Going Public: A Conversation on Gender Identity
He, she, him and her are commonly used pronouns to identify people who are male or female. But what about those who don’t identify with those binary pronouns? Today we’re exploring that question with Rane Belling, the president of the campus organization PRIDE at Southeast. Belling is transgender non-binary and uses the pronouns “they and them.”
On what it means to be transgender
A lot of people have kind of the wrong idea of what it means to be transgender, because it's been commonly understood that that means that you're going to completely transition to the opposite gender or sex. But it's actually an umbrella term for someone who was born a specific sex and does not have that aligned gender identity. So that's when we kind of talk about cisgender. Those are people that were born female and also identify as a woman. People that were born male and also identify as a man. And those are common experiences that people have. So being trans is anything outside of being cisgender.
On how Belling discovered they own identity
Honestly, when I came to college it was definitely a time of discovery. I mean when people say you know 'college is the time that you find who you are,' that's like 100 percent true. Honestly, it was just like a very slow journey for me at first. It started with just like cutting my hair and kind of experimenting with my clothes. It really wasn't until I researched different gender identities that I even thought 'hey maybe I could be trans.' You know it wasn't--a lot of trans people have that experience of they know at a very young age you know I am trans. But for me it was more of a slow learning process for me. So there wasn't like a light bulb one day. And I slowly kind of came out as gender-fluid. And then I started using different pronouns and finally it just kind of I don't know it just kind of all came together. And I came out with a different name about a year ago. So Rane is actually my chosen name. I mean I chose my name. And once I did that that was kind of the moment when I was like 'oh this is this is something bigger than I even thought that it was. And once I started talking to people and that was honestly like the biggest learning process that I had was just sharing with people on how I felt and like really talking through that.
On the link between pronouns and identity
So it's something that people don't think about a lot of times. You know, until you change your pronouns you don't even think twice about it. But someone who identifies as cisgender, which is someone who was and I think we're going to get into this a little about sex and gender, but someone who was born a female and also identifies as a woman. You know naturally use "she, her" pronouns. That's just something that we're taught. And it's kind of just something that is in our everyday language. And someone who is born male--identifies as a man uses "he, him" [pronouns]. And it's a new concept to use "they, them" pronouns. But that's more of a neutral term that people are starting to use for kind of the gender neutral term to use. And those are the pronouns that I use. And I did explore with "he, him" pronouns. I thought hey maybe that would be right for me. And so, I kind of had a couple of people I shared that with them and asked if they would use those pronouns. And actually an article came out and someone used "he, him" pronouns for me throughout the entire article. And that was the moment I realized that that's not right for me, but "she, her" feels just as wrong. So that's kind of when I really discovered "they, them" feels right to me.
On the challenges of having a binary gender identity system
When we're younger we're taught right away. This is a boy. This is a girl. This is where you go to the bathroom. This is where they go to the bathroom...and it's hard to get people to think outside of those binaries. You know and to challenge people to think on a spectrum, rather than these two boxes: pink or blue.
The best way that I have found to get people to kind of think outside [the box] is to just share who I am with them, and try to have them empathize with me. Honestly, sharing our experience is the only way we can learn from each other.