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Gender euphoria.

Pronouns, coming out, and clothing.


Hi friend,

Today I want to talk about the evolution of my gender identity.

If you’ve been reading these emails for a long time, you probably know that I used to identify as a cisgender woman. Not because it ever really fit me or anyway, but because that was the only option I had ever been introduced to, and I assumed that if it didn’t fit, that was a “me” issue, not a gender issue.

Then around five years ago, I was introduced to the concept of being “non-binary, and something clicked. I had been trying to find the language to describe how I felt for a long time, but trying to put my feelings into words was awkward and difficult. Learning that a person could identify as non-binary was like a huge-but-private little revolution, and from the time I first heard the term, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I asked the very first person I met who identified as non-binary, and fully used they/them pronouns, a million (very telling, I’m sure) questions. When they described the feeling of never having felt that the label of “girl” or “woman” fit them, and how liberating it was for them to express their truth in the world, my heart practically exploded.

Other people feel this?! There’s a word for this feeling??

That same person also said something that freaked me the fuck out: they identified as transgender.

“TRANSGENDER? But you seem so normal!!” I told them. (Yes this is a mortifying story of transphobia, I know, but stay with me.)

“Right,” they said. “That’s why it’s so important that I use the term. Because so many people have a negative bias about transgender people, and I have a lot of body privilege. But I identify as non-binary, which means I don’t identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. And what you do call it when someone identifies with a gender they weren’t assigned at birth?”

“You call it transgender,” I whispered, my brain melting.

That night, I learned two really important things about myself, although I wouldn’t publicly share these things for a long time.. The first is that I’m non-binary. It’s hard to explain to people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, but I just don’t feel like a girl or woman, and I never have. That said, I don’t feel like a boy or a man, either. I feel like neither, or both, or something else entirely. I feel… non-binary.

The other thing I learned is that I’m transgender.

By identifying as something other than the gender I was assigned at birth, I’m trans, period. But thanks to a lifetime of internalized transphobia, I had to take a good long moment to make my peace with that fact before declaring it publicly.

A few years ago, I started coming out.

The people who knew me best always knew I was bisexual, but I had never really embraced the label, or done any kind of official announcement about it, so that’s how I began: I’m officially queer.

A little while later I started coming out as non-binary. I told the people closest to me how I felt, and asked them to start using different pronouns so I could see how it felt. Then once I was comfortable, I announced it to the internet. I told the world I identified as non-binary, and I changed my pronouns from she/her to she/they.

The thing is, I used she/they pronouns as an unconscious way of protecting both myself, and other people.

I figured by people the option to use whatever pronouns they felt like using, I would be “less difficult.” It made me feel safer to come out, knowing that anyone who didn’t get my gender identity wouldn’t have to do any extra labor to re-process how they saw me, remember new pronouns, or lose respect for me.

In my heart of hearts though, I always knew where the journey was going. I knew I wasn’t a woman, and I knew I would eventually go on to exclusively use they/them pronouns. I just wasn’t ready yet for my queerness to take up so much “space.”

Then my team at Penguin asked for my bio— the official bio that would go on the back of my official published book.

I cried a lot that week.

What was I supposed to do? Use “she/they” pronouns on the back of my first book, and then have to come out as “they/them” later on my second book, when some part of me knew the truth all along?! No way.

I think I fully came out to myself that week, fully acknowledging for the first time that the “she” part of “she/they” felt inaccurate and inauthentic. So I put “they/them” in my bio, sent it to my team, and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Then I did…absolutely nothing! (Well not nothing, but it was all very small-scale.)

I told a few people about my new pronouns. I changed them on my website and social media platforms. And I started shopping for clothes that felt more representative of my identity. But that was pretty much it.

Internally I felt more authentic, free, and whole than ever before… but it wasn’t a public moment.

When my book Body Neutral was published a few weeks ago, my pronouns officially became a more notable part of my public image. My non-binary gender identity is now generally acknowledged in my press and media interviews, and strangers on the internet occasionally refer to me as they/them.

Along with this public coming-out, it’s Pride month! And I feel more connected to my queerness than ever. I’ve been having conversations with my friends and family about who I am, and feeling more comfortable and confident expressing my whole truth.

Which brings me to the topic of self-expression (and shopping).

I’ve always loved clothes, and the whole fascinating process of expressing oneself visually. But because I grew up without modern concepts and language around gender identity, I’ve never given myself permission to even daydream about how I wanted to look as a non-binary person.

All of this is to say that I’m 36 years old, and I don’t know how to dress myself in a way that feels true to me.

As a result, a big part of my self-care over the last few years has been shopping.

I’ve been experimenting with men’s clothes and oversized clothes, and putting together looks that feel less femme, and more me. I’ve bought myself chest binders (love), boxers (super love), and men’s suits (hate). I’ve been trying different brands, seeking out queer-owned businesses, and experimenting with different looks– all in search of myself. It’s been a bit of a trial-and-error process, and to be honest, finding pieces that I love has been a bit of a challenge.

Then I was offered a partnership with Adidas.

Jessi Kneeland pictured wearing Adidas

Adidas was a brand that was never really on my radar before, and I’m not sure why. I’ve owned a few items from their brand (leggings, sandals, etc.), but never really spent any time exploring. So you can imagine how surprised and delighted I was to browse their website and find a plethora of gender-neutral and gender-affirming clothing!

(For the record, even though I was given a gift card to buy products to review all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own!)

But once I opened my box of Adidas gear, I couldn’t do that. Because holy shit: this was a box of pure gender euphoria.

I tried a pair of women’s basketball shoes– a style I’ve never even considered before because I don’t play basketball, but good lord just look at this cool, boyish wonderfulness.

Also featured here are some men’s cargo pants (incredible), and a women’s XL hoodie (glorious), both of which made me feel like myself in a way I’ve never seen before. I mean, right?!

This little brand partnership (which I 100% intended to be a minor footnote in my life and business) has turned me into a lifelong Adidas fan, and I can’t even describe how good it feels to look in the mirror and see myself represented fully.

Anyway, I wanted to take a minute to officially come out to you all and share a bit about my journey.

I’m bisexual and non-binary, I use only they/them pronouns, and I’m proud as FUCK to be queer.

In it, we get deep and personal about our (very different) experiences as queer people, having grown up in the incredibly conservative area in upstate NY.

Give it a listen (or watch the video here) if you want to hear more about my queer journey!

Happy Pride y’all!


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