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

19059552_10158824846785322_1054962391388875836_n

And that’s all folks! 🙂

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “Nonbinary FAQ

  1. Wow. This is alot to take on board ,but I’m learning & hopefully understanding correctly. Thanks Frankie for taking the time &trouble to do this. I have found blogs you have done on the past really helpful introducing new words to friends to explaining their relevance in my family.

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