What it’s like to live outside the gender binary
‘It’s extremely liberating’
When the topic of gender comes up most people are quick to assume the two options of male and female, commonly referred to by the term ‘gender binary’. Most people assume this binary is the only way to perceive gender, but now more and more people call themselves “non-binary” – identifying somewhere along the spectrum of male and female without being one or the other. I spoke to some of the people self-identifying as non-binary to try to understand what it means for them and what effect it has on their lives.
For me I guess I would define being non-binary as identifying with any gender other than “male” or “female,” whether that’s a mixture, a place in between the two or something completely outside of them.
My preferred pronouns are they/them or she/her – they/them is often considered a “neutral” pronoun – I’ve recently become more comfortable with she/her because I’ve realised that my gender and my pronouns are two different things – I know nonbinary people who use “she” and “him” and it’s helped me understand my own use of pronouns much better.
I think it’s important to recognise that a lot of people only begin to describe themselves as non-binary when they discover the appropriate language. The average age for trans people to come out is something close to forty, I think. I’ve considered myself nonbinary ever since I found out what it was – which is why access to information on lgbtq+ issues is very important, particularly for younger people.
Jack Graham, 19
I think there’s an obsession these days with labelling everything in an attempt to understand it, and I’ve never really felt like I’ve fit the definition of only one of those labels, so I see non-binary as the only accommodating “label” for me because it’s not really a label at all- it’s such a broad spectrum in itself. I prefer the neutrality of using “they/them” pronouns, but I don’t take offence to “he” or “she”.
I didn’t always know there was a term for being what I was. Since I learned the definition it’s the most fitting term I’ve found. I’ve always been a queer kid and never really felt like I belonged in any of the boxes I was offered, and I’m still trying to work it out but non-binary is the only term I’ve found that fits me without me feeling like I’m giving something up. I don’t like the idea of being put into a box just so that someone with a closed mind can sleep better at night knowing which label I fall under.
I’m really lucky to have a family who are always so accepting of me. My parents are my biggest fans. It’s not something I’ve really discussed at great length with many people l because I don’t think there’s a great understanding of issues with gender identity – which is actually a reason it should be discussed. I would advise anyone going through the same issues not to rush to label yourself as anything if it doesn’t feel right. Embrace yourself and explore who you are and find beauty in the qualities that make you a freak.
I never felt like I fit with “female”, but at the same time I was pretty certain I wasn’t a dude. Non-binary/genderqueer just seemed to explain how I was. I prefer “they” pronouns, but I’ll answer to pretty much any pronouns and I’m not that fussed. I guess I prefer “they” because it’s actually gender-neutral and I’d like to see that change, but I’m not gonna scream at you if you use a different pronoun.
I always knew I didn’t feel right as a girl, and I knew I wasn’t a boy, but I didn’t know that non-binary identities existed until I came to uni. When I heard about them, something clicked and it just made perfect sense. I finally know what I am rather than feeling like I was just made wrong somehow. It’s extremely liberating.
For anyone out there struggling with their identity I’d say just go for it. Once you’re out it’s such a relief. And if you’re not sure, that’s fine too. You don’t have to have a label.
I identify as a gender that is whole and separate from the binary genders of man and woman. Sometimes I feel more masc or more femme, but even then my gender is very separate from both. I haven’t always considered myself non-binary, because I haven’t always known it was an option. In hindsight, I can see that identifying as a woman was never really right for me, but I went through a couple of different labels before I found ones that were right for me. Now I just feel so much more honest. Like I can be a version of myself that’s much more authentic.
For those struggling with their identity I’d advise to take your time. Try on different labels and see what fits. Exploring your gender can be really scary but it’s OK. You’re under no obligation to tell anyone how you identify, and identifying as one gender today and a different one tomorrow doesn’t invalidate either. Also, if you can’t find words that describe you, make your own.