“There is so much trial when stepping into your queer identity, which is beautiful for growth – but queer glow-up, for me, was finally figuring things out. Not being in the trial anymore. Saying to myself, ‘This fits and I’m going to trust that.’”
Griffin Wynne is a non-binary artist and writer who writes about gender, sexuality, sexual wellness, and sexual empowerment. Growing up, Griffin never thought that writing about dating could be a real job. Today, they take joy in reclaiming a genre so often considered frivolous or irrelevant – and infusing it with energy, politics, and literature.
Romantic status is inextricably linked to self-esteem, body image, and owning your sexuality. While Griffin now spends their days writing about these topics, their queer glow-up was the first step towards figuring them out.
“In a literal sense, a queer glow-up is finding your people, finding your community, realizing that you are not a freak, and opening up about your life. It’s not necessarily coming out to others, but coming out to yourself. Realizing that you are not dirty, you are not worthless and you are not going to hell. It’s being tender, honest, and kind to yourself, instead of explaining or proving yourself to anyone else.”
Griffin wears The Plunge in Leopard
“In a practical sense, a queer glow-up is finding your haircut. I mean, no one has as bad of haircuts as a young queer person, because you are just figuring it out. If you were not able to live your queerness through your childhood or teen years, you have a sort of second adolescence as an adult. You’re trying different things, whether that’s literally trying on different haircuts and different outfits – or deciding whether you go to clubs or to bars or to lesbian book club.”
“I don’t have a ‘Coming Out Story’™ and, frankly, I think a lot of non-binary probably do not. I have witnessed a lot of people that came out years earlier as gay or pansexual or bisexual, now coming out as non-binary in the year 2020. Non-binary wasn’t an experience I saw in [the early 2010’s], especially not as a first step in queer identity.”
“Growing up, I only knew the words gay, lesbian, and straight. I remember talking to one of my childhood friends about having crushes on girls. My uncle is gay and I was always excited by that. If you look back at the pattern, you can see that I was recognizing and finding community. But, at the time, it was just confusing. I dated a boy in high school – and still date people of all genders – so I always felt like I wasn’t allowed to say I was gay.”
“I remember making a joke my freshman year of college that I was the only lesbian that didn’t like girls. My best friend, who is a gay guy, yelled at me for trivializing and appropriating gay culture. We ended up having this really productive conversation where I said, ‘I’m not trying to trivialize lesbianism, I’m just saying that my relationship to straight men is different than the relationships I witness other women having. And it’s always been that way.”
Griffin wears The Scoop in Black
“The queer lexicon means different things to different people. I think people can use whatever words they want to use. Labels, names, and titles are tools. They really help people validate themselves, understand themselves, and find community. Because words are tools, it’s important for them to be fluid. There are non-binary women, non-binary men, non-binary lesbians, queer non-binary people. It means whatever someone wants it to mean to them. And when someone tells you their pronouns, you use them. It is what it is.”
In college, Griffin was learning about different words and ways of being, but it was a lesson in actions over appearance that marks their glow-up: the moment they began to softly settle into their body and trust in their identity.
“My junior year of college, I was a religious studies major and went abroad to a Buddhist monastery. I was ordained and lived as a Buddhist nun. It’s important to me to talk about Buddhism with zero ego and immense self-awareness, because it’s become such a commodity in the Western world. I’m not going to be the white girl with the Ohm sign. Never. But, living as a nun was a transformative experience for me, because it was the first time in my life that I was matching everyone else.”
“They shaved all of our heads with a straight razor, everyone wore the same nun robes and in the ordination vows, you aren’t allowed to wear makeup or jewelry. No nose rings. No piercings. We all looked exactly the same.”
