Nonbinary FAQ

Firstly let me begin by thanking the nonbinary people who helped me make this happen:

Alex Z
CA Emmett
Amanda Baker

And various others.

A special thanks to all the wonderful people who asked questions and TSMU Cardiff for inspiring the blog post in the first place.

This has been a 5 day labour of love. There have been tears. There have been sleepless nights. There have almost been meltdowns. I don’t claim to have all the answers or speak for the community as a whole, but I hope I’ve covered enough that this can be a comprehensive FAQ.

As many of you know I cannot work much due to the world not being particularly autism friendly, so if you fancy buying me a coffee for my work, here’s my Pay Pal  (It’s under my dead name obviously.)

1) What is nonbinary?
2)How do you know you are nonbinary?
3) How do you compliment nonbinary people?
4) Why is it a problem to ask what nonbinary people really are?
5) Do nonbinary people want children?
6) Why would a nonbinary person keep/choose a traditionally feminine or masculine name?
7) If you don’t associate with male or female identity, why would you want to medically transition?
8) Why can’t a nonbinary person just stick to being a man or woman and dress as the opposite gender to be more vague?
9) What’s the most important thing allies can do to make sure nonbinary people can be themselves in their company?
10) Isn’t menstruation a clear gender marker?
11) What does your brain say when you ask it if you’re male or female?
12) How do nonbinary people fit into discussions about gender based oppression?
13) What do you call groups of people without excluding nonbinary people?
14) If proceeding with an intimate relationship, what must someone be aware of that may be different from a relationship with someone who isn’t nonbinary?
15) Does being nonbinary mean you are polyamorous?
16) How do terms like genderqueer and gendervague differ from nonbinary?
17) Are nonbinary people just trying to be quirky?
18) Can I just say NB?
19) Should nonbinary people be excluded from women only spaces?
20) Are nonbinary people intersex?
21) Can nonbinary people use hormones to become men or women?
22) Is nonbinary what trans people are before they are done medically transitioning?
23) Is nonbinary a developmental condition?
24) Why are nonbinary people considered part of the trans community?
25) Are the femme/masc descriptives owned by the gay community?
26) Do you hate lesbians?
27) How does the community deal with toxic masculinity?
28) Do nonbinary people discourage discourse on what it is to be a man or a woman and therefore hinder efforts to abolish the patriarchy?
29) Are nonbinary people gay?
30) Why not just choose either gender?
31) Are you allowed to wear dresses and grow beards?
32) Do you only date other nonbinary people?
33) How do you know what toilets to use?
34) Can you get a passport?
35) What do your parents call you?
36) Do all nonbinary people transition?
37) How many genders are there?
38) Do you have to be androgynous to be nonbinary?
39) Some people say they feel like a man some days and a woman another. How can this be?
40) So you can just pick a gender when you wake up?
41) What do your kids call you and does it confuse them?
42) Does nonbinary mean sort of like a woman but not for people assigned male at birth?
43) Is nonbinary a new thing?
44) How do nonbinary people decide they want to take hormones?
45) Is it possible to raise children gender neutral?
46) How can you feel like you have no gender?
47) Why do we need labels?
48) Can you still claim to have nonbinary identity if you tick your assigned gender on forms?
49) If gender was removed from society, would nonbinary still exist?
50) Do nonbinary people want to end gender?
51) Enby?
52) What are nonbinary men and women? That doesn’t make sense.
53) What pronouns do nonbinary people use?

1) What is nonbinary?

To understand what nonbinary is, you must first accept that there is a system in place that dictates that there are only two genders and that your gender is assigned by what genitals you have at birth. Nonbinary people reject this as an absolute.

Sometimes our gender partially matches the one we were assigned at birth and sometimes it doesn’t match it at all. For example someone could partially identify with being a woman and have been assigned female at birth.

Nonbinary in itself is an umbrella term and can encompass various identities such as agender, genderfluid and demi man/woman but not all of these identities will always identify as being nonbinary or trans. (Gender is complicated!!!)

2) How do you know you are nonbinary?

For me personally it was always feeling uneasy being called a girl and not feeling comfortable being called a boy. I rejected everything that was traditionally and stereotypically expected of these genders. Deep within me I felt that I didn’t fit these narrow definitions and that there had to be something more.

Others have described it as feeling like an outsider in their gender identity and expression.

A friend of mine described it beautifully as being a triangle peg being forced into square or circular sockets.

3) How do you compliment nonbinary people?

It’s always a good idea to make sure the intended person is comfortable receiving compliments from you. I would steer clear of anything appearance based because gender identity is complex.

Once you know the person better, you can ask what sort of compliments they prefer. My partners call me handsome, beautiful, perfect, cute, silly, dashing and gorgeous. Sure some of those are gendered and ridiculous, but I love, trust and appreciate my partners. If a random cis guy on the street told me I was beautiful, I would automatically assume he thought I was a woman and feel dysphoric.

4) Why is it a problem to ask what nonbinary people really are?

Nonbinary people are nonbinary and that is valid. What you want to know I’m guessing is what gender they were assigned at birth. That is super invasive and irrelevant.

It is generally considered rude to ask personal questions about people’s pasts unless you have been given permission to do so.

5) Do nonbinary people want children?

