Community Experience: Non-Binary

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As we come to the end of July, the month that holds International Non-Binary People’s Day (14th July), we thought we’d include some words from the NB community. We’ve talked about pronouns before, and we absolutely will again, but the best way of learning is through listening to the plethora of voices out there, with the plethora of experiences they hold. Get amongst some of our NB pals below.

 

Image source instagram @shrimpteeth


Tell us about your experience with gender, be it expression, identity, performance; how does gender relate to you?

I’ve always felt very conflicted with where I sit in regards to my gender and pronouns. I feel like my gender fluctuates between female and non-binary so she/they pronouns work perfectly for me. It did take me a long time to be able to find pronouns that worked for me because I didn’t really grow up with any queer people in my life, and gender was never something my family discussed. I wasn’t able to develop a language around how I was feeling. 

When I came out as gay to my family at 18, I kinda just brushed off my discomfort around my gender as a side effect. I thought that the uneasiness I felt meant I had to change the way I performed my gender. I never felt comfortable presenting as femme so when I cut off all my hair and started presenting as more masculine, I thought those feelings would go away. But they didn’t.

I grew my hair out and started wearing what made me comfortable rather than what I felt was expected of me. I still have days where I feel very dysphoric, but I’m always going to be figuring out what works best for me. For example, I only realised last year I don’t mind if people refer to me as ‘she’ in person but I prefer to be referred to as ‘they’ in writing. I don’t know why but that’s what feels good for me. Maybe that will change over time or maybe it won’t. As long as I do what I feel is right for me in the moment then I am at ease with my identity.

Maya June - she/they

 

I have had a very dynamic relationship with gender identity and expression over the last 25 years. I've attached myself to womanhood, manhood, gender-fluidity, and gender queerness. At the moment I acknowledge that my identity and expression are ever evolving and that's great! 

The term 'non-binary' seems fitting at the moment. My gender expression has gotten more range since medically transitioning. 

I feel more confident to wear traditionally feminine accessories, make-up, and clothing. My day to day outfits are quite butch and casual. But after dark I turn into an 80's aerobics instructor, turned burlesque performer.

Dibs - they/them/theirs

 

My experience with gender is a mess. I spent a lot of childhood trying to come to terms with feeling like a ‘failed man’ until I realised that I could fail to be a man on purpose. I’ve always been femme with almost no ability to mask it so when I finally stopped trying to, I felt way better. 

Non-binary was an easy label to adopt, it made sense. It was instrumental in thinking through some internalised grossness too, as in it helped me accept and perhaps even enjoy my femme voice and body.  I often found the way that femininity was articulated by some gay men had a sort of ‘mocking’ undertone to it and I wanted to divorce myself from that I think. I strive to embody a caring and generous feminine vibe as opposed to a ‘shady’ one. 

Coming to terms with my NB-ness has really helped give me a blank slate to find new, healthier ways to relate to my qualities. The self-policing didn’t stop though; now I just constantly feel like a failed NB! But the warm+fuzzy feeling I get when M8s use my pronouns and call me Jay makes me feel like I’m living more authentically than ever before.

Jay - them/they

 

Growing up, I don’t really recall having a strong attachment to being a ~girl~. I just existed in the body I existed in. I didn’t start questioning my own gender until I met my best friend, Eliott, in June 2017. We were at a job interview and they looked quite butch, so I sat with them (us homos gotta stick together). We were paired up to introduce each other, and I asked what pronouns they used. They asked me the same question, and I’d never thought about it before. It was about six months later before I started testing the waters with thinking about my own gender, and started publicly using both she/her and they/them pronouns. It took me a while to be comfortable enough to say I wanted people to use exclusively they/them pronouns, and even longer for me to comfortably change my name, which happened in September 2019.

I’ve started expressing myself however I want. I own a binder, though I don’t wear it often. I typically wear t-shirts and jeans and sneakers. I don’t tend to wear makeup that much anymore, it doesn’t feel like me most of the time. It’s been really eye-opening to just abandon my own expectations around gender and my body, and just… live. I’m still read as a woman 99% of the time, but I’ve become less bothered by that, because it’s just a body. I’m still nonbinary. I don’t feel intensely dysphoric most of the time, though I do wish it was easier to pass as a more androgynous person (damn these thick hips).

Theo they/them

If you could give a piece of advice to people about gender sensitivity and/or pronouns, what would it be?

Pronouns are very important to respect, not just to be a decent human being, but also to help someone feel like they are seen and heard. If you can remember and honour the many nicknames of celebrities and friends, then it shouldn't be a problem to learn someone's pronouns, no matter how many times they change them. If you get them wrong in an honest mistake, then it's not an issue, correct yourself and move on.

Dibs - they/them/theirs

 

Listen and learn! Listen to us when we tell you our pronouns and names. Listen to our conversations around gender because it’s a multifaceted experience and completely different for everyone, even cisgender people! Go and educate yourself too. It shouldn’t be our role to educate people on every bit of information around gender and pronouns. It can be very tiring, and going away and doing your own research shows us that you care enough to put the work in. It also means that you will be able to have a better understanding when we invite you to join in on our conversations. Be kind, be patient.

Maya June - she/they

 

If you’re thinking about a pronoun shift or a name change, do it! Depending of course on how supportive your surrounding environment is. Also, if you don’t want to shift pronouns or change your name but want to cultivate a more accurate self-image, start thinking about your current pronouns in a different way? Ask your friends to think about you in a different way. Sometimes that’s all you need to feel seen, heard, and validated. 

Gender sensitivity is really just about empathy. Looking past all these buzzwords and labels that seem to put some people off so much, we can see that humans are just trying to more accurately portray themselves to other humans. This, I feel, is something we’ve always done. Identifying with and against each other is just what we do and these days there are so many more options available for doing that, which can only be a good thing right?

Jay - them/they

 

Someone else’s gender isn’t about you. We don’t need excuses of “oh, it’s hard to adjust” or “but what if you regret it later?” None of what I’m doing, in regards to my gender, my expression, the way I live, is for or about anyone other than myself. Be respectful. If you slip up, apologise, and work to do better. That’s all we want.

Theo - they/them

 

What is your idea of a gender utopia?

An abandonment of expectations around gender would be absolutely fuckin’ mint!

Theo - they/them

 

Ok hear me out, so when we’re old enough to ask for it, we get presented with a tablet that has a character select screen on it. Everyone picks their gender (or lack thereof) from that or they write in a new one. You can do this as many times as you like. Anything goes but we need more femme-wizards, just sayin'.

Seriously though, I want gender to matter but not in the way it does currently. I often hear people say they want a future where all of this gender stuff doesn’t matter, and I feel like maybe what they mean is that they want people to take it as seriously as any other identifier. I want gender to matter just as much as a change in dress, a new tattoo, a fresh perfume. I want people to notice it, validate it and be sensitive and accepting of the way other people want to live their lives.  I also want people to feel free to fail at gender. To slip in and out of it with the seasons if they wish. This is not to say people should all be non-binary but rather willing to accept that we’re all chaotic af and that’s beautiful.

Jay - them/they

 

The patriarchy unravels, trans healthcare is made accessible for all, TERFs [trans exclusionary radical feminists] realise that they are being assholes and turn into intersectional feminists.

Dibs - they/them/theirs

 

For myself, it would be feeling at ease with my identity. In a broader sense, my idea of gender utopia is a society where people aren’t judged for how they identify and perform. Pronouns are respected but also not expected if you feel like you don’t need them. Everyone is kind and we all facilitate a space where we can grow together.

Maya June - she/they

 

Image credit Instagram @theyspace



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