Being Non-Binary: Opening Thoughts

Back in April, after questioning my gender for some time, I met my first irl genderqueer person. I was like, ohhh. Bonus points for them being femme-presenting, as I was at the time. Here’s something written about #eggmode, a hashtag specific to trans-women, that really resonated with me:

Sometimes all you need to hatch out of your shell is to know that you’re not the first. I suspect that for a lot of trans people, all it takes is two facts:

  1. You can do that?
  2. I can do that?

To be in denial and encounter a trans person who is like you is a revelation. The sheer scale of the deception that is perpetrated upon us is horrifying to contemplate. “I can’t be trans, because I…” or “I can’t transition, because I’m not like…” — imagine it! Finally we encounter a trans person similar enough to us that the veil is pulled aside. There’s no telling if or when that can happen.


After that, I cut my hair, tried a binder, thought about gender, decided to stop thinking about gender, tried out pronouns, thought about gender some more, wrote a thousand rambling words…

So I’m non-binary. I use they/them/their pronouns. What does that mean? How do you KNOW?

Aside from the usual trans / nb 101 stuff (sex =/= gender, respect people’s pronouns etc. Those links are highly recommended btw), here are a distillation of my thoughts:

I think that ultimately gender is something you claim. There is no universal consciousness that you can tap into. There is no way for anyone to know that “being a woman” means the same for me as it does for you. Whatever gender means to you personally, the ONLY requirement for “being a woman” is to identify as a woman; there is  no agreed-upon list of things that says women must all be a certain way*. Being any other gender is the same.

To me, genders are like shoes. Sometimes it’s obvious that those are not meant for you and will never fit. Other times you can’t know until you try them on for a while, break them in, and then a few months later you can’t imagine how you had ever put up with the old pair. Trying to pin down and explain where exactly it is that this pair fits better than the last is futile and pointless; it just FEELS correct.

*: unless you are a Trans-Exclusionary Rad Fem (TERF) and/or wilfully ignorant asshole, who would argue that you need a BUNCH of physical features to be a woman, which… no. I’m also going to go ahead and assume that you don’t think that being a woman/man is about adhering to gender roles and liking pink or skirts.

Culture definitely has a role in our experience of gender. If we didn’t gender body parts, would trans people still have body dysphoria? Idk… (Here’s trans-youtuber Kat Blaque making the point that a hypothetical post-gender society is only ever brought up by TERFs to delegitimise trans-experiences, never applied to cis people’s genders, and is ultimately irrelevant.) (How many times do I have to repeat “my body is not the problem” to myself in the mirror before I believe it?)

I struggled with this at first because if it’s all made up, isn’t thinking about it legitimising it? Shouldn’t it not matter what gender people think I am? Then why do I feel such an intense sense of synchrony when I cut my hair and when I tell people my correct pronouns? I think that all our experiences are filtered through a cultural lens, and that does not make them any less valid or real. For example, did you know that people in different cultures experience schizophrenia differently? There is simply no “objective” non-culturally-constructed experience, and thus that is in fact LESS real than the actual lived experiences of trans people within our culture.

Thinking of these things in the abstract excessively tends to wear me out. I have found that it helps so much more to actually listen to and read and see binary and non-binary trans people on youtube and other places of the internet. Here’s some trans* media that I personally enjoy.

We can talk about gender all day, but meanwhile beautiful people are living out their truths, and that is all the justification I need.

Trans guy sings a duet with himself pre- and post- testosterone. Pretty much the most beautiful thing you will hear this year.

(PS: If anyone has solved the dating-while-nb problem, please let me know, thanks.)

Being Non-Binary: Opening Thoughts

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