As with all people, some of us do and some of us don’t. Some of us can and some of us can’t. Some adopt. Some don’t.

6) Why would a nonbinary person keep/choose a traditionally feminine or masculine name?

In theory names don’t have genders. They’re just random sequences of letters. Some people embrace this and others choose names that match their identities.

Names ultimately dictate how people will gender nonbinary people. I have chosen the name Frankie. It’s quite ambiguous as is my gender presentation.

Overall it is what the person feels most comfortable with and has no bearing on the validity of their gender.

7) If you don’t associate with male or female identity, why would you want to medically transition?

For some dysphoria and gender identity are unrelated. For others they are interconnected.

I am medically transitioning because being more masculine and being read as as more masculine helps me feel comfortable in my own skin. My boobs don’t give me dysphoria but I am going to have them removed because people gender me as a woman by looking at my chest. If I lived in a world where that didn’t happen, I might not have top surgery at all.

Every single nonbinary person is different. Some of us medically transition and some of us do not.

8) Why can’t a nonbinary person just stick to being a man or woman and dress as the opposite gender to be more vague?

They probably never were a man or a woman so it’s not something they can stick to. Being nonbinary is not a choice. It’s just who some people are.

Trying to force themselves to present as a man or a woman rather than being openly themselves can be extremely painful in a similar way to a gay person spending their whole life pretending to be straight.

9) What’s the most important thing allies can do to make sure nonbinary people can be themselves in their company?

For me a few things that make me really comfortable and feel appreciated are;

People who take on introductions with pronouns so I don’t feel like the elephant in the room. For example: Hi my name is Bill and my pronouns are he/him. Events with name and pronoun badges are also appreciated.

The use of gender neutral language and correcting those who are cissexist. For example conversations around only women being able to have babies and group addresses of ladies and gentlemen.

Listening to us and not dismissing our concerns because they don’t affect you.

I could go on and on.

10) Isn’t menstruation a clear gender marker?

Whilst periods have been traditionally associated with women, when we include trans, nonbinary and intersex people in the conversation, we can see that this characteristic appears across all genders, body types and configurations.

As with everything, different nonbinary people have varying feelings about menstruation.

Personally I hate it. The bloating gives me dysphoria because it makes me more curvy. Mooncups help with the messy part.

The advertising for menstrual products does not include nonbinary people or trans men and this needs to change.

11) What does your brain say when you ask it if you’re male or female?

I am not either of those genders, although my gender comprises aspects of both and neither.

12) How do nonbinary people fit into discussions about gender based oppression?

If you go through the world experiencing misogyny, then discussions surrounding women and fem aligned nonbinary people involve you.

If you traverse the world with an element of male privilege without experiencing misogyny, then discussions surrounding women and fem aligned nonbinary people are not about you.

Nonbinary people face their own challenges too. Many of us experience issues with the way people perceive us affecting our use of public facilities, health care and leisure activities.

I feel if we are not excluded and erased from discussions about gender based oppression (where applicable), we might be able to come up with better answers and solutions to questions like these.

This was a difficult question to answer.

13) What do you call groups of people without excluding nonbinary people?

Referring to people as, “ladies and gentlemen” is a sure fire way to erase marginalised gender identities across the board. Other terms you could use include:

Folks
People
Esteemed guests
Friends
Crew
Peeps
You lot
Team
Gang

Get creative! Include everyone!

14) If proceeding with an intimate relationship, what must someone be aware of that may be different from a relationship with someone who isn’t nonbinary?

It’s important to speak openly with any potential partners about this at the beginning of the relationship to find out what their individual needs are.

It’s vital to acknowledge that your partner will likely experience transphobia and nonbinary erasure and that you will need to take some of that head on, especially if you are not from a marginalised group yourself.

You’ll need to be supportive of any medical or social transition which may be happening currently or in the future.

We often prefer different pet names due to gendered associations. Ask us!

When it comes to sex, some acts may validate our identities and others may invalidate them. Don’t assume that our genitals dictates what sex acts we like. Talk to us and have fun finding out what works for your relationship dynamic.

15) Does being nonbinary mean you are polyamorous?

No.

I am polyamorous. Other nonbinary people I know are monogamous.

16) How do terms like genderqueer and gendervague differ from nonbinary?

Nonbinary and genderqueer are both umbrella terms. GQ in itself is the queering of gender both socially and politically as well as having a non-normative gender. You can be both. There are lots of overlaps.

Gendervague is a term stemming from the neurodivergent community and refers to a nonbinary gender identity held specifically by a neurodivergent person.

17) Are nonbinary people just trying to be quirky?

No. Nonbinary people face discrimination from every angle, so to go through all of that just to be quirky would be a bit ridiculous.

18) Can I just say NB?

NB is an abbreviation used by people of colour to refer to non-black people of colour. Using it would be appropriation.

You can use nonbinary or enby (with the person’s permission.)

19) Should nonbinary people be excluded from women only spaces?

I think the answer to this lies in question 12, but additionally we already use women only spaces such as gendered toilets because no other options are available to us. Include nonbinary people in the discussion so we can come to a workable and acceptable solution that benefits women too.

20) Are nonbinary people intersex?

