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

Updated on March 2, 2014

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.

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

... and you're 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.

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

... 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.

No clothing sizes anywhere make sense...

... 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.

You are not obliged to appear androgynous...

... or 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. You are obliged 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.

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.

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

Develop ways of explaining things to people...

... because it may not be your responsibility to educate them, but 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).

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.

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

... whatever that may mean for you. 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.)

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

... 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.

Questions & Answers

    What do You Wish Someone Had Told You?

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      • profile image

        Laura 16 months ago

        *stands up, clapping* thank you so freaking much, this really helped me out a ton. I'm fifteen and I've been going to church my entire life. Last year, I relized I'm bisexual, but i still didnt feel like any partiular gender. I was reading one day and the author said that they were nonbinary, so i looked it up and i relized that i dont have to fit inside anyone's box, nor do i have to play by socity's rules. I've been surrounded by people who judge and literally hate anyone that isn't cis and straight, so i have a really hard time being myself, especially when a common belief at my church is that pants are of the devil, so i really can't even dress my style. I shaved off the sides of my hair and left the top long and my dad called me a lesbian. I've only been able to tell three of my closest friends (whom of which are from my snobby church) that I'm bisexual but i don't know if i should tell them I'm nonbinary, also. I feel like their already wary of me as it is. It's extremely comforting to me that there are other people like me out there some where and i hope to find them when i get out of my parent's house. Again, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this post. I hope that it boosts my confidence in who I am.

      • profile image

        Harley 24 months ago

        I've been thinking about my gender for a couple of years and came out to some of my friends as nb last month, and i'd just like to say that I really needed to hear this. Facing all the discrimination and everything that's out there seems pretty daunting, but I think i'm ready to give it a shot :3

      • profile image

        LivJ 2 years ago

        This is a great list of sensible advice :)

      • letstalkabouteduc profile image

        McKenna Meyers 2 years ago from Bend, OR

        I know nothing about this so thanks for giving me some knowledge.

      • profile image

        shmee 2 years ago

        i love this so much - thank you!

      • profile image

        Kationary 2 years ago

        Thanks! Sometimes I pretend I'm a secret agent, avoiding hate from America's Heartland (they don't quite get much of anything outside the box). As much as I'd love to be a walking, talking superhero of the cause, I'm much more of the cowardly lion type. All these tips were very validating for me :)

      • profile image

        Mélanie 2 years ago

        Thank you so much !

      • profile image

        Pey'j 2 years ago

        Even now two years into my acceptance as non-binary this really touched me and helped me out. Thank you so much for helping show me people out their really understand.

      • owlish profile image

        owlish 2 years ago from Cheshire

        Thank you. This is a great post, very affirming and makes me smile :)

      • queerlyobscure profile image

        Cecil Wilde 3 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

        Please feel free to link to it wherever you like!

      • profile image

        evan 3 years ago

        Sorry I keep getting distracted, this article is super great. Can I use this as resource on trans support website?

      • profile image

        Evan 3 years ago

        She is going into early childhood education I thought it be important to tell her that not every child will be a boy and girl or would be their assumed gender. I could've tried to explain better but was mental exhausted.

      • queerlyobscure profile image

        Cecil Wilde 3 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

        I'm sorry to hear that, Evan. People can be really horrible about this kind of thing, but non-binary people are very real, don't doubt that for a moment.

      • profile image

        Evan 3 years ago

        I just recently had an awful encounter with someone trying to tell that what I was telling them wasn't a thing because of of the sexes.

      • profile image

        Julie Bozza 3 years ago

        I love it! Three cheers for your manifesto. ♥

      • profile image

        Elia 3 years ago

        I'm so thankful you wrote all this because I really feel tons better now. Especially the 'doing nothing about it' part is very important to me because so much about trans-ness focusses on changing your everything and coming out and all that stuff and MAYBE I will want any of that some day but for now I'm content as I am.

        Thank you so much!

      • profile image

        Pacermist 3 years ago

        Beautiful :)

        I've only recently decided to 'come out' as a non-binary to a few of my closest friends and my boyfriend, and their response was amazingly respectful and loving. This post actually helped me immensely and I feel all warm and fluttery inside.

        Thank-you, genuinely.

      • profile image

        3 years ago

        Thank you, I needed this. Seriously. :)

      • profile image

        Abigail 3 years ago

        This seriously helped boost my understanding of myself!


      • profile image

        Gaudior 3 years ago

        Awww. Thank you very much, that's very helpful.


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