OPINION: The 'wibbly wobbly' nature of being a non-binary person


"Being non-binary can be such a wibbly wobbly experience for each individual. Unfortunately living outside the binary means that a lot of people like myself are left feeling a bit 'incomplete' or 'not quite right'."

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The other day I had to visit a doctor I had not met before. I smiled as I pushed through a door covered in stickers, one was a rainbow pride flag. 

Not only did this doctor get my name wrong, calling for Gordon Mackenzie, but upon realising his mistake he laughed and declared "That must be wrong, you're not a man!". 

I stopped smiling after that.

As a person who identifies as non-binary, I encounter this issue every single day. I work in customer service where all the customer is exposed to is my name - Mackenzie. Every day I am called ma'am. 

I am misgendered even when people cannot see or hear me, and my heart aches for all my trans and NB (non-binary) siblings who experience the same. 

My personal experience being with non-binary started when I was quite young. Like a lot of queer AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) people, I was a "tomboy" in my youth. 

I am very lucky in that I did not have to formally come out to my family, and that my mother and siblings have been very accepting of my experimentation with gender from a young age - to finally land on non-binary as my identity was no shock to them. 

It is very true that you often have to "come out" almost every day as you interact with new people.

I have had someone tell me to my face that non-binary is fake - a thing that does not exist - to which I responded, 'Do you think I'm a ghost?'. 

As an AFAB person who is quite feminine, I am often more concerned with my own safety than enforcing my pronouns. If I find myself in a situation where I am misgendered, I have to assess if correcting the person is worth the potential emotional labour, potential for debate, or potential violence.

Living non-binary, or even LGBTQIA+ often comes with the mantra of "pick your battles". Often times our identity is just not as important as our safety. 

Being non-binary is wibbly wobbly because we do not have anywhere to transition to like binary trans people. So we are often left in a bit of a gender purgatory; not quite happy with what we are physically, but not quite happy with going through the intense process of altering our bodies to become the "other option" as it were (although some still do).

It’s not black and white, a lot of people feel quite strongly about their identity - so they should - and take as many opportunities as they can to express their preferred pronouns and make it known that they are not cis or trans but something a bit different. 

In my experience this can take a lot of emotional labour, and I avoid it as often as I can, only "outing" myself once I develop enough trust or mutual respect with someone. 

Because we live outside the binary, coming out can take a lot of emotional labour as it is often followed by a lot of questions. This is not always negative, it could be a person genuinely interested and respectful - but it can be tiresome for a non-binary individual to go through this process multiple times a month, week, day with new people. 

A common solution is pronoun brooches, just a little pin that simply states they/them or something similar, so that people who are already understanding of gender variations can see it and ensure there are no guesswork. 

Ideally one day we might get to a place where it is common practice to refer to people gender neutrally until told otherwise, but until then - make it fashion. 

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