Intersex and non-binary are different things. To quote the UK Intersex Association, “Intersex people are individuals whose anatomy or physiology differ from contemporary cultural stereotypes of what constitute typical male and female.” We might broadly explain the difference as Intersex relating to sex and non-binary as relating to gender. Some Intersex people might identify as non-binary/trans, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. Go read this – http://www.ukia.co.uk/ukia/what-is-intersex.html

21) Can nonbinary people use hormones to become men or women?

No. Taking hormones doesn’t change your gender and won’t make you into a man or woman. It changes some physical aspects (e.g. taking testosterone can make you grow facial / body hair, lower your voice, etc) but just as someone can be nonbinary with their bodies built in hormones, they can still be nonbinary when they take hormones.

Medical transitions – whether it’s taking hormones, having surgery, etc – aren’t what determine a person’s gender. Gender is neurological / psychological, and sometimes has a cultural aspect to it. Medical treatments are usually done to get rid of physical discomfort with aspects of one’s body or to match up with traditional ideas of what a man / woman looks like. They are not done to change a person’s gender.

22) Is nonbinary what trans people are before they are done medically transitioning?

No. Nonbinary is a category within the trans community, referring to people whose gender falls outside of traditional ideas of men / women.

A person can be nonbinary for their entire life, regardless of whether they transition or not. And someone can be a trans man / woman for their entire life, including before they transition or if they never transition. Transitioning doesn’t determine a person’s gender; their gender is who they are regardless of their medical circumstances.

Not all transitions are medical either. Social transition is a thing.

23) Is nonbinary a developmental condition?

There is no evidence to suggest that being trans or nonbinary has anything to do with neurological development.

24) Why are nonbinary people considered part of the trans community?

The definition of transgender is not wholly identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth, right? So as a nonbinary person I was assigned female at birth which is incorrect. That’s why I identify as transgender.

The experiences of trans men, trans women, and nonbinary people have a lot of similarities.

However, it’s worth noting that some trans people and some non-binary people don’t see it the same way. There are trans people who deliberately exclude nonbinary folks from the community because they don’t believe that nonbinary people are real. (Truscum.) There are nonbinary people who feel that their experiences, while having some links to trans people’s, are different enough that there should be two separate communities. There are also nonbinary people who don’t identify as trans because they have been mistreated by other trans people so much that they don’t feel comfortable being in the trans community.

25) Are the fem/masc descriptives owned by the gay community?

Policing personal identities is problematic.
Saying nonbinary persons, aren’t part of the gay community is problematic.

Feminine/fem and masculine/masc do not belong to any one community. (I do wonder though if there was something quite colonial about feeling the terms belong to gay people when no doubt, like most things, they evolved from POC queer and trans culture.)

Nonbinary people can be queer so are often part of both communities anyway.

There is some great information if you want to delve deeper into this:

HERE

HERE

26) Do you hate lesbians?

Absolutely not.

There have certainly been some questionable behaviour from TERf lesbians lately, but ultimately lesbians are an integral part of the wider LGBTQIA community and we share many of the same struggles.

27) How does the community deal with toxic masculinity?

Nonbinary people can have internalised misogyny. It can take years to realise this and start dismantling it. As a nonbinary white person, I totally reproduce toxic white masculinity, because we’re socially conditioned from birth that that’s what power looks like. AFAB and AMAB, nonbinary, cis and trans, we all have to work daily to dismantle that conditioning within ourselves, including cis women too.

Recognising toxic masculinity and dismantling it is important for any community.

28) Do nonbinary people discourage discourse on what it is to be a man or a woman and therefore hinder efforts to abolish the patriarchy?

The patriarchy oppresses nonbinary people, so abolishing it benefits us too.

As a community we don’t tend to shy away from conversations about gender, especially when it comes to toxic stereotypes. The idea that we don’t respect binary gender is a myth, mostly orchestrated by truscum and TERfs.

29) Are nonbinary people gay?

Some of us are. Some of us aren’t.

As with all people, a variety of sexualities present themselves within the nonbinary community. I am pansexual for example.

30) Why not just choose either gender?

Gender is not a choice so one cannot be chosen.

31) Are you allowed to wear dresses and grow beards?

Any person of any gender is allowed to wear dresses, beards etc. Access and safety can be an issue. This may prevent people from having what they really want.

Imagine a world where we can all express our gender safely? Let’s make that happen.

32) Do you only date other nonbinary people?

Who someone dates is an individual choice. In dating, yours or other people’s gender may be very important, not important at all, or anywhere in between. And it’s not necessarily static either. Who you want to date can change over time.

Saying you don’t want to date someone you are attracted to explicitly because they are nonbinary is transphobia.

33) How do you know what toilets to use?

If there is a gender neutral toilet available, it’s straightforward. If there isn’t one, it’s a judgement call based on various factors. One key factor is how safe the men’s or women’s toilets seem to be to the individual person.

Toilets are a big problem if there is anything remotely ambiguous about your gender presentation. Personally it causes me a lot of anxiety and I’m waiting for the day I get beaten up in binary toilets. Sometimes I’ll just have to hold on because I’m too scared.

More gender neutral toilets are the answer here.

34) Can you get a passport?

Yes, but I have to lie about my gender as there are currently only two options. The idea that nonbinary identities are valid is gaining traction in UK politics and across the world, so hopefully one day we can all stop lying.

