Post submitted by Jacob Tobia, former HRC intern

Every year, from November 14 to November 20, the transgender community celebrates Transgender Awareness Week, aimed at promoting the visibility, wellbeing, dignity and rights of transgender people around the world. While it is an incredible week to celebrate who we are as a community, as a genderqueer person, I often feel left out.

When people think about the transgender community, they think most often of those who identify as a man or a woman—people like Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner and Chaz Bono. Though so many transgender women and men are heroic advocates for change, not everyone in the transgender community identifies a woman or a man. Some people—like me — identify outside of the traditional two-gender system, otherwise known as the gender binary.

For as long as I can remember, I didn’t really feel like a boy or a girl. Whenever my elementary school teachers would sort the class between boys and girls, it simply felt wrong, because neither option seemed right for me. As I got older, I learned that there were words for feeling that way, words like “genderqueer,” “gender non-conforming” “gender nonbinary,” and “agender.” In a way, those words set me free, because I knew that my identity was valid and that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Genderqueer people are a vibrant and active part of the transgender community, but because we don’t identify as men or as women, we are so often left out of the mainstream narrative.  This Transgender Awareness Week, I hope that we can work together to change that by including the voices and ideas of genderqueer people like me in the mainstream conversation about the transgender community.

Living in a world that only understands gender as two options isn’t good for anyone. It’s not good for genderqueer people, it’s not good for transgender men and women, and it’s not good for cisgender men and women. A world that only sees gender as two options limits our ability to express ourselves authentically and ensures that gender norms will continue to hold us back. If we can learn to embrace genderqueer people and see gender not as two options, but as thousands of possibilities for self-expression, we will be able to empower all people to live as their authentic selves.

Tonight, Jacob Tobia, a former HRC intern, will appear on MTV’s “True Life: I’m Genderqueer,” as part of the network’s groundbreaking “Look Different” campaign.  Tune in 11 PM ET/PT

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