me about it. I never saw it as a secret but it’s also not something I’ve really led with.

And it’s not like I have a problem leading with my identities. I think my bio still says “Rachel Lynett is a queer, Black, Afro-Latinx playwright…” so obviously I don’t have a problem putting my labels out there…so why don’t I put out that I’m non-binary more? Why isn’t that in the headline?

When I talked to friends about it, I feel like I’ve hit a wall. Most of my queer friends fall under the TGNC umbrella but when we talk about gender, I feel like we’re not talking about the same thing. It feels like for a lot of non-binary friends, it’s a complete dismissal of gender and the binary. It’s a revolutionary act to challenge the societal definitions of gender. And I genuinely think that’s great.

But I don’t have the same issue with the binary that they do. The binary wasn’t harmful to me. I recognize that it is harmful but performing feminity has worked in my favor. It’s opened more doors and given me more opportunities that I don’t I would’ve had if I was perceived as a man or as genderless.

And then I think a little deeper about that because if I was a white man, I do think I would’ve had more opportunities but as a Black man…I think something that gets lost in the gender conversation is how intrinsic race is. How intrinsic race is to gender. Because while many of my queer friends are TGNC, they are also white. We do not and cannot approach gender without first talking about race.

The more I reflect on all of this, I think about how when I was younger, my grandmother used to tell me to not let anyone use my otherness against me. And, very dorkily, think a lot about that Tyrion quote from Game of Thrones:

“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”

That quote, ironically, should be on the mirrors of all children of immigrants.

Back to my bio…I’m a dark-skinned black person. There is no world where anyone could think any differently of me. I’m also the child of immigrant from Central America. And while some people can hide their queerness, I can’t. When I say I’m straight, one of my friends laughs so hard she cries (which I find hilarious). My dad used to call me a “100 footer.” Even strangers know I’m queer. So I think I treated my bio like armor. I knew I couldn’t hide that I was Afro-Latinx or Black or queer. And I didn’t want to. I’m proud of all of my identities.

So why don’t I also include “non-binary” in that? Am I not proud of that?

While she’s being roasted for it, Megahan Markle (I think really bravely) admitted that she wasn’t really treated like a Black woman until the UK. And yeah, sure there’s a lot to unpack there. But truly, the world told me I was Black before I really knew what that meant. I used to joke ad say I didn’t know I was Black until I went to Notre Dame and what I meant by that is I wasn’t really treated like I was Black, something others saw as less than, until then. And while there’s so much pride there, there’s also so much self-hatred I had to come over. With all of my identities. Growing up Catholic didn’t help with my queerness either.

And so when it comes to being non-binary…it feels like the one thing that I have that didn’t have to grow into, that I didn’t have to learn how to accept, that I didn’t have to overcome any self-hatred over…it’s the one thing that’s mine. It wasn’t assigned to me; it’s something I got to discover about myself.

As a Black person, let me tell you, there’s not a lot we get to discover about ourselves without having to deal with everyone’s bullshit too.

It’s a breath of fresh air. And it feels so deeply personal to me. Honestly, non-binary isn’t even the right word but it’s the word I like the most. I don’t think about my gender when I’m alone. I think about my Blackness and my relation to Latinidad but I don’t think about my gender. It’s not something I had to overcome or something to fight against. When I’m alone, it simply does not exist.

And I really cherish that.

I know this is not the experience for everyone. I know this is a privileged experience but its’ mine. I don’t have a lot of things I didn’t have to fight for, that didn’t come at great losses for me….and it’s kind of a relief. I’ve always known I wasn’t cis. I didn’t have the words for it then but I always knew something in the chicken grease didn’t smell right.

But I’m also happy to have something that’s just for me to decide and play with. Something no one else can really touch because I’ve protected it.

Again, people of color don’t get this option. I did not get this option with any of my other identities so I’m learning to make peace with the fact that I will lose out on opportunities because I don’t want to lead with it.

Instead, I’ll keep it in my back pocket and sing a song to myself as everyone else tries to figure me out.