What Cyan's Banister coming out really means for venture capital industry
This week, on National Coming Out Day on October 11, Cyan Banister, a partner at Founders Fund, revealed that she doesn't have a gender. Below, we picked some important things she said in an interview to Jessi Hempel. But besides all that we'd like to point out something left behind the words.
Cyan Banister is an accomplished venture investor with a pitch perfect career in venture capital: she is a self-taught engineer who held several management roles at a startup sold by nearly $1B to Cisco; she was awarded as angel investor of the year by TechCrunch for prescient bets on SpaceX, Uber, and DeepMind Technologies; last but not least, she became the first female partner at Peter Thiel's FoundersFund. Not only did she prove herself as a professional investor being perceived as a woman all these years, but now, she has also announced that she has a non-traditional gender identity. Cyan Banister is a great example of a high profile venture investor whatever gender and sexual identity a person might be.
"To me, being genderqueer means that you don’t have a strong gender identity on either side of man or woman. I am biologically female; I have no plans currently to change that. ...when I look in the mirror, I don’t see a woman. I don’t see a man. I see myself. I see a genderless being. As a matter of fact, I would be perfectly comfortable being an entity in a machine without a body. It’s that disassociated from gender."
"About five years ago, I was sitting in the car with a friend. He was explaining to my husband that basically gender and sexuality exist on a spectrum. Up until that point, I had considered everything somewhat of a binary. I listened to the words and tucked them away, but they stayed with me."
"I started having conversations with people. I started coming out to my friends first and telling them that this is what I experience; I experience gender dysphoria; here are some points in my life where I’ve felt uncomfortable. I just want to tell you that this is how I feel and this is who I am and try to get thoughts from you.
What was really interesting was that especially my male friends, who identify as male publicly, came out to me. As a matter of fact this happened yesterday. I was telling a friend yesterday that I was going to talk to you today and he came out as genderqueer and queer in the conversation. There are so many people that I’ve talked to that remain silent and have not opened up about their lives out of fear. To be honest with you, it’s been predominately men."
Speaking of the difference between queer and genderqueer: "Queer to me is more about your sexual identity, not your gender identity. Genderqueer and queer are different. I am sexually fluid. I’ve even learned a new term in the last couple of weeks called pansexual, which might actually be more my identity now that I’m looking into it. It basically means that I am attracted to pretty much a person who identifies as anything. Whether it be male, female, whatever. That’s basically how I describe it. Again, there’s a lot that I’m still learning about and as I explore this world, I’m not right about everything."
"I used to try to conform, especially in various work places, to what people thought I should look like so that I would fit it in. I no longer care about that. That is freeing. It’s incredibly freeing. Now, when I get into conversations with people, when they talk about things in a binary way, I do bring up this different point of view. I say, hey, I think gender is a construct and I think it’s not binary. My whole world has changed."