Nora, from Aphorisms on Gender, by Alice Stanley

NORA. (non-binary, DFAB) Femininity is not bad. Womanhood is not to be avoided. It is hard not to think these things in our society. I was confused for a lot of reasons. I was confused because the same femininity that I found attractive in women was cause for alarm in myself. Was I secretly a misogynist, with assumptions about femininity meaning weakness stamped into my brain?

I didn’t think any harder about my own identity until a friend of mine from school came out as a trans woman. I hadn’t known her very well, but I respected her, and was as surprised as anyone else to find from Facebook that I had unknowingly misgendered her for four years. I was surprised by how much her announcement affected me.

To me, the word “woman” never felt right, and I thought it was because of how society used the word. To her, the word “woman” was freeing. Trans women fight for the right to use this word, and put themselves in danger to do so. Clearly the feel a strong sense of identity as women: there is no chance that they are just accepting what society hands them. I have only ever grudgingly accepted the label of woman; never hoped for it, never fought for it.


NORA. This is when the real questions start. I do not identify as a woman. I am not a woman. At some point, I have to say that out loud. When people describe me as a “pretty girl” or a “bright young woman,” it feels wrong.Just like when someone mispronounces your name: It’s close enough that you know who they’re talking about, but you don’t feel quite right responding, and you know that you’ll have to correct them eventually but you can’t quite bring yourself to do it.

And then you become invisible. When people look at you, they see something that is not you. And all of your invisible identities roll into one, and it’s hard to separate one from the other. When your gender is assumed, and not something you have control over.


NORA. The sound can be deafening with discomfort. And you carry the tones with you. If people tell you something enough times, you start believing it –  and the belief makes a sound.

When you are alone, still, there are too many sounds. Sounds made by the mirror, when you see a pretty girl looking back at you. Sounds made by memories, things you’ve been told must be true about yourself because of a few biological facts. Sounds made by the fear of anything else being the case.

The first step is figuring out which sounds are which. How can I tell which one is mine, which one is internalized, which one is stamped on my memory? 

Context: This piece centers around Nora, a non-binary person, as they struggle to determine their identity and navigate a world that often rejects the authenticity Nora strives for. In styling the piece as Aphorisms, or a series of passages and thoughts coming together to form a whole, Stanley speaks to the often fractured nature of identity and how we as humans go about determining it for ourselves.

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