I wrote an article on being nonbinary and was told I belong in an ‘asylum’

My identity has been compared to paedophilia and cancer

Last week I wrote an article for The Tab detailing my own personal experience of being nonbinary. I discussed my sexuality, my childhood as a tomboy and how I feel society sees myself as an enby.

It blew up quite a bit – the article gained 37,000 views and over 1,500 shares and I’ve had messages of support and solidarity from people all over the UK.

But it seems I also touched a nerve with some readers.

Many people told me I wasn’t who I said I was, that I was just making up being ‘nonbinary’ to gain attention, status, and online popularity. I was even condemned to death on several occasions by people I’d never met.

Gender is a widely variant topic, with differing definitions for different people. It is such a large, complex concept. The term nonbinary is relatively new in the eyes of many in the United Kingdom, but isn’t actually ‘new’ in the grander scheme of things.

Despite this, the animosity in the responses shocked me deeply:

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Charming.

Charming

Why did people respond with such ferocity and frustration?

Why do people have such a problem with the concept of nonbinary gender, and completely negate the existence of any genders other than male and female, despite the fact third, fourth and fifth genders exist and flourish in variant social and cultural structures all over the world.

Here's a map of gender-diverse cultures by PBS.org

Here’s a map of gender-diverse cultures by PBS.org

Despite the fact that in June of this year, Jamie Shupe because the first legally non-binary person in the US.

Despite the fact that the NHS completed a symposium in September of this year on their treatment and support of transgender and non-binary people across the health and care sector.

Despite the fact that The Legal Deed Poll Service include the gender-neutral title ‘Mx’ in their documentation, as do the Department for Work and Pensions, First TransPennine Express, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Oxford City Council, The DVLA, HMRC, NHS, IPS and more recently, Tinder! (and a lot, lot more).

Tinder now has more gender-inclusive settings

Tinder now has more gender-inclusive settings

This is the start of a small step towards society’s self-assessment on how it has presented and displayed gender to the people.

Maybe gender doesn’t have to be so rigid?

Since the article’s release, I’ve also had a spoken word poem released on The Tab (which currently has over 70,000 views, and came with even more brutal shade from strangers), and I’ve been contacted by BBC Radio Newcastle and BBC Three. This goes to show it is a topic ablaze with interest and opinion.

If we don’t feel we belong in the body we have, we don’t necessarily have to transition from female to male or male to female. Why can’t we be something outside of this binary? Why can’t gender be fluid and unspecified? And finally, why can’t we have a label if we want one? One like nonbinary?

It’s all about personal comfort and self-care. You yourself might be comfortable with the gender you were assigned and wish to stick with that. But it’s ultimately about the freedom to express and label/not label yourself the way you feel you are.

In my original article, I came across like I was negating anyone nonbinary who wasn’t androgynous, and for that I apologise. This was a stupid miswording on my part. You can be gender-neutral, femme, masc, or a variant of any. It’s all about personal preference – our presentation doesn’t necessarily equate to our identity. I’m just one person – I wasn’t speaking for all nonbinary people, I can’t answer all the questions. It was just my perspective – which is very limited, as I’m just one person.

Just one white person.

Just one person who was accepted by most of their family and friends (many nonbinary and trans people were shunned from their families).

Just one person who still has a lot to learn.

I'm very lucky to have a supportive mam. Tar Karen.

I’m very lucky to have my supportive mam, Karen

To the people who really don’t feel they can understand – you might not understand how someone can feel like neither a woman or a man. But seriously, what difference is it making to you? All you have to do is use the pronouns, the right terminology. Treat us like you would anyone else – that’s all we ask.

Society has been built on the binary of male = masculine and female = feminine. It is deeply ingrained in our culture’s thinking. Despite people claiming society doesn’t really have a problem with enby people and people who feel a different gender to the one they’ve been assigned, that’s just not true, as a lot of the comments have clearly shown.

I’m sorry, but we’re not going anywhere, and we’re not going to regress into a normative form for your comfort (although some individuals are forced to present themselves as ‘cisgender’ in order to prevent potential threat or judgement).

Nonbinary identity is a rejection of the rigidity of gender. It challenges what we have always been told, it completely uproots the comfortable and easy definitions we’re used to.

I think that’s why people get so angry about it. It’s change, and I think people might fear it.

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Regardless, all nonbinary people are valid.

We’re here, we’re queer, and we will not live in fear (cheesy, but valid).

#weexist

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Keep up to date with my NUSU Marginalised Genders Role.

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