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10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Being Non-Binary

Writer, reader, person of multi-coloured hair. Crocheter, gamer, and otherwise upstanding member of the internet.

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This is something of an essay, something of a manifesto, something of an unplanned but honest outpouring of thoughts on my experiences as a non-binary trans* person. I hope that, if you're in the middle of your gender identity journey, this is helpful to you. I hope that if you're here as a binary-identified person, you leave more enlightened about your non-binary siblings.

1. You have your whole life to work out your gender identity.

Not only do you have your whole life, but you're also not obliged to ever really work it out at all. You can change your mind and learn more about yourself until you gasp your last breath at 103. You can tell people one thing one week and a different thing the next, and while they may roll their eyes a little (can't you make up your mind?), the ones worth worrying about will accept it and smile cheerfully. Those are the people you want in your life.

2. No one is ever really going to grasp what it means to be non-binary.

No one, that is, besides those who experience it first-hand. This is okay, and it doesn't mean they can't be wonderful, gender-affirming friends, colleagues and lovers. They can still understand that it's important to do the things you ask of them regarding your gender. Anyone who claims they can't is being deliberately obtuse and isn't worth your time.

3. No clothing sizes anywhere make sense.

This is true regardless of the gender marked on them. Clothes will never make a lick of sense. Don't worry about the sizing.

It seems trivial, but believe me when I say that it will save you a lot of heartache to just accept that you have to try everything on. If change room attendants try to stop you, take your business elsewhere. If you really need to shop in that place, go back when it's someone else's shift or take a friend who's willing to confront them for you if necessary. Safety in numbers and all.

4. You are not obliged to appear androgynous.

You don't have to look androgynous, nor do you have to look like the gender you feel today. You are not obliged to be a waif-like ethereal David Bowie/Tilda Swinton queer with brightly coloured hair.

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You are obliged, however, to make yourself happy with your appearance. If that means brightly coloured hair (which I personally recommend, but isn't for everyone) and a dozen facial piercings and a wild haircut, then you do that. If it means natural hair cut whatever way the hairdresser decides and whatever clothes you thought were cool and could afford, then do that. You don't have to change your body or your name, you don't have to hide anything, but if that's what you want, then you absolutely can. There are no rules and you should view anyone trying to make them with great suspicion.

5. When faced with forms and surveys that insist you can only be 'male' or 'female'...

...it is acceptable—encouraged, even—to mess with the creators of those forms by putting down whatever you like. If 'gender' is such an important question that it can't go unanswered, punish them for their binarism by screwing up their numbers.

6. You will, as an adult in the real world, have to put up with people being awful.

People are going to be awful about your gender identity. You can be consistently combative about it, call them on it and insist on correct terms and the right name, or you can just let them continue to be awful and not start a fight. Either one, whichever makes you feel safest and happiest, is fine. You don't have to be a 24/7 gender warrior. You have to survive. That's all.

7. Develop ways of explaining things to people.

Though it may not be your responsibility to educate other people, when you have the energy and the willpower to do so, it's often worth it. Ignorance is usually not at all malicious. But also, learn how to end a conversation that isn't getting you anywhere when you want to get out of it. You don't have to waste your time on people who aren't interested in hearing you out and respecting you once they know how. (You don't have to waste your time on anyone.)

8. It's okay to hide.

it's okay to live as your assigned gender. It's okay if you're realising that you don't fit into the gender boxes marked 'male' or 'female' and do absolutely nothing about it. It is completely, one-hundred-percent acceptable to know you are non-binary and do absolutely nothing about it.

9. It's also okay to want to transition.

It's okay to live as whatever gender you like. It's okay to get hormones, surgery, to make people call you by the right pronouns and badger your doctor into letting you put an X in the spot for gender on your ID. (It's okay to shop around for a doctor who'll take you seriously and want to help you, if you need one. It's okay to storm out of their offices shouting obscenities if they don't.)

10. Eventually, you will hear that you're not trans* enough.

At some point in time, you will hear that you're a 'trans trender', a butch lesbian, a drag queen. This will hurt, because it's going to come from binary trans* people as much as it does from cis people. It's going to come from people you thought would treat you better. It's going to happen at trans* meetups and GSA meetings. Ignore. It. It's not true, and you deserve support and acceptance as much as anyone else. You do not need to be more trans* to have a community. You already have one. We're here, honey, and our doors are always open to you.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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