Griffin wears The Scoop in Black
“I grew up in a small East Coast town, feeling like an outcast; a freak; different than everyone. Out of survival, I really doubled down on that, saying, ‘I'm going to be a freak then. I'm different. I don't want to be like you.’ As a teenager, I assumed that one way of being had to be better than the other way, so I thought, ‘I’m cool and you are all sheep.’ Which is so not true, and is a lot of internalized misogyny, and I wish well to everyone. But, at the time, I had this deep insecurity that if I tried to look ‘normal’, I would fail and humiliate myself.”
“Living as a nun was the first time in my life that I was the same as everyone else. That was really alarming in the beginning. How are people going to know I’m different? How are they going to know? It was a turning point for me. Up until then, I felt like I had to use my physical body to show the world I was non-binary. To show the world that I hated the patriarchy. That I was a punk. I had a buzz cut and dressed a certain way to look as non-binary as possible.”
“Buddhism itself is the idea of no self. What I really get from that experience is that I don’t have to prove anything to anyone when I say, ‘I’m a non-binary person.’ There is no one way to be a non-binary person, and that's something that is intrinsic to Buddhism. There’s no self – so there’s no ideal girlfriend, teacher, model, nurse, queer person, whatever. There's no one thing to strive for. Living outside the binary is an action rather than an identity.”
“It was this transformative moment in my life, realizing I don’t need to show that I’m different with my literal body. I can show it with my actions, with my relationships, with my words. My activism changed, too. It’s not about the vanity. It’s not about looking like a super politically informed non-binary person, but about subverting societal norms in my relationships. It’s about educating my friends on gender, and systemic racism, and systems of oppression. It’s about the actions. It’s about feeling a certain way. That was a light switch for me. The start of my queer glow-up was realizing I don’t need to put on war paint every single day to go outside. That being non-binary is not about what I look like.”
Griffin wears The Scoop in Black
While Griffin opened their approach to ‘presenting’, emphasizing identity through action instead of appearance, they acknowledge the unique set of privileges and pressures that come with this.
“I’m white. I often date more masc people, or people on the masc spectrum and, in this current chapter of my life, I have long hair and don’t wear my binder as much. If a random person on the street saw me, they would think I’m a woman. Which is challenging, but if I were to date a boy right now, we would get straight-passing privilege. I have a lot of friends who are lesbians or non-binary people that present more queer than I do in this moment, and friends that are queer/trans people of color. They face a higher risk of violence. A higher risk of harassment. I try to really acknowledge that.
“A lot of my family are preppy New England people. So, when I go to see them, sometimes I cover my tattoos or shave my armpits. At the beginning of my process, I really felt ashamed of that. I felt it was regressive or that I wasn’t an independent queer person. It’s not. That’s the biggest thing that being non-binary teaches me: you can embrace all parts of yourself. Sometimes, that means choosing to wear a shirt that hides your tattoos from your annoying great uncle, because it’s just easier that day. And that’s okay.”
“There’s such an overwhelming pressure to love your body and to love your queer self. Obviously, as a queer person, there are spaces you feel excluded from or uncomfortable in, but sometimes, there is this equally overwhelming pressure to never feel ashamed or bad or uncomfortable with your queerness.”
Griffin wears The Balc in Salt
“Whenever your clothing or your gender presentation or even just your body politics start to feel dogmatic or like a chore, take a step back and remind yourself that you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Putting on a baggy t-shirt, not loving your body for a day, or just wanting to “match” in the moment doesn’t mean that you don’t have worth; that you’re any less political or punk.
“Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets and one of her poems reads, ‘You do not have to be good...You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.’ This is something I live by now. I used to fear wearing sweatpants or leggings because I didn’t want to look “too preppy”. I wanted to be a “good queer” a “good punk.” It was so liberating to realize I can wear a pair of leggings and still be punk. I’m still non-binary. That was when I started taking better care of myself, because it didn’t feel like a fight all the time.”
“The pressures of always-on body-positivity can be really isolating. It’s okay if you occasionally don’t feel good in your body. The moments you let yourself feel whatever you are feeling are just as important. The goal is to honor yourself. And in that, you honor all people.”