Am I non-binary?

Does trans include non-binary? Is there a difference? Can someone be enbyphobic, having an irrational reaction to non-binary people, without being transphobic?

Around 2010 we were writing trans*, as “Trans” meant transsexuals, perhaps, or transsexuals and cross-dressers, and Trans* was a more inclusive term. Then nobody knew what the distinction was, and people stopped writing “trans*”, as “trans” was inclusive. Everyone who chooses the identity is trans. Or some people try to police the idea of trans, to keep control of others, because they imagine it makes them safer even though behaving like that only increases the threat, and perception of threat, to everyone.

Someone might be clearly enbyphobic without being so clearly transphobic. Imagine a man who is happy enough to address an AMAB person by a female name, refer to her as “she”, but draws the line at calling them “they”. “They” is a pronoun for more than one person, they say. They will not refer to an NB person as “they” though they might use “they” for a person whose gender they don’t know. They seem to accept the trans person, but draw the line at the NB person.

If trans includes NB, then enbyphobia is transphobia. But it might be useful to distinguish the two. So why include NB in trans? To make a big tent, where everyone is welcome, and everyone feels solidarity. If we need to distinguish, we could refer to “binary trans”. Because there might be different interests. A non-binary person might need third spaces, non-gendered spaces, and a trans person object to third spaces seeing them as excluding him or her from their acquired gender space. I might use a third space, where I might be less likely to be challenged (I don’t get challenged, though lesbians do) but would hate anyone to choose a space for me. “No,” they would say. “Not here. Go there,” and I would be excluded, and devalued.

I would like NB identity if it could be seen as permission. “I am non-binary”, I declare, when I go about without a wig. Those who judge will see it as permission for them to judge and exclude me.

Non-binary is the generally accepted term, but I might criticise it. Why should I define myself by what I am not? There is no generally accepted alternative. Self-gendered perhaps. Gender-free. I am not sure what I would propose, and it’s not going to be more accepted than NB. Enby, then. Some say it sounds twee.

Some people don’t admit that NB can exist. Others say it is ridiculous. Behave in whatever gendered way you want, express whatever gender you have, but you are male or female. There is widespread reluctance to recognise non-binary identity. That’s enbyphobia, not transphobia. When I am told to explain what LGBT stands for, as if people won’t know, I wonder about asserting I am NB, and that could be my own enbyphobia. I am surrounded by transphobia and enbyphobia, which I take into myself. Some accept me as I am. Some won’t accept me however much I try to change myself to be acceptable.

So am I NB? There is no typical woman’s response to anything. My response is within the range of responses of womankind, and even generally within the range seen as acceptably feminine by those who enforce gender on women, though they must be resisted. I am not even sure that there is a group of people who are non-binary, definitely distinct from trans people by essence rather than label, or perhaps stage in a process, but many NB people are, and might call my attitude enbyphobic.

I like NB as permission. I can do this, and I don’t have to do that. I want to flit in between trans and non-binary, as it suits my interests, to evade anyone who would control me. If there were the possibility to be whoever you want to be, rather than the desire to control what is harmless, no identity would matter.

3 thoughts on “Am I non-binary?

  1. Clare you make many good points here. I am trying to form the notion of a transgender umbrella, but have run into the problem that is excludes cisgender persons. But, I have thought of developing the notion of a gender umbrella, but as your post explores this could be problematic. It would definitely exclude agender persons; those that never have gender identity feelings. Maybe gender* umbrella, but than the asterisk would need explaining, just as trans* needs further explaining. One problem is we are hobbled by words. Language does change. They was used in the singular since in at least some of Shakespeare’s writing. This practically disappeared until recently. I do prefer “they” when the gender of someone is not known, I am speaking in general terms, or I know it is someone’s preferred pronoun like a neighbor of my girlfriend’s. It is kind of a mess. Why not let people live the lives they want if it does not harm others.


    • There are people who fit gender stereotypes more or less happily, and there are people who are particularly oppressed by them. Not all transition, and some are revolted by the idea. I favour a “gender variant” umbrella, of those rejecting gender norms, who should be allies, and support whatever way people have of coping.

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