Breaking From the Binary

Written on 07/27/2021
Jayme Tucker


Last week we delved into some of the terms to describe the gender spectrum and some common terms used by and for non-binary people. There are a lot of myths about what makes somebody non-binary, so today, we’re going to unpack some of those.

You can’t be non-binary AND (a man/woman/trans/etc.): This was mentioned in passing last week, but anyone who is non-binary can certainly be an enby man or an enby woman or even be trans and non-binary. For some, those identities reflect the way they were raised and socialized as an AFAB or AMAB person, which impacts the way they navigate the world and trauma or barriers they may face.

You can tell someone is non-binary by the way they look: The common aesthetic of non-binary in mainstream media is often thin, white, and AFAB. This is but a small part of the vast, diverse community of non-binary people. The common image of a white AFAB as the non-binary ideal is damaging to AMAB enbies and non-binary people of colour. People who are non-binary do not owe the world androgyny and can look however they choose.

Non-binary identities is just a trend: Historically, being neither a man nor a woman, or being both, or not being anything has been around for thousands of years. The Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut was an AFAB royal who wore the traditional beard and wig of a male monarch. Third genders have existed in Indigenous and ancient Mesopotamian cultures for as long as there have been records to keep.

This is all just confusing. Why do I have to learn all of this: While the amount of new information regarding the vast spectrum of LGBTQ+ may be overwhelming, a lot of the tips to be an ally boils down to being a nice person. Calling someone by their wrong name, misgendering them, and consistently opposing reasonable requests for respect by an enby or trans person can greatly damage relationships and contribute to depression and alienation. Breaking your language away from the gender binary (saying ‘folks’ instead of ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ deferring to ‘they,’ introducing yourself with your own pronouns, etc.) is something you likely do already (for example, when someone has lost a wallet), and it fosters greater inclusion for everyone, including the people in your life who are non-binary.

Next week we’re going to deep dive into pronouns, how to use them, and why they’re so important to get right!

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