8 Things Non-Binary People Need to Know
- You don’t have to be certain, and yes, you can change your mind.
You don’t have to be sure about your (a)gender, your presentation, or what steps, if any, you’re going to take to transition. And guess what? You can change your mind! You can change your mind as many times as you’d like, and that does not make your identity any less valid.
Take your time. Gender is not a race to the finish line; gender is not a competition that you can win or lose. It’s your personal journey, and you can take as much time as you need.
- You are valid, and you are doing it “right.”
Regardless of what you do, regardless of what choices you make, your identity and your gender (or lack thereof) is 100% valid.
There is no right or wrong way to do gender. Others may try to police you, or tell you that you need to do certain things in order to be trans - even other trans people – but I want you to know that when they do, they are in the wrong, not you. There is no wrong way to be trans. Your experience of gender is your own, and no one else’s.
- You deserve respect – so don’t apologize for demanding it.
I spent a lot of time apologizing when I asked people to use my pronouns, and in hindsight, that was ridiculous. I deserve respect; I shouldn’t be misgendered, I shouldn’t be excluded, I shouldn’t be made to feel unsafe, I shouldn’t be made to feel like my existence is a burden on others. Asking people to respect me and honor my identity should never have been something I apologized for – and you shouldn’t apologize, either.
People will, at some point or another, try to make you feel like your identity is an inconvenience, or that they’re doing you a favor by using your correct name and pronouns, but remember this: you don’t need to kiss anyone’s ass just because they treated you the way that you should be treated.
Your identity is not a burden – society’s strict adherence to an outdated and confining gender binary, and failure to recognize and affirm you – is the real burden.
The constant misgendering, microaggressions, harassment and even violence that we face as transgender individuals is a burden that far exceeds what anyone who calls YOUR identity a burden will ever experience.
You deserve respect without pandering, without begging, without people asking for cookies or pats on the back. You deserve respect, period.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I know firsthand, from being in the community and connected with you all, that NB folks often grapple with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. And because we’re afraid of being misgendered and we’re afraid of having our identities dismantled or interrogated, we’re less likely to seek help.
Many people are afraid to come out as trans to their therapist, because they are afraid of being forced into an educator role in a situation where they are supposed to be the client.
Seek out a therapist that is trans-friendly. Remember that you have the right to find a therapist that you connect with and that you like, and you have the right to walk out or discontinue therapy at any time if your counselor does not treat you how you should be treated. Don’t settle for lousy care – if you aren’t getting what you need, keep looking. You are worth it.
- Your body is a non-binary body, no matter what it looks like.
There is an undeniable abundance of thin, traditionally masculine, able-bodied white people without a single curve to be found that are advertised as androgynous bodies. But here’s the truth: You can be fat and curvy and be androgynous. You can be a person of color and, undoubtedly, be neutrois. You can have boobs and be transmasculine.
What makes a body non-binary is not what it looks like – it’s the person that lives in that body, and identifies that way.
If you feel pressure to pass, to conform, to look a certain way just to feel valid as your gender, I hope you know that your body is a valid non-binary body no matter what shape or form it takes.
- External validation is great, but self-love is revolutionary.
It’s powerful when we receive validation from others. But I wish someone had reminded me a little earlier on how important self-love is, too. As we weather microaggressions and dysphoria and oppression, we need to take care of ourselves.
The act of loving ourselves in a society which seldom acknowledges us or affirms us is politically powerful, and psychologically necessary.
While it’s important that those around us respect us, it’s equally important that we put in the work and respect ourselves.
How often are you practicing self-care and self-love? If it’s not often, it might be time to reevaluate your priorities – and put yourself first for a change.
- You are not alone.
It can feel that way, to be sure. The loneliness is compounded because most folks still cannot see us the way that we see ourselves. It’s complicated to exist outside of what most people have never been asked to imagine.
But it’s worth remembering that you are not the only non-binary person in this world. NB folks have existed everywhere, across cultures and across time. You are not alone in your feelings, experiences, and fears.
If you are feeling isolated, there are so many resources (and more resources, and more), as well as online communities that are waiting for you. And you can come exactly as you are – you don’t need to be out, and you don’t need to be certain.
Sometimes it helps to know that you’re not the only one going through this.
- Your voice is important, and you deserve a seat at the table.
Your experiences of marginalization, oppression, and fear are important. And every community that you are a part of – whether you’re a person of color, a person with a disability, working class, atheist – should be including you, and valuing your unique contributions.
We are too often pushed to the margins, both in the trans community but also in other communities that we are a part of.
And I want to remind you that your voice is important to all of those conversations – you should never be excluded from any discussion that you are personally connected to.
If you’re being pushed out, don’t apologize for pushing back. You are not alone in this, and your experiences are real and meaningful. Your voice matters.
I wish you, and all of my trans/non-binary siblings a safe, healthy, and beautiful journey as you explore your (a)gender. Please know that I am with you every step of the way, and my inbox is always open.
More resources and links can be found under my Gender Identity Resources tag.