35) What do your parents call you?

Personally my parents don’t call me anything because I cut them out after five years of them continuing to deadname and misgender me. Luckily I have some other folks to help out here……

Some nonbinary people like son or daughter. If not though, there’s lots of ways for a parent to avoid using a gendered word about their child. Eg when asked if they have kids, something like, “Yes, I have three” rather than “Yes, I have two girls and a boy.” Or eg when asked something about their kid, “My kid likes…” or “One of my kids is really into…” or “My youngest is …” etc.

36) Do all nonbinary people transition?

Not everyone wants to or can socially or medically transition. The important part here is that what anyone chooses to do to their body is absolutely up to them and not anyone else and those choices are 100% valid.

Deciding you want something doesn’t necessarily mean you can access it. Trans healthcare gatekeeping is a problem in the UK. Add additional factors, such as ableism, and it creates more barriers. Have a disability? Chronically ill? Autistic? The chances for accessing what you want are affected by all these and more.

37) How many genders are there?

Who knows? Infinite? How you describe and define your gender can be widely different from someone else. There are labels which are in more common use, but sometimes people use them as an umbrella term, or as a shortcut to more or less describe their gender. The main thing to consider when using a gender label is not to appropriate, eg not using “two-spirit” if you’re not of Native American/First Nations peoples.

38) Do you have to be androgynous to be nonbinary?

Gender presentation and gender identity are two different things. For example I am genderfluid in my identity, yet my presentation is nearly always masculine because I get misgendered too much if I present in any other way.

Nonbinary does not have a dress code.

39) Some people say they feel like a man some days and a woman another. How can this be?

Genderfluidity comes under the nonbinary umbrella more often than not. This means your gender is liable to change. It can be the same for years at a time, or it can change pretty regularly. It doesn’t necessarily have to be man or woman either.

It is 100% valid.

40) So you can just pick a gender when you wake up?

These types of questions show your nonbinary friends that you don’t think they are valid and they grow to distrust you.

Gender is not a choice. We often don’t realise we are nonbinary until we are older because we have been so indoctrinated by the binary gender system. This damaging for reasons discussed above.

41) What do your kids call you and does it confuse them?

“Mine call me Johnny, or Nahni, which my 4 year old randomly started calling me? And I’m cool with it because it doesn’t sound gendered like Mommy or Daddy. They’re not confused either, they’re super accepting and just roll with it, it’s their normal.”

“I’ve started referring to myself as “sanny” when talking to my cat as a mommy/daddy equivalent.”

It seems like talking to children and explaining to them works really well. Who knew!?

42) Does nonbinary mean sort of like a woman but not for people assigned male at birth?

See point 1.

AMAB nonbinary people aren’t anymore women than AFAB nonbinary people, unless that’s how they identify.

43) Is nonbinary a new thing?

When I came out in 2012 I don’t remember the term nonbinary being a thing, but it may well have just been off my radar.

The term seems relatively new but the concept dates back millennia, stifled by European and religious colonialism across the globe. Countries such as India had vibrant transgender communities before British colonialism for example.

44) How do nonbinary people decide they want to take hormones?

For me personally, it was the realisation that the more masculine I was the more comfortable I was in my own skin. So taking testosterone would further masculinise me and help me live a little more comfortably in the world.

Everyone except my close trans/nonbinary friends told me it was a bad idea, but at this point it was medical transition or death. There were no other options and it was an absolutely fabulous idea. I’ve never felt more valid in my life.

45) Is it possible to raise children gender neutral?

Yes. I know at least two people who are doing it. One is a trans man and the other is transmasculine nonbinary. They both gave birth to their children and have both declined to assign them a gender, preferring that the child have a gender neutral name and assign their own gender when they are able to do so.

Many of us could only have dreamed of this childhood and I wish more people with the privilege to do so, would raise their kids gender neutral.

46) How can you feel like you have no gender?

Not all nonbinary people feel this way. I certainly do not. (See point 1.)

Agender people sometimes feel as if no gender descriptive matches their identity. They may have a gender, but it’s not definable. Other agender people state that they have no gender or that gender is a mystery to them. This is all valid.

47) Why do we need labels?

You can read more about labels HERE.

In brief:

“My labels have brought some of the best people into my life. We have bonded over similar struggles and we have stood strong in the face of transphobia, homophobia and ableism. They give me a blanket of safety I can run and hide under when the allistic, transphobic world gets too much and they understand exactly why I need to do that.

It means when I’m out at the pub with my friends I’m not gonna get misgendered or called aggressive because of my autistic style of communicating. It means I was encouraged to be my authentic self at Trans Pride by being topless . It was the safety of having these people around me which allowed me to work up the courage to medically transition.”

48) Can you still claim to have nonbinary identity if you tick your assigned gender on forms?

Absolutely. The world is not currently setup for nonbinary people and whilst it is getting better, most forms only have two boxes to tick. If you don’t tick them, forms can be rejected.

49) If gender was removed from society, would nonbinary still exist?
50) Do nonbinary people want to end gender?

I’ve stuck these two together because I think the answer is the same.

Nonbinary people generally do not want to end gender altogether because it would mean ending their own identity and the identities of others. It is an important part of the human experience whether it is a binary or nonbinary gender.

