Sometimes you fall in love with the small things people do, like the way she grabbed that box of mints out of her bag, popped two in her mouth and swiftly closed the container again.
She was reading a novel, something tragic. The light fell on the pages and her eyes scanned over all the words, trying to string them together so they would make sense.
I couldn’t even see her face, but I was captivated by the details. How her slender fingers flicked to the next chapter and how she simultaneously twirled her ponytail with the opposite hand. And her nail polish, a chipped matte black, which she was nervously picking at when she thought no one was looking.
She wore glasses, a pair of dark burgundy frames. They looked like the sort of accessory one would find in a 60’s fashion magazine. They really enhanced her bookworm look and paired perfectly with the oversized knitted grandma sweater she was wearing. She took pride in her plainness, but there’s always more than meets the eye.
Finding beauty in imperfections has always been my strong suit. The ivy swirling around the rusty frames, creeping through shattered windowpanes slowly taking over everything my grandfather had left behind. Even his beloved chair in which he read the newspaper every morning wasn’t safe from the grasps of mother nature and father time. I carefully ran my fingers over the wooden arm rests, brushing off some of the remains of last year’s harsh storms. The memories of my grandparents floated to the surface like hungry fish in the pond during feeding time. My grandmother Martha being an avid herbalist and her husband Albert, my grandfather, was a skilled craftsman. He had built her this glasshouse for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in the hopes of her being able to pursue a career she loved instead of being a homemaker, which was something Martha had always despised. Albert wanted everyone to live a comfortable life, even the exotic plants his wife had collected. He built a heating system, a bird feeder and a large plateau for the plants that were in need of more sunlight. I can still remember the two of them bickering on his eightieth birthday about the installation of a sprinkler system. “You’re a madman!” Martha said while she rolled her eyes “You’re using a walker and you want to put a sprinkler in the ceiling of the glasshouse? You’re entirely bonkers!” She meant it, yet the tone of her voice not only expressed concern but also gratefulness and adoration. “The sprinkler” became their running gag until they both passed away five years later, Martha from cancer and Albert from grief. Their children didn’t have the time nor the energy to take care of the glasshouse, leaving it in my ‘capable’ hands after letting it wither for over twenty years. I don’t have a green thumb, and even if I had I wouldn’t want to change a single thing about the current state of this place. I sat down in my grandfather’s chair and quietly said: “There won’t be any sprinklers in a garden that shows the beauty of time.”
10. I know the difference between then and than and I will still be gentle in my error correction, even though you just got it wrong for the 36th time in one essay.
9. I expect you to make mistakes because that’s how we learn, but I will give you turns even if you don’t know the answer.
8. I don’t aim to be your friend and I’m not your parent. But if you’re being inconsiderate, aggressive or downright rude, I will call you out.
7. No you can’t go to the bathroom five minutes after lunch break.
6. You can borrow my pen, but I expect something in return. Loans come with interest, and I’m interested in your writing skills.
5. I see good qualities in everyone, and I’m not afraid to tell you about the amazing qualities you possess.
4. Every student is unique in their way of learning, what works for you might not work for someone else and I promise to take this into account.
3. Learning isn’t always fun, but I will try to put some humour in my lessons.
2. I’ll never be done learning myself, please teach me just as many things as I teach you.
1. I’m myself, and I won’t change this, and I want you to be able to be yourself too! To quote the incredible Dr. Seuss: “There’s no one alive that is youer than you.”
The day I got breasts was when I got cast out of my group of friends.
I was ten, maybe eleven and really convinced that my chest would always be flat, that I would never be femme.
Thanks to these lumps of flesh I was no longer part of the gang, from one of the guys to object in less than a second.
I wanted to play tag, to build forts and laugh but the straps on my shoulders were traps and the confused stares and gasps made my eyes swell, tears rolling down cheeks as their parents said “girls can’t be knights” but if I’m not a knight then why do I have to wear armour with padding that makes my breasts seem twice their size? I refuse to push these lies, because these things on my chest do not bind me to the female sex.
I am not a girl, no she, not a woman, no lady. I’m me.
I’m very open about the fact that I identify as a non-binary person. I don’t see myself as female, but I don’t want to transition to the other end of the gender spectrum either. Despite this, people still call me “she” because they’re not familiar with gender-neutral pronouns such as they. Most of them consider it strange or grammatically incorrect to refer to a single person with a plural pronoun, but it’s not as “strange” or “new” as one might think! Famous writers like Jane Austen and Shakespeare used this pronoun quite often. Here’s an example from Austen’s novel, Emma:
“Who is in love with her? Who makes you their confidant?”
But how do you figure out which pronoun to use? The answer is simple: ask! Non-binary people appreciate this. And don’t worry too much about slipping up! Apologise and correct yourself. We all make mistakes.
Not every non-binary person likes singular they, and there are many other gender-neutral pronouns. Here’s a little chart to show you how to use them:
And remember: Stay queer, never fear!