CW: Misgendering, non-binary erasure.
I was told by a binary trans person that they felt left out sometimes, because they ‘weren’t one of the cool kids’ because they weren’t non-binary. I was shocked. I shook it off, but it was said again, a few times, and I realised this was a problem that needed addressing. That really needed addressing.
It is true, there are a lot more people coming out as non-binary at the moment of all variations, those who experience gender, those who don’t, and those who have a combination of the two. I think this is really positive. Non-binary erasure is a real problem and something I deal with on a daily basis due to my job (something I will be blogging about at a later date). A lot of people – cis and trans alike – see non-binary people identities akin to the bisexual identity of the trans world. They say people can’t be ‘both’ or neither, they should just ‘pick a side’.
This idea infuriates me. Because clearly it is that easy, right? I spent years stressing about coming out. I first came out as non-binary, then went back in the closet and came out as a trans man (because it was at least easier than being seen as female), then only over the past year or so have I actually started to come out again as something other than a binary male. Sure, I was happier being out as male, but that didn’t mean I was happy in it’s entirety. Coming out as non-binary doesn’t change much except from the fact that I’d rather be referred to as they over he, and I want to be acknowledged as something other than male or female. I don’t mind male pronouns most of the time – I have to be referred to this way at work – they are a lot better than female ones, but I do prefer the gender neutral ‘they’.
This does not change me as a person.
I wish I could get this point across to people more. I am still the same person, It just so happens that sometimes I prefer to look more masculine, others I would love to look more androgynous and occasionally more feminine (though I still want to be referred to as he or they).
I describe my head as being 80% male, 20% other. These numbers do fluctuate. Sometimes I am more male than other. It is just who I am. Sometimes I want to wear just manly clothes and go out like that, sometimes I wear ‘manly’ clothes and wear a bit of make up. Sometimes I will wear more feminine clothes, I wear what makes me feel comfortable that day. I am a lot more comfortable doing this since my top surgery because I feel like my body is more like what it should be now. It can be a difficult thing to grasp for those who aren’t non-binary, but, once you get your head around it, it is easy.
Speaking of surgery, one thing I have also heard people say is that non-binary people aren’t non-binary enough if they take hormones/have surgery. Um what? Then the reverse, hearing that non-binary people aren’t trans enough if they don’t want to take hormones or have surgery (some non-binary people do not classify themselves as trans but this can be hurtful to those who do). Having surgery and/or hormones doesn’t change how much you are trans/non-binary. Those ideas of being ‘Non-Binary/Trans-enough’ are archaic and just horrible. You can be Non-Binary and have surgery, you can be Non-Binary and not have surgery. You can be Non-Binary and have hormones, you can be Non-Binary and not have hormones. It is their choice as it is their body.
In light of some of the atrocious ignorance I have spoken about here, I decided to write a list of tips for those who are not Non-Binary (and perhaps for those that are if you need help yourself).
-> The world is not Non-Binary friendly.
Most people outside of the binary are fully aware of this. Please do not feel the need to remind us of this when we come out to you or discuss anything to do with our gender, or just in general.
Gems such as: “But there are normally only men’s and women’s toilets, you can’t just use the disabled one, what do you use?” Or “But forms only have male or female for gender, so you must be wrong, you have to pick one.” Or one of the many other binary-based comments. It isn’t needed.
-> Don’t assume gender based on presentation.
I have heard so many people do this, especially in trans spaces. They think they are making things better for people by working it out for themselves. But, if you mess up, can you imagine how horrible that could be for the person? I present very masculine when I go to one of my groups because I generally go there straight from work where I have to be stealth as a male and I can’t wear anything feminine. It is bad enough that I do a stereotypically female career. If I had the day off I’d probably wear some of my make up or at least a little mascara and maybe some lippy. It just isn’t something I can do.
It is horrible enough to be misgendered in an ignorant cis-society, to then be misgendered in a trans safe-space is awful.
-> Following on from the last point. Use neutral pronouns until told otherwise!
It really isn’t hard. They is a legitimate pronoun, use it! If the person asks you to use a different pronoun you don’t know, just ask them for clarification. Most people will give you a few sentences where they are used.
Being Non-Binary isn’t easy. It isn’t always easy to be, let alone to understand. But try! If you put some effort in, you may make someone’s day.
So to wrap up and clarify.
-> Being Non-Binary is not cool.
-> Being binary doesn’t mean you aren’t ‘one of the cool kids’. It just means you are binary.
-> They is a legitimate pronoun.
-> Non-Binary people do not need to ‘pick a side’, they can just be who they are.
-> Not everyone has to have surgery and/or hormones. However some people do choose to and that is perfectly fine.
Don’t be that person who messes up. Try and think about what the best course of action is and then follow it through, think before you speak or act.
How about you? Have you ever experienced circumstances like these? Non-binary or not, tell me your stories about non-binary erasure and awareness in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!