What we want is an end to the gender binary as noted in point 1. We want a world where we are all accepted and celebrated for who we are.

51) Enby?

Enby is a slang term for nonbinary. Some of us love it and some of us hate it.

I embrace it. Others state that it’s infantilising and prefer you not to use it.

Ask!?

52) What are nonbinary men and women? That doesn’t make sense.

It means that they identify a lot with being a man or woman, but it does not make up the entirety of their identity. For example my best friend describes himself as a nonbinary trans man.

53) What pronouns do nonbinary people use?

They/them is very common, but nonbinary people use the whole spectrum of pronouns. You can make nonbinary people feel comfortable be addressing yourself and stating your pronouns.

Hi my name is Jane and my pronouns are she/her. How about you?

Oh my name is Frankie and my pronouns are they/them. 🙂

The chart below outlines some basics of alternative pronouns. These are not common, but they exist nonetheless.

HE/SHE HIM/HER HIS/HER HIS/HERS HIMSELF/HERSELF
zie zim zir zis zieself
sie sie hir hirs hirself
ey em eir eirs eirself
ve ver vis vers verself
tey ter tem ters terself
e em eir eirs emself

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And that’s all folks! 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Labels

Everyone’s first experience of a label is the one they are given at birth. The one about 99% of us carry with us for our entire lives: our sex and gender. Everything you do and anything you will ever be is determined by that label in a patriarchal society. Those of us who reject the label given to us at birth are shunned by society and subject to systemic discrimination, yet society at large doesn’t seem keen on labels as a whole.

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Fast forward to 1999. I’m 14 years old and I’ve just started a new school. (I had to leave/was expelled from my two previous schools due to being bullied.) I’m into heavy metal and punk, so obviously I gravitated towards that group of people. The other kids called them, “Greebos” or “Greebs” but the most popular of them decided that labels weren’t cool so we never used the term. It was the same with the widespread bisexuality. If we didn’t talk about it or label ourselves we weren’t really different. We were just the same as everyone else, but we wore black and slept with people of multiple genders. (Yes I was having sex at 14.)

This situation didn’t last long for me and I ended up hanging out with the kids in the year below. They embraced labels and were subsequently called losers by the people I used to hang out with in my year group. We were Greebos. We were lesbians, gays and bisexuals and we were proud, even if just within our friendship group. We went through the same struggles together and our bond and our labels kept us together and kept us strong. I fell in love for the first time in 2001 with one of these people. We called ourselves lesbians and that stuck with me for the next nine years, even if the Greebo label faded into metal-head as time went by.

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So what are my labels now at 32 and what do they mean to me?

Autistic

I’ve been using this label since Feb 2017, when I truly accepted that this was who I was. A year later I had an official diagnosis.

I don’t say I am someone with autism. Autism is me. I am autistic.

Realising I was autistic was super validating for me. It explained a lot of my past behaviour and allowed me to find friends who were similar to me.

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Transmasculine Nonbinary

I am transgender. I lean towards masculinity. My transition involves testosterone and masculinising surgeries.

I am however not a man. I’m also not a woman. My gender identity and subsequent presentation fluctuates and sits well out of the norms for binary genders.

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Metal-head

I love all music actually but my focus is definitely focused on metal, punk and hardcore. I often dress in what can be considered as metal-head attire.

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Queer

Truly I am pansexual, but I like queer as an identity.

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Why are labels important?

My labels have brought some of the best people into my life. We have bonded over similar struggles and we have stood strong in the face of transphobia, homophobia and ableism. They give me a blanket of safety I can run and hide under when the allistic, transphobic world gets too much and they understand exactly why I need to do that.

It means when I’m out at the pub with my friends I’m not gonna get misgendered or called aggressive because of my autistic style of communicating. It means I was encouraged to be my authentic self at Trans Pride by being topless . It was the safety of having these people around me which allowed me to work up the courage to medically transition.

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We can also help other marginalised groups. They define who they are and the systemic discrimination they face. We listen to them and lend our privilege to help where it is needed. Without labels, I don’t think we would be able to do this so effectively and this leads on to my next point;

Why doesn’t society like labels as a whole?

In my experience oppressors don’t like labels because for them it means they are not the norm and when we use them, we use them to empower ourselves against their oppression.

For example cis women who reject the use of cis, even though it is literally what they are. They don’t like it because they have always just seen themselves as normal women and that trans women and femme aligned people are deviant in some way. This is often combined with TERf rhetoric. (The F is small deliberately cuz ain’t nothing feminist about their tripe.)

Another example is allistic people. This just basically means you aren’t autistic. Allistic people hate it because they see autistic people as abnormal and they are just normal people. Wrong.

So let’s embrace our labels and the labels of others, banding together to empower one another and bring down systems of oppression.

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trans-poc

Guest Blog: Do Animal Rights Marches Advance or Hinder the Movement.

Do Animal Rights Marches Advance or Hinder the Movement?

 

I am devoted to animal liberation and veganism. It is the mainstream AR movement that white vegans have created that is the embarrassing racist/sexist uncle, for whom I refuse to make excuses.  It is hindering activism for animals—while at the same time also harming oppressed people.

