For Kasimir Hazlewood, “normal” is a meaningless word.
The 25-year-old grew up in the Overland Park, earned a degree in computer science from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and hopes to find a job as a software engineer.
Hazlewood privately self-identifies as androgyne, which denotes someone with masculine and feminine qualities. In a more general sense, Hazlewood uses the term nonbinary transgender.
“I’ve always felt like I had a combination of a male mindset and a female mindset and put them together and took the best parts,” Hazlewood says. “The first big event that made me question anything was in 2012, I believe. That’s when I realized that I was some form of transgender but I wasn’t sure yet.”
The event was Hazlewood’s decision to cross-dress in public.
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” Hazlewood says. “I cross-dressed for the first time and I realized, ‘OK, something about this feels really comfortable, so what’s going on here?’ It was a public event but a lot of other people were in different costumes as well. It felt like I could dress up and not gather a lot of attention.”
Not long after, “cross-dressing” was eliminated from Hazlewood’s vocabulary.
“I stopped using that terminology when I stopped identifying as male,” Hazlewood says. “So pretty much I dress however the hell I want.”
Hazlewood had a girlfriend at the time, but the questions about gender ended the relationship. Hazlewood’s current girlfriend identifies as straight and, Hazlewood says, seems comfortable with gender ambiguity.
New definitions and categories seem to continually evolve in the transgender community, according to Hazlewood. Genderqueer describes people who claim neither male nor female gender. Cisgender describes anyone who isn’t transgender. But specific terminology isn’t necessarily used by all transgender people.
“One of the things about the transgender community is that we’re so spread out that there are pockets of the community all over the place and they have their own terminology,” Hazlewood says. “It’s a very varied and diverse community. There’s agreement on some things, but on other things there’s not much agreement at all. As it’s growing in the media spotlight it needs to learn how to … define itself.”
As a result, in Hazlewood’s opinion, the community has yet to coalesce and adopt a coherent public identity.
“When we start looking deeper, there may be some confusion for some trans people about other trans people,” Hazlewood says. “And just in terms of self-identification, the diversity is amazing. But it also creates problems for that cohesion.”
Some people who identify as transgender reject traditional pronouns — him or her, he or she. Some adopt they.
“I feel like I should say that not everybody who is nonbinary transgender uses ‘they,’ ” Hazlewood says. “Some prefer not to use any pronoun, just their name. I don’t have a problem with anyone else using an invented pronoun.
“When I first used any (nongender specific) pronouns, that was me trying to say, ‘Hey, I’m not quite male or female.’ There is a lot of variance to me and I wanted there to be variance in the language. Finally I switched to ‘they’ and it was putting my foot down, and saying this is how I am and I want the world to see this.”
If someone refers to Hazlewood by a male pronoun, there’s no reason to take offense, if it’s an honest accident.
“It’s just benign ignorance,” Hazlewood says. “People just don’t know. Socially it is a relatively new thing. I can understand how people would be confused.”
The transition has been a challenge for Hazlewood’s parents.
“I told them very early on when I was questioning (my gender),” Hazlewood says. “I’ve always had a close relationship with my parents and I knew they would accept me no matter what. But they were very confused. But so was I. They are working hard with the pronouns. They have fully accepted my name change. And it’s taking time. I didn’t expect them to adapt overnight and I certainly didn’t change overnight. I’m giving them the time they need.”
The name change was the adoption of Kasimir as a first name. It replaced Hazlewood’s birth name, which Hazlewood considered too masculine.
“I prefer not to mention the name I was born with,” Hazlewood says. “I chose the name Kasimir, which was actually my Catholic confirmation name.”
Hazlewood has until now been careful about sharing gender identity questions. But Hazlewood hopes this interview might move the conversation forward and improve understanding.
“It is something new and it’s something a lot of people aren’t familiar with, so let’s work with it together,” Hazlewood says. “I prefer a life where, yes, I may have to explain to people what my gender identity is. But you still have to have basic human respect.”