There are some people and organizations who overtly exclude others: most religions, elite universities, right-wing conservatives (not all, but some), left-wing liberals (not all, but some), school curricula, the media…OK, there is a lot of overt exclusion in the world, but it is truly wondrous how exclusive the world can be without particularly trying. There are several bathrooms at my place of work. The two on my floor are gender inclusive (thank you!). They each contain a toilet and a sink, neither of which care about the gender of the person using them. Then there are the bathrooms in the rest of the building which are for “men” or “women.” I wonder if people think I don’t deserve to pee. More likely, they don’t think of me at all.
Continuing education and professional development are a part of my chosen career so I often find myself in trainings and at conferences or workshops. These experiences often ask people to divide into groups of “women” and “men,” or have intake questionnaires that want to know my gender: Man or Woman? Or request that groups have an equal number of women and men etc… etc…. When I point out that I am neither a man nor a woman there is generally a question from the facilitator along the lines of, “Well, how would you divide the room then?”
Uh, by experience, interest, area of expertise, modality, musical tastes… ad infinitum?
We are entrenched in the concept of excluding each other; it is an insidious and harmful practice and shows up everywhere.
Some of the time I can brush it off by saying, “The world just sucks. This is how it is. Whatevs.”
Other times I feel crushed by the weight of normativity and want to crawl in a hole, never to emerge.
The latest example of exclusivity came in the form of a meditation retreat. The last four months of my life have taken me into a dismal abyss of fiery agony. I have experienced death, divorce, moving, theft, and loss that hurts so badly I sometimes wonder if my heart has just up and left my body because it can’t take the pain.
Such is life.
So I move through my journey of healing, searching for ways to make sense of what has happened and looking for places of growth. Healing is facilitated by dance, art, music, meditation, time in the wild, spiritual practice, and some serious therapy. Even though I have strong resources in the healing realm, I am always on the lookout for new experiences that might benefit my personal and professional identities and the notion of a meditation retreat floated into my consciousness a few days ago. I am not a fan of talking, but I imagine two weeks of silence with hours and hours of meditation each day would challenge even the most taciturn of people. So I started to look up retreats in my state for the coming autumn season and discovered… they are quite gendered. Women sleep in one dorm, men sleep in another; there are separate waitlists for women and men, and one has to register as one of those two binary categories.
My initial response was: OK, well, I guess I can just be a woman for a few weeks.
My next response was: I DON’T WANNA BE A WOMAN even for a few weeks.
My third response was: Maybe I can be a man…
My fourth response was: I’m not a man and they likely won’t let me pretend to be one even though they will let me pretend to be a woman.
My final response was: Poo on you meditation retreat. I don’t need your stupid silence and vegan meals and transcendent experience anyway.
I recognize the rather toddler-esque quality of the final response, but sometimes one needs to let one’s inner toddler have a temper tantrum.
I will find a way to participate in a silent meditation retreat or else I will create one for myself. The purpose of this post is to highlight the never-ending barrage of micro-aggressions that one experiences as a non-binary person. I’m not interested in sympathy or pity; my experience as an NB is quite cushy due to my class, race, body, education, and ethnic privilege. It still hurts, but I can move through the world with relative ease even if my NB self is repeatedly excluded.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we considered ALL people when creating groups, social systems, curriculum, families, pop songs, television shows, architecture, medical care, or when we elected politicians?
INCLUSION is better than EXCLUSION