 

While I’ve given up hope that the mainstream AR movement will redeem itself, it is hard to disengage after well over 30 years immersed in it (though I have been disengaging for several years). I watch, in dismay, as thoughtless, counter-productive activism, which does not serve the interests of animals, makes itself as uninviting as possible to black people, other POC, women, disabled people, fat people, gay/trans/non-binary people, immigrants, poor people—and to activists for every other social justice movement.

 

When members of these groups do become vegans, it is usually despite, not because of, the mainstream vegan movement. And many who agree with the ethical arguments for veganism, and are drawn to the ways in which veganism aligns with wider social justice goals, are put off from the message (though they agree with it) by the oppression they experience among white vegans (especially white vegan men).

 

Every social justice movement, especially in the last several years, is making alliances with other social justice movements—every movement, that is, except for the mainstream AR movement. The pro-intersectional AR movement is doing so–but they are not the ones marching down the street, patting themselves on the back as a public display of unearned pride.

 

The obliviousness to the public’s reaction to watching this parade of self-aggrandizement (and worse, the reaction of potential/attainable allies in other social justice movements) is an embarrassment to those who have talked and written endlessly about the house-cleaning that needs to be done by our movement.

 

It is a good thing for the animals, oppressed communities, and veganism, when individuals from groups either intentionally or thoughtlessly made unwelcome by the mainstream, form their own vegan groups, bringing a needed collaboration and alliance between animal rights and broader social justice issues. With any luck, this will become the vanguard, the public face of, veganism. The white mainstream can follow this innovative lead or stay stagnant and moribund. 

 

A parade for and by a group of oppressed humans (accompanied by their allies, marching in solidarity) is not the same as a parade of humans, for animals. Of course, it is the nature of animal rights that the activism is done entirely by one group (humans) for another group (non-human animals). In this latter case, the marchers are not the victims, though AR people sometimes act like they are. Animal activists frequently identify, to a self-deluded degree, with suffering non-human animals, but they are not the suffering animals (as Pattrice Jones has noted). It does not help animals for people to put themselves on display, as the center of attention—that attention belongs to the animals.

 

Animal Rights is every bit as important a cause as any other. There is no hierarchy of worth. But, public perception must be taken into consideration. With all of the preventable suffering going on in every area of the planet (due to capitalism, global warming, racism, lack of empathy, and other human-created symptoms of short sightedness, greed, and depraved indifference to suffering), it comes across as insensitive for a movement that has made it clear that it does not care about any aspect of human suffering to make a spectacle of itself. 

 

What are the stated goals of, and hoped-for gains, from, animal rights marches? Have years of marches, itself, made these goals more attainable? I suggest that they, and the assumptions and practices on which they rest have made them less attainable. What are [some of] these practices and assumptions?

 

·         that in your face activism works

·         lack of concern with how the message is received

·         focus on converting young, able-bodied white people

·         disinterest in anyone but the above

·         anger at the non-white and/or not-young and/or not able-bodied for not getting the message that has not even been thoughtfully conveyed to their communities

·         lack of concern for systemic obstructions that keep people in survival mode, with little energy to consider the plight of animals

·         no concern, let alone help, forthcoming for the above, from the mainstream AR movement

·         that merchandising women’s bodies (and promoting misogynistic standards of beauty for women) goes unchallenged by the mainstream as a major way to sell veganism to the public (when there is data that shows that it is counter-productive: https://moneyish.com/ish/heres-proof-that-sex-doesnt-sell/)

·         not questioning why “the public” to which the above message is aimed (straight, non-feminist men) has become the de facto main focus for a movement that is actually women-driven

·         lack of discussion of the use of women as handmaidens to the “important” activists—the white men in charge

·         little, if any, movement to change the white-male-centric movement, even after documentation of multiple instances of sexual abuse and bullying of women by white males in position of power in AR groups

·         anger at POC and women for starting their own movements, in the face of exclusion of them from the mainstream movement

 

If you want to march, march as vegan allies to other social justice groups. Be out there at BLM rallies, health-care-for-all marches, pro-Palestinian demos, anti-violence to women gatherings. Don’t be there to promote veganism, but be there because you care. Your presence will demonstrate that not all vegans deserve the justifiable stereotype of caring about no other issue except animals. And if you do fit that stereotype, stay home and start reading about other social justice movements, and how intersecting systems of oppression cannot be pried apart.

 

Read Kimberle Crenshaw, who coined the term intersectionality, in order to expose how the intersections of race and gender specifically affect black women (https://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2014/04/kimberl-crenshaw-intersectionality-i-wanted-come-everyday-metaphor-anyone-could ).

 

Read what black vegans have to say about mainstream veganism. Read their more advanced take on animal rights–and amplify their voices. The most original thinking on animal rights and veganism is not coming from the white males who dominate these movements and who have made it inclusive and harmful to so many.

 

It can be challenging to care about other humans, when you see how so many of them treat animals, but by ignoring the suffering of people, you are going to make them far less likely to reconsider their stance on animals. Open your activism to other social justice movements and learn about their issues. And learn about what marginalized vegans experience from a privilege-dominated (dominated by power, not by numbers) movement. Do it because it is the right thing to do and because the animals deserve better than the stale, non-inclusive activism that marks the mainstream movement. 

