Written by Samaira Aima, a grade 11 student.
“Gender exists on a Spectrum
Every individual deserves to be treated EQUALLY
Regardless of their Biological Sex
Regardless of their Gender Identity
Regardless of their Gender Expression.”
The term “Non-binary” refers to someone who does not identify as a man or a woman exclusively. Non-binary individuals may identify as being both a man and a woman or as falling completely outside these categories. Many non-binary people also identify as transgender, though not all do.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary declared the nonbinary pronoun “They” as the “2019 Word Of The Year.” The definition of “They” was updated to include a person whose gender identity is non-binary.
Many celebrities like Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Jonathan Van Ness, and Indya Moore identify as Non–binary and have chosen to identify themselves with the pronouns they/them.
Most countries in the world do not recognize Non-binary as a legal gender, meaning most Non-binary people still have a gendered passport and official identification. Countries like Canada, Australia, India, Malta, Nepal, Germany, Denmark, and New Zealand issue passports with gender markers other than “F” or “M. ” “X” is the most common third option.
Just last week the USA has announced plans for a third gender option on passports.
Common Misconceptions about Non-Binary People
Myth 1: There are only two genders, everyone is simply a man or a woman.
Fact: Each person’s gender identity can be experienced and defined in their own unique way. The gender identities of Non- Binary people are just as valid as those of men and women.
Myth 2: You are just confused
Fact: Being Non-binary does not mean that they are confused about their genders. It simply means our gender is not solely male or female, or that we have no gender.
Myth 3: We are not all Intersex, Transgender, or Anything Else people assume we are.
Fact: Nonbinary has nothing to do with your biology. Intersex people can be non-binary, but so can people who are not intersex.
Myth 4: They don’t all feel that they were “Born in the Wrong Body”
Fact: This common narrative about transgender people and Non-binary people may be true for some but it doesn’t make the identity of someone who does not relate to the “born in the wrong body” narrative less valid.
Myth 5: They all fit on a Spectrum, from ‘Masculine’ to ‘Feminine’
Fact: Gender’s full range of possibilities is represented by a variety of colors. Non-binary doesn’t just mean “you’re half male, half female.” Non-binary persons, all identify as feminine and masculine to varying degrees, and this can alter over time.
Myth 6: Not all Non-binary people go by “They/Them” pronouns
Fact: Non-binary people can also have a variety of pronouns. Some go by they/them, some go by she/her, some go by both, and some go by more than that.
What it’s Like Being Non-Binary in India- Especially in Educational Institutions and At the Workplace?
We are brought up in a society filled with cisgendered heterosexual representation everywhere, making it difficult to actually comprehend that both gender identity and sexual orientation are two very different things that don’t need to be set under a specific binary.
Coming out as non-binary is difficult anywhere in the world, but in India, in particular, the process can be laden with traumas and triggers that can cause long-term mental health damage.
School and college campuses in India are heavily gender-segregated; dormitories and washrooms, two places that are essential to students on campus, are segregated based on a binary notion of gender. Non-binary individuals find it extremely difficult to choose between binary options, whether it is washrooms and dormitories or while filling up forms. Any situation where Non-binary individuals are asked to segregate on the basis of binary gender proves to be uncomfortable for them.
Harassment and Abuse
Non-binary individuals are harassed and abused in their places of study/work. The range of harassment and abuse varies from being ridiculed, dead-named and ostracised, to sexual harassment and abuse.
Many non-binary individuals face instances of snide remarks, bullying, ostracisation, and mockery (both in public and private).
How to be an Ally
- Start the culture of asking pronouns before you introduce yourself to anyone: Not everyone uses the pronouns “he” or “she,” and it’s vital to respect persons who use different pronouns. The singular pronoun ‘they’ (they/them/theirs) is the most prevalent gender-neutral pronoun. Using the correct pronouns for people indicates that you respect them and who they are.
- Conduct Gender Sensitisation workshops: Workshops should be held in educational institutions and at the workspace. This will help in normalizing conversations about the topic.
- Provide Gender Neutral alternatives:
Not everyone is comfortable with gendered titles such as ‘Ms’ or ‘Mr’. If titles must be used it’s good to provide alternative ones such as ‘Mx’ (pronounced mix or mux)
- Promote and create gender-neutral washrooms, dormitories, and other spaces on campus: These shall ensure that Non-binary people do not have to conform to a gender preference that they do not feel comfortable with.
- Use inclusive language: Make sure that workplaces, educational institutions, and documentations adopt the inclusive language, such as using the pronouns “they” rather than “he/she” and avoid sentences that imply two genders.
International Non-binary People’s Day is observed each year on 14 July with the aim of raising awareness and organising around the issues faced by Non-binary people around the world.