Finding Community

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Dear Lynda,

I identify as non-binary, and would prefer to attend women’s events over co-ed events, but I’m never sure I’ll be welcome. I feel like I am harassed at co-ed motorcycle events, and people don’t even try to respect my gender pronouns. How can I find motorcycle community?

~J.M.

Dear J.M.

Finding a motorcycling community is no different than finding your place in any group of people who come together for a common passion…some are open and accepting, and others closed and uncomfortable to anyone who is perceived as different for whatever reason. But to add to the challenge of simply finding a group to enjoy being part of, you also have valid reasons to fear harassment, bullying, or even violence. The sad reality in today’s culture is that folks are increasingly open about, and occasionally acting upon, their prejudices, with the only upside being you can more quickly ascertain those places you don’t want to be.

So how have you navigated other groups? What’s worked well for you in finding your place with others using correct pronouns, making friends, and in general feeling comfortable? Can those same skills be applied in the motorcycling world?

How do others perceive your outer appearance? If you feel more comfortable around women, but present in a very male manner, or vice versa, it might be reasonable for others to feel the same discomfort they might if a CIS person of the opposite gender showed up at their event. It’s not necessarily prejudice but a reaction to wanting it to be exclusive to a single sex. Since you are non-conforming, and wanting to attend women’s events, will you, at least on some level, fit into the group you are trying to join?

Assuming you do, then starting with women’s only events may be a safer bet than co-ed activities. Doing research on the types of women who attend, reading the literature for clues as to how welcoming they are to all sexual orientations, and asking friends who have gone in the past may be good ways to initially find groups of riders to connect with. Checking out groups that welcome all styles of bikes, support different types of riding, and have social activities that sound fun to you may also be a great way to explore what’s out there.

It may be helpful to remember that many good people can still be unsure how to react to the unfamiliar. While they may have read about someone who identifies as non-binary, and in theory have a desire to be supportive, you may be the first person they’ve actually met. Your comfort in being yourself, gently correcting pronouns, and in general assuming their best intentions may help overcome any initial hurdles in an otherwise accepting group. Giving people time to adjust to the unfamiliar, answering their genuine questions with openness and honesty, and letting them get to know you personally can help overcome any initial awkwardness.

But the reality is everyone needs to figure out their own way to find if they fit in any group. Once you have established that a place that is safe, instead of viewing it solely in regards to your identity, think of it in terms of personality…is this the right group for me based on my interests, do I like the people I’m meeting, and do their activities align with mine?  Are they including me in their conversations and focusing on who I am as a motorcyclist, or are they standoffish and more curious about my identity than my riding skills? If it’s the former, you’ve found your tribe; if not, keep looking: the right group is out there somewhere.

~Lynda

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