 

Doing AR work is heart breaking and we need fun and a respite from the human-caused suffering we daily witness.   How about a city-wide picnic (or other fun event) to which the public and other social justice groups are invited, instead of a march that will leave many observers puzzled, angry, or uninterested?

 

This was not meant to chastise individuals holding marches. I assume that they hold marches with the best of intentions, but the animals need more than good intentions and counter-productive spectacles. And so do the people whom we harm with our biases and exclusivity, and with our ignorance of their (frequently life-and-death) issues.

 

Susan Gordon lives in New Jersey, USA and has been vegan for 34 years. She is active in pro-intersectional animal rights, justice for Palestine, feminism, racial justice, anti-ableism, and anti-fat shaming.

Discussion welcome.

Vivera Vegan Steak: A Review.

Ever since this product was launched, there have been Instagram pictures of vegans across the UK holding up a packet of plant based steak awkwardly in Tesco.

I managed to get hold of some today in probably the biggest Tesco in South Wales. They had Vivera’s whole range, but honestly all I had time for was the steak. I’ve had all the other stuff before in various forms from multiple brands. Vegan steaks are a rarer find although this is not the first vegan steak to grace UK shelves. Let’s not forget the mighty Mheat and Vegusto, brands which have never managed to get a supermarket distributor, but are still delicious.

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There were two considerable chunks of rehydrated soya and wheat protein which resembled a fillet steak in each pack and for £2.99 I didn’t think that was too bad. (Vegan brands love to rip us off, in case you hadn’t noticed.)

I followed the cooking instructions exactly for the first pack.

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“Perfectly pink every time!” as described on the packet, is not what I got from gently frying each steak for 2.5 minutes on each side. There was none of this infamous beetroot blood either.

I served with some creamy cauliflower and thyme puree.

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The puree really complimented the meatiness of the steak, even if it was slightly over cooked. It wasn’t chewy like well done cow’s flesh, but soft like a burger with a beefy undertone.

I decided to have another go. This time I went with 1.5 minutes on each side on a high heat.

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They came out less cooked but still not pink and still not bloody. These had a completely different texture from the first batch though. In places it was perfect and in others it was mushy. I finished them off in the microwave for 30 seconds.

I served this batch with sweet potato wedges, roasted vegetables and cauliflower puree.

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Funnily enough when I microwaved them, there was a little bit of blood on the surface like a resting piece of flesh.

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Now here’s crunch time!

I didn’t go vegan because I didn’t like the taste of meat. I went vegan because it was the morally right thing to do. I love all this fake meat shit. This almost hits the mark, almost. Maybe I need to play around with it a bit more, maybe this is just as good as it gets right now. I’ll definitely be buying more………

If you don’t like fake meats: DON’T BUY THIS.

The end.

An Unexpected Liberation

I often walk my two rescue dogs up into the mountains here so they can have off lead time without people causing us hassle because of their breed. (It’s a massive problem.) When you’re up a mountain here, you are very unlikely to see or be seen by another human being.

Today happened to be really hot and I had my cis husband with me. He took his shirt off without a second thought. He looked at me and said I should do the same. I looked around, hesitating not because I was worried someone might see me, but because I’ve been scorned my entire life for participating in what is essentially nonbinary behaviour. My chest isn’t female, but society thinks it is. Should I do this? Is someone going to gender me?

It took me a good 10 minutes to work up the courage before finally saying, “FUCK IT” and slipping my Black Label Society vest over my head, leaving just my skin and ink exposed.

The sun blessed my skin and I felt for the very first time, the wind rustle all the little hairs on my chest and belly.

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We walked for 2 kms before we were rudely interrupted by a family of sheep. They were cute though so I’ll let them off.

I’ve been on testosterone for approximately 3 weeks now and there are hairs where there wasn’t before and I’m noticing strength gains at the gym that I couldn’t have dreamed of previously. Today confirmed for me more than ever that I will be pursuing top surgery.

Queer Vegan is doing a masculinisation! 🙂

My Autism Journey

October 2016

I met my best friend, who also happens to be autistic. She observed autistic traits in me that no one else had in the 31 years previously.

I was sceptical. I was almost 32 and no one had ever even considered I was anything other than neurotypical (outside of depression and anxiety) but what she was saying made sense.

She pointed me in the direction of online Autism Quotient tests. I scored between 39-42 on pretty much every test I took. She scored 39 and had an official diagnosis.

February 2017

On the 22nd February 2017, I accepted that I was autistic. I sat crying into my phone messaging my best friend saying that nothing had ever made so much sense to me in my life.

With research I’d been doing over the last few months I came across some great trans and autistic communities and realised that some 35% of autistic people are also trans or gender nonconforming. (I wish someone would study that link.)

March 2017

I went to my GP and told them that I think I’m autistic and gave them a list of reasons why. They asked me all sorts of intrusive questions that I didn’t like. I left that appointment crying and proceeded to have a meltdown in my car. (I’d also spoken to them about trans issues in this appointment and the questions about that were so uneducated and misinformed. This was also to be my downfall going forward for both issues.)

May 2017

I attend my first appointment at Trealaw Mental Health Unit in South Wales.

Expectations: GIC referral and referral to a consultant psychologist to be assessed for ASD. (Autism Spectrum Disorder.)

Reality: Nonbinary erasure, intrusive questions, disbelief that at 32 I was only just realising I was both trans and autistic.

