When you hear the term “non-binary,” what do you envision? Something outside the norm – possibly unusual, possibly something foreign to you. In the LGBTQIA+ community, the word non-binary (and oftentimes the word genderqueer as well) is used as an umbrella term for gender identities that are outside the bounds of the binary gender system. Some trans folks identify as non-binary – some don’t.
Queer folks may identify themselves as genderqueer, genderfluid, or non-binary. Many may have an identity of multiple genders at the same time and identify themselves as pan-, bi- or tri-gender. A few may identify themselves as agender or genderless or simply not label their gender identity at all.
Non-binary Seeking Non-binary
In a world that rigidly demands people stick to their gender roles. So, existing outside of those makes life both frustrating and dangerous. Queer folks often bond over shared interests and experiences, whether positive or negative. The same rings true of friendships forged with my own queer friends.
The internet can be a wonderful resource for a queer person with no network of like-minded buddies; but like anything else in this world, it can also be dangerous. I’ve been fortunate enough to make some amazing queer friends along my journey. They have helped me quite a bit and shaped me into who I am.
But the danger in using the internet is still ever-present. Finding other like-minded queer individuals can be difficult when you’ve also got to overcome things like mental illness and social anxiety. The reality is, among my mostly queer friend circle, a large percentage of them are sexual assault survivors.
Changing the Culture
The world we live in is openly trying to force us to adhere to its strict gender roles. We gender things like clothing and razors, but all it serves to do is divide us further. Women’s and men’s products are sold at very different rates, even though there is no real difference.
The gender binary aids nothing to an evolving society – it actively causes harm.
Some children born intersex have mutilating genital surgeries performed on them as infants to try and stick to society’s view of gender. Society frowns upon people questioning gender and living outside of their designated roles. We scold boys for playing with Barbies and Easy Bake Ovens, while girls are stuck with pink, tiaras, and Disney princesses.
But collectively, we have a voice. Companies listen when enough people speak against it. There is no reason to gender things like clothing, make up,and grooming items. We can petition companies to change their policies. As well, we can change how we discuss gender in our personal relationships. We all need to end unnecessary stigma against those who don’t conform.
Masculine identifying people should be able to wear make-up, dresses, and skirts without being criticized; androgyny is not just thin, white individuals with flat chests and short hair; and people should be able to dress and act how they truly feel without persecution.
Plenty of individuals may define their gender identity as simply non-binary. My best friends and I all identify as non-binary, but our individual identities are different. For example, Frankie* – my best friend for the past decade – has always identified as agender. However, Frankie has gone through periods of accepting various pronouns. My other best friend, Patty*, simply identifies as non-binary and accepts all pronouns.
I myself have always felt outside the gender binary but had no access to the terminology until later in life. Currently, I identify as genderfluid and non-binary, and my preferred pronouns are gender neutral.
The fact of the matter is, gender and sexuality are ever-evolving. So, queer individuals may feel differently as time goes on. Pronouns and identities can change – so can sexual preferences.
The best thing we can do is to recognize those outside the binary and treat them respectfully.