Pictured above: Jeffrey Marsh is an American writer, actor, artist, activist, author, and social media personality. Marsh identifies as Genderqueer and uses the singular they as their pronoun of choice and "Mx." as a gender-ambiguous honorific.
If you were to google the term "transgender" a lot of information would likely come up. For instance how to approach someone about pronouns, avoid stereotypes, be supportive, and much more. But what about the same available information for non-binary people? For all of my fellow cis gendered people, and even trans individuals out there, here is some information non-binary individuals want you to know about them to be supportive.
Pronouns are just as important to us!
So for those of you our there who might identify as cis gendered, you might be tempted to roll your eyes at those who make it a point to be addressed by pronouns that align with them. But think of what it would be like if almost everyone you encountered in your day to day life addressed YOU by the incorrect pronouns. It would get pretty frustrating trying to remind people that you are a 'man' or 'woman' constantly. This is what non-binary people feel particularly with their pronouns. Many non-binary individuals often desire pronouns that do not denote a gender, such as they/them or ze/hir/hirs. When in doubt simply asking 'what are your pronouns?' is an appropriate way to find out. As a cis gendered therapist myself, I can also sympathize with the difficulty of using a plural pronoun when it comes to a singular person. I slip up sometimes with clients and with family who identify as non-binary. However, with practice it becomes easier and more fluid over time.
What I'm wearing does not signify my gender
Another big topic for non-binary individuals is often clothing. Clothing is one of our numerous forms of expression (along with behavior, jewelry, gait, and language). Clothing can be a great way to find comfort in your own identity. However, it can be challenging for non-binary individuals who enjoy wearing more traditionally masculine or feminine clothing, or a combination of both when interacting with the public. When we see a person walking down the road we tend to sum up ideas about them such as gender and possible personality. This is natural for our brains to do, as we all engage in categorization. For example most dogs have 4 legs, a wagging tail, and bark. Therefore it must be a dog-categorization!
With people it becomes trickier to make these categorizations, and this is when assumptions set in. I'm here to let you know it's ok that you assume initially! We're all guilty of doing it, even trans and non-binary individuals! It's not ok to take that assumption and run with it. If in any doubt asking how someone identifies is ok to do. Trying to convince someone that because of what they're wearing makes them a 'boy' or 'girl' is not appropriate. So keep in mind your biases about gender based on clothing and next time you're out and see someone that you aren't certain about gender wise, consider that they might be non-binary. If you happen to interact with this individual ask 'how do you identify?'
Non-binary, Genqueer, Gender-fluid: What do they all mean and why so many?
Ok, so now we get into the nitty gritty of some of the terminology! Gender-nonbinary is considered the broad umbrella term for other terms such as genderqueer, gender fluid, agender, polygender etc. Although each of these terms have their own definition (which also happen to be broad in definition), how an individual interprets that term for themselves may vary. This might be a very confusing concept to cis gendered folks who have never questioned their gender identity in their life! But think about this: How did you know you were male or female, and when did you know? The answer to that question is probably you just knew all along! That would be my honest answer.
For non-binary individuals growing up with the gender binary (the concept that only two gender exist-male and female), can feel displacing. If you don't happen to identify as male or female, than other terms to describe outside of the binary are often better suited. For someone cis or even transgender, consider someone taking away the terms 'male' and 'female' and replacing them with 'gigbit' and 'bitgig.' Aside from those words being made up it would probably feel odd and wouldn't quite capture how you felt about your gender identity. This is what non-binary individuals feel when asked or forced to use binary terms of 'male' and female.' So other terminology within the non-binary spectrum help individuals identify with themselves.
Hopefully this article has shed some light on our non-binary siblings, as they like the rest of us, cis or trans are simply looking to find happiness, peace of mind, and acceptance! If you are struggling with mental health issues related to navigating your gender identity don't hesitate to reach out to us to schedule an appointment!
Devin Pinkston is a local mental health counselor and Gender Therapist in Grand Junction Colorado. Call to schedule a free consultation today at 970-644-2392