I went over again all the things I had told my GP using my list I created, breaking down different behaviours in blocks of 5 years up until the present day. The nurse I saw took a photocopy of the list and said that they were unable to refer me me further because they were not a consultant and they didn’t know when a consultant would be available to see me.

June-October 2017

The above situation happened a total of 7 times, including an appointment which had a blood test in it to see if I was able to go on testosterone. (Talk about getting my hopes up!)

It was so draining, intrusive and destroyed my mental health. My drinking increased ten fold in this time. It was the only way I could cope with the constant invalidation and disappointment. I had a meltdown in my car after every appointment.

I also had an autism advocate write two letters of complaint. Each time I got a call from the head of mental health in my county apologising. I kept telling him that I thought someone along the line was gate keeping the pathways and that I wasn’t going to give up. I made it very clear that we could continue wasting NHS time and resources for as long as he wanted.

November 2017

I get two letters in the post.

The first one comes with clear instructions as to what the appointment is for. I’m going to see a consultant to be assessed for ASD. The appointment is in January and they need me to fill out a written autism quotient test and bring it with me.

The second letter has no details on it, just an appointment at the standard mental health place in February. (It was cancelled due to snow so I still don’t know what this was for, but as of Feb 2018 I still don’t have an NHS GIC referral.)

January 2018

The day of my appointment with the consultant is here. I’ve deliberately got myself in a bit of a state by messing with my routine and having lots of appointments on the same day to emphasise my autistic traits. I mask quite well sometimes and that was definitely not needed here.

I rock up at Trealaw Mental Health Unit only to find that my appointment was at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and not the place I had been attending for the past few months. They took my AQ test and rescheduled the appointment. I went and had a meltdown in my car, which seems pretty standard practise for all my visits there now.

February 2018

The day itself  before my appointment was incredibly stressful for reasons I’m not going to disclose. My best friend met me in Pontypridd and I was in full shut down mode. They had never seen me like this before. They dropped me at the Royal Glam and wished me luck.

The consultant was late. I’m not sure if this was deliberate, but I was basically twitching and trying not to have a meltdown by the time he eventually showed up.

We sat and chatted for about 2 hours. He changed his fountain pen twice with the amount he was writing. He liked my now rather scruffy piece of paper with the age categories and developmental milestones. (He took that otherwise I’d show you a copy now. ) He asked about relationships, social difficulties and all sorts of stuff about my childhood. I told him I live in the world below eye contact and I miss a lot of social cues because of this. I looked at his face twice but not his eyes. I wouldn’t know him in the street.

I’m going to attach an edited version of his report so that you can see the criteria he was looking for. However please be aware that he misgenders me throughout and I have asked him to edit this in the copy he sends to my GP. (It was difficult for me to read because of this.)

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I’ve shared this process with you in the hope that it will help you if you are an adult seeking diagnosis in the NHS or elsewhere. Please feel free to ask any questions.

The search for the illusive GIC referral continues……….

 

 

My Emerging Male Privilege

I finally admitted to myself around a year ago that I needed to medically transition. What this means for me is that I’ll be masculinising myself with the addition of testosterone and eventually having top surgery.

I’m doing this because the dysphoria of being called she/her/woman/girl everyday is destroying me. I’m not a man either and I never will be. I’m non-binary and I’m transmasculine. However in the masculinising process I expect that I’ll get misgendered from the other side with he/him/boy/man. That doesn’t hurt me nearly as much and it comes with it’s own set of privileges that people who are seen as women do not get.

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So what is male privilege?

I took this straight from Wikipedia:

Special privileges and status are granted to men in patriarchal societies. These are societies defined by male supremacy, in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. With systemic subordination of other genders, men gain economic, political, social, educational, and practical advantages that are more or less unavailable to other genders. The long-standing and unquestioned nature of such patriarchal systems, reinforced over generations, tends to make privilege invisible to holders; it can lead men who benefit from such privilege to ascribe their special status to their owned individual merits and achievements, rather than to unearned advantages.”

(Obviously I edited it slightly to erase their binary nonsense, but you get the standard textbook definition.)

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What this means is that anyone who “passes” as a man in our society gets certain privileges. This includes cis men, trans men and transmasculine nonbinary folks. This manifests in the way people treat you at work, how people value your opinions, opportunities open to you, how people greet you etc etc.

(Please note that passing is cis normative term that many trans people reject and that trans folks have their own set of challenges regardless of any male privilege bestowed on them by society.)

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At this present moment before I start testosterone, I have what I call “fleeting male privilege.” It’s given to me and taken away at a rate of knots when people realise I have boobs or that my voice is too high to be considered masculine.

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Until recently I’ve never had a sustained period of male privilege bestowed on me. My best friend is a nonbinary trans man and happens to do that weird thing the cis defined as “passing.” We were walking with another friend (who’s also trans) through Cardiff city centre and I guess all three of us looked like young white cis men because people got out of our way. People avoided eye contact. No one bothered us at all. This struck me because neither of them noticed and I noticed with every inch of my being. It made me really uncomfortable.

I think everyone deserves a high level of respect, dignity and opportunity but I guess that’s why I’m a feminist. I’ll be documenting my emerging male privilege as I transition.

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