Issue 5, Volume 18
The LSS was contacted for comment by De Minimis. Their response is included at the end of the article.
First, I want to put a disclaimer that I am not well-versed in the exact jargon of the LGBTQIA+ community; so I want to apologise in advance if I misword some terms or explain some complex concepts incorrectly in this article. My purpose is to express, not to offend. And hopefully give some voice to other people in my situation.
The MULSS Women's Portfolio page reads:
A page for discussion, advocacy and community for any female-identifying, trans and non-binary students within the Melbourne Law School community.
Like any interpretation exercise (shout-out to Contracts students doing the mid-sem next week!), an ambiguity gateway is swung open: does 'non-binary', here, mean non-binary men and women? Or just non-binary women? Does 'female-identifying' here mean I must be fully trans, physically presenting as female; or is it enough that my gender expression is feminine even though I present as male physically (both in attire and my actual physical appearance)? This matters to me because I want to join the women's group but I am afraid of being rejected.
I am 5 foot 5, 45 kilograms and non-binary. My gender expression is largely feminine — my voice is such that I am constantly mistaken as being a female on the phone; I hate ties (even though I was forced to wear one when I was working in corporate and throughout high school); I love shopping for women's clothes (my favourite outfit is the white blazer inspired by AOC during the State of the Union in 2019 that I wore every time I had brunch with the girls pre-COVID); I cannot live without my Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation and my 'IT COSMETICS: Heavenly Luxe Flat Top Buffing Foundation #6'; most of my friends are females; and, I have a wonderful, handsome boyfriend who supports me wholeheartedly. So far, so good. As any complex hypothetical, prima facie, I seem like a clear-cut entrant to the MULSS Women's Portfolio ... right?
Here's the main issue: I am physically male; I am not trans as I do not feel trapped in my physical 'male' body. I used to (but that's a story for another time); I have now accepted that I am physically male and do not feel the need to undergo transition. As I am physically male, in most professional settings (such as work and school), I dress as a male so as not to seem too imposing on other people (even though sometimes male clothes make me feel uncomfortable). Thus, if you ever meet me in person, you would probably say I was male (gay) and I'd probably agree.
But I know deep down I am not fully male (see previous paragraph); and although I am gay, I know gay guys (like my boyfriend) who get along with other males (straight males or straight-acting gays especially). I, however, do not (and it's not that I do not try — again, if this interests people, I am more than willing to write another article on my experience as bigender, for lack of another term). As a fellow bigender in this article (see: here) says: I 'felt at home amongst women and a stranger among men'.
I know some women who might say: 'well that's not fair, you get the privileges of being male and you want to join the female group?' To this, I say, I am a feminine-acting, gay person-of-colour — I do not have any privilege within the gay community, let alone the broader society.
I had first class honours in my undergraduate degree in economics and finance, got ten investment banking grad interviews and got 0 offers. Here's the thing: you could say I was probably just a bad interviewer. Fair enough. But here's my experience: as soon as I opened my mouth in my Citi interview (remember I present as male but my voice is feminine), the male interviewer immediately slouched as if he had already decided that he was not going to accept me no matter my credentials (this was evident when he took a phone call during the interview and had to cut my interview short because it was urgent). Deutsche Bank said I was smart and answered the questions well (even the brain teasers!) and could not find anything wrong with me except they 'did not feel comfortable presenting me in front of clients' (code for: we do not like your non-binary personality). And the one that offends me to this day, when Goldman Sachs gave me feedback, the banker said that my personality may not be suited to corporate advisory but I 'might be great for human resources or events management'. I can elaborate on this in another article — but to say that I have been privileged for being male is wholly untrue. But throughout all of this, my girlfriends were very supportive. When I was finally interviewed by a female (coincidence or not), I got my first grad job which was very supportive of my identity.
So after getting to know me a bit more, do you think I would be able to join the MULSS Women's Portfolio group? A quote that I have loved since I was in year 9 is by Simone de Beauvoir: 'One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.'
MULSS Women's, I urge you, please to change your page to read:
A page for discussion, advocacy and community for any female-identifying, trans and non-binary students, whether female-presenting physically or otherwise, within the Melbourne Law School community.
It's a small change but it would make all the difference to people like me — and it would signal that the next generation is truly accepting of all people.
Anonymous is a second-year JD student.
Response from MULSS Women's Directors and Leadership Team
We hear you! It is a tricky thing to try and encapsulate so many identities and forms of gender expression in just a few words. Evidently the words we currently use in our page description were not sufficient to ensure that all those within MLS who belong to our community felt welcome.
We are more than happy to change the description and are always open to feedback and suggestions from students.
Our inboxes or email is always open and as directors we will always protect your privacy should you want to get in touch.
Keep safe and well,
The MULSS Women’s Portfolio Directors and Leadership Team