Why I Identify As Non-Binary

Gender is a human experience, and human experiences cannot be reduced to simplistic, reductive structures.

Why do I identify as non-binary?

Because it’s the truth.

I don’t know what you were expecting, really, but uh…there it is. That’s the ‘why’ in this conversation. I identify as non-binary because that is the truth.

In fairness I think I might need to explain a little more.

What I mean when I say that it’s the truth is that identifying as non-binary is the best way I can explain how I personally feel about gender. I have never felt attached to my assigned gender in any way whatsoever. I have never felt male, certainly never felt like a man, and I couldn’t possibly have less interest in abiding by the concept of masculinity.

But Aris, the crowds shriek, you don’t have to care about masculinity to be a man, it’s your biology that dictates your gender, not your belief systems.

Well, strangely articulate crowd, firstly biology in no way dictates your gender but rather it dictates your sex (and even then there are stipulations to consider, but we’ll save that for another day), and secondly I’m also fully aware of that. My belief systems have nothing to do with my identifying as non-binary.

I identify as non-binary because it’s the truth.

I was a confused kid growing up, which given all the baggage I was carrying is fairly understandable. My naive 11-year-old self figured realizing I was gay was the only hurdle I’d have to leap. Oh, naive little Aris, how wrong you were.

My gender was something I didn’t particularly question for two profound reasons. One; you aren’t supposed to question it. And two; I knew I didn’t want to be a girl, and I figured that was it. And that right there is the whole problem.

The way we view gender identity issues at the moment is as follows:

You are the gender you were born as, unless you don’t feel that way, then you are immediately the opposite. If you don’t feel like the opposite, just stay as you are.

And this was how I lived my life. I knew I wasn’t comfortable addressing myself as a guy, but I also very much knew that I had no desire nor intention to be a woman. It was like attending prom every day with my only options being either a potato sack or a an equally terrible potato sack but this one had sequins on. A bedazzled potato sack is still a potato sack, Clarence. Therefore, survey says, ding ding ding, you’re a dude bro!

This is of course is incorrect, and a wildly oversimplified way to view gender.

It was in my first year of university when I was studying queer theory that I first realized that you could exist outside of such paradigms. You didn’t have to abide by this binary. You’d think that’d mean I finally understood, but no, I had a little further to go yet.

The reason for this was because I thought gender was a spectrum, which is true, but I thought that gender was only a spectrum. Let me explain via a series of fun doodles:

OKAY so imagine the line is the mystical line of gender, with man on one end and woman on the other. I imagined that non-binary was in the middle, and you could slide along that scale as you pleased so occasionally you were more masculine and occasionally you were more feminine. Now whilst this is a very valid identity (known as gender-fluid) this is not the be all and end all of gender. But I thought it was. So once again I felt like I didn’t fit.

It took me almost a year, and a lot of conversations with my wonderful best friend, to realise that gender wasn’t a strict spectrum and in fact the very meaning of non-binary defies the notion of such a strict spectrum. Non binary means free from the binary (two) systems that were once in place, so simply drawing a line (or squiggle, whatever, shut up) between man and woman a non-binary does not make!

So instead, my gender looks like this:

See what I mean? By jove, he’s off the scale!!!

I don’t want to be a part of that spectrum at all, and that’s not because I’m some petulant child that wants to uproot the foundations of society (not yet, anyways), nor is it because I ‘want to be interesting’ (I’m exceptionally interesting regardless of my gender thank you) or because I’m a ‘special snowflake’ (whatever the fuck that even means), it’s just because it’s the truth.

That is, truthfully, how I feel. And I want to share that truth with you. And I don’t care if you accept it or not, quite frankly, because it makes no difference either way. I’m presenting you with a fact, where your personal emotions take you from there is none of my business.

Gender is a human experience, and human experiences cannot be reduced to simplistic, reductive structures.

If you’re cis-gendered you may find all of this a little difficult to understand at first, but here’s a top life hack on how to deal with it all: when someone tells you how they feel believe them, and accept them for it. That’s the easiest thing in the world. And remember, it’s definitely taken the person telling you a million years longer to understand it themselves. Take it from Disney:

And for anyone out there questioning their gender, please know that it’s okay to not fully understand and feel like you don’t fit into any of the labels out there. Language is limited, and is often suffused and then policed by the majority, and the majority at the moment are hell bent on telling us that there are only two genders. Read a book, Carl. Anyway, please remember that whatever decision on your identity you come to it is valid regardless of what anybody says.

The topic of your identity begins and ends with you, nobody else.