Non-Binary People: How to Be Supportive
~ Authored by Candace Woodside
What does Non-Binary mean? It is a term people use to describe any gender identity that doesn’t fall into either a male or female category. Society recognizes just two genders, male and female. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Non-Binary as “denoting or relating to a gender or sexual identity that is not defined in terms of traditional binary oppositions such as male and female or homosexual and heterosexual.” The idea that there are only two genders is sometimes called a “gender binary,” because binary means “having two parts” (male and female). This blog is to start a conversation about what this means to the binary population and how they can be supportive.
Similar to calling someone “hearing impaired,” consider carefully the identifying terms you use. To start with, watch this Deaf Transgender person’s journey.
Terms and Definitions
According to Wikipedia, Genderqueer, also known as Non–Binary, is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities which are outside the gender binary. Genderqueer people may express a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither, in their gender expression. Many non-binary people wish to appear androgynous and adopt unisex names. They prefer neutral titles and/or gender-neutral pronouns. Some prefer to express themselves in ways as masculine or feminine or even mix the two.
Research is a first place to start when people do not understand a word or a concept. This is a hard concept to grasp for some. If only we would just remember that we are all human, and then focus on learning and trying to understand each other’s differences, that would be a beginning to a better world.
Tips to Assist with Being Respectful
Dead Names: It is disrespectful to call a transgender person by their former name (dead name) rather than the name that they chose for themselves. Some consider their dead name a secret that shouldn’t be put in public at all.
Pronouns: It is disrespectful to call a person by pronouns other then those that they ask for. It is acceptable to ask, “What pronouns do you prefer?”
Words for a person’s gender, assigned and otherwise: It is disrespectful to label a person’s gender other than they ask for. It is more respectful to use the acronym AFAB/AMAB, which stands for “assigned female at birth/assigned male at birth” rather that stating that “it was discovered that Smith was really a woman.”
Do not say that the person is “confused or looks Non-Binary”: It is disrespectful to mention that the person looks non-binary. It simply is impossible to know if someone is non-binary by the way they look. It is so important to ask them. Also, know that you don’t have to be equally masculine and feminine to be non-binary.
Understand that ALL non-binary people do not feel they were “born in the wrong body”: Some people feel that they were assigned the wrong gender based on other people’s misconceptions about their bodies. Some feel that is isn’t brain chemistry, but a disagreement with the whole system of gender.
It is not ALL about being Politically Correct-It is part of being a nice person: It is important to educate ourselves about non-binary identity and try to understand how the people in our own lives identify? It makes us more supportive friends, partners, family members, and human beings.
Educate Yourself-Learn Some Terms
Androgynous-both masculine and feminine gender identity.
Agender-is also called genderblank, genderfree, genderless or null gender. They have no gender identity.
Bigender-have two distinct gender identities, either at the same time, or different times.
Gender-fluid-is an identity under the multigender, nonbinary, and transgender umbrellas. They have different gender identities at different times.
Mx-is meant to be a gender neutral alternative to the titles Mr. and Ms. It gives no gender title.
Neutrois-is a transsexual identity, meaning a desire to make a physical transition (gender dysphoria) to a gender neutral presentation.
Pangender-is to have multiple gender identities. (similar to Bigender).
Xenogender-is a neutral or unrecognized gender identity.