Non-binary recognition

Non-binary recognition? “Soon”, promises the UK government. As it has taken a year from the announcement to start consulting on trans gender recognition, that might be a long time. We want people who identify [as non-binary] to be able to live discrimination-free lives in accordance with who they believe their true selves to be, says the consultation, but not when.

Non-binary recognition is a complex issue, with many potential implications for the law and public-service provision, the consultation says. They are quite simple. Non-binary people are not protected from discrimination, and they should be. It would be simple enough for most toilets open to the public to include non-binary facilities, either by making all the toilets all-gender, or by making a disabled people’s toilet all-gender.

Maternity leave and paternity leave need to be equalised. People could be recorded on birth certificates as parents rather than “mother” or “father”.

But we might not know what sex people were!!!

If you can’t tell, it’s none of your business. Stop trying to pigeonhole people. Sex is not a reliable indicator of other qualities or characteristics. What sex someone is is only important if you want to have sex together.

Many forms ask your sex, and that is not necessary unless services should be different or sex-segregated. Admin and IT systems usually assume only two genders, but these could be changed within a reasonable time- certainly the next time the system is overhauled. Marriage and civil partnership should be open to all kinds of couples, including non-binary parties.

Purely on the issue of gender recognition, it is difficult to get evidence of living as non-binary, because documents don’t show what that means. Non-binary people don’t always seek out a gender dysphoria diagnosis. So, a gender recognition system which recognised non-binary might not insist on those things. But, it should not insist on those things anyway.

The current requirement for applicants to make a statutory declaration that they intend to live in their acquired gender until death: we would like to hear respondents’ views on whether they think non-binary people should be asked to commit to living permanently in a particular gender. What does it mean to live in a particular gender? You can normally spot someone who is “living as a woman”, but there is no one way of expressing as non-binary. Anyone may dress androgynously if they wish. So you are living as non-binary if you tell people you are non-binary. How people express that will develop over time.

The question now asked is,

20. Currently UK law does not recognise any gender other than male and female. Do you think that there need to be changes to the Gender Recognition Act to accommodate individuals who identify as non-binary? If you would like to, please expand more upon your answer.

Yes; but they should not be allowed to delay reform of the GRA for binary trans people.

The Scottish consultation gave alternatives for non-binary recognition:

  1. Changes to administrative forms.
  2. the Book of Non-Binary Identity, a register of those who wished to be recorded as non-binary.
  3. limited identity document and record changes, such as passports and driving licences.
  4. self-ID. The consultation listed other legal issues this would raise.
  5. an incremental approach, adopting options 1,2 and 3 and moving towards full recognition
  6. seeking amendment of the Equality Act.

Conversion therapy

What is conversion therapy? For gay people, it attempts to stop them acting on sexual attraction, or even to create other sex attraction. For trans people, it is less clear. “Conversion therapy” aimed at changing the character of the person, to “whip the sissy out of” a trans girl, is clearly vile.

Human rights law recognises it should be our choice whether to have surgery and hormone therapy. Gender recognition should not depend on whether someone has been sterilised. In the same way therapy should explore what gender dysphoria means to this person, and what is the best way to proceed, which may be transition with hormones and surgery, and may not. It should explore mental health problems which arise because of the stress of dealing with gender dysphoria.

So the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ position statement on supporting transgender and gender diverse people is insufficient. It defines conversion therapy as Treatments for transgender people that aim to suppress or divert their gender identity – i.e. to make them cisgender – that is exclusively identified with the sex assigned to them at birth. That has no meaning, because it conflates gender and sex. Expressing their gendered characteristics need not mean presenting as the other sex. Certainly a psychiatrist should explore whether sterilisation is necessary, or may be avoided. Often, trans people do not transition: a trans woman feels her size would make it impossible, a partner would not accept it, and we all bear the costs of being read as trans sometimes. Sometimes the costs of transition are too high. But whether the person can accept themselves as a feminine man or masculine woman, is a different question. That is, are they transgender- not fitting gender stereotypes for their sex- or transsexual, needing to express themselves and function as a person of the other sex?

That feminine man may not be open to considering living as a feminine man, if his attempt to make a “Real Man” of himself has failed, he sees the possibility of being able to express his character as a woman, and has a fixed idea that a “real trans woman” craves hormones and surgery. Psychiatrists need to see people before we are desperate, and need the time to explore with us. They claim gender-affirming medical interventions improve wellbeing and mental health in transgender and gender diverse adults– which is again confused. What is the difference between transgender and gender diverse? There is only one mention of non-binary, where they define gender identity as Self-identification and/or social identity as male/female/other gender. Other gender identities may include gender neutral, non-binary, fluid, and genderqueer.

When a psychiatrist sees someone presenting with gender problems, it is not conversion therapy to explore whether they are trans or non-binary. Possibly, these are not separate syndromes but merely differences in how we see ourselves, not underlying nature but the products of different experiences, not immutable once formed but malleable. Only the stress and anxiety of being gender non-conforming makes the identity seem fixed. The psychiatrist should not impose a course of action but enable the patient to see the best course for themself, including considering courses they had not imagined. Yet it can be unbearable not to know– if transition seems the answer, I just want to get on with it, and cannot see it is not right for me until it is completed.

The College supports psychiatrists in fully exploring their patient’s gender identity (involving their families where appropriate) in a non-judgemental, supportive and ethical manner. That involves considering options- transition, and non-binary expression both in the external symbols and expressing ones underlying qualities. It involves valuing those qualities.

Gender is a spectrum, we say. Some people conform to their gender stereotype with comfort, some reject the gender stereotype but not their sex, some are non-binary, some transition. If it is a spectrum, there are no clearly defined boxes, that someone is non-binary or is transgender, immutably and diagnosably by psychiatrists.

TERF thinking

TERFs see trans women and “trans ideology” as a threat to women and girls. So they make us Other, with derogatory terms like TIM and now “parasite”. Seeing opportunities rather than threats, positive thinking rather than negative, helps you seize those opportunities so that the threats become insignificant. It is adaptive. Why should TERFs think in this embattled way, and what consequences does it have?

They see trans as a threat. They say trans boys are damaged by testosterone, chest masculinisation and binding, rather than freed to express themselves more fully. They say trans women in women’s spaces are a threat to women. They say this blurring of the definition of “woman” and “man” will make women’s liberation impossible, that the oppressed class will not be distinguished from disguised oppressors, so cannot liberate itself.

I see trans as a boon to gender-critical feminists: individually, it helps people express who they really are, and collectively, it subverts gender roles. Allowed to develop naturally, we will move from a strict trans attempt to pass completely, involving surgery and hormones, living in Stealth, and a rigid understanding that trans women are born that way, or have women’s brains, through identifying as “non-binary”, and picking and choosing from the symbols of gender the better to express our underlying gender variation, then not needing the labels at all. The result will be a severing of the link between gender and sex, which is what the gender-critical feminists want.

It is part of my belief system that there should be no out-group, that creating out-groups to be disparaged or opposed incites conflict and impoverishes everyone, and I have read two explanations of this: rejecting out-group thinking is a sign of maturity or spiritual growth (Yay me!) or it comes from a comfortable childhood. That’s arguable too. Yet here am I in an out-group. Are TERFs simply less spiritually advanced?

Anecdotally, the more extreme radical feminists seem to have been traumatised in some way. The iron enters into their souls. The world ceases to be a safe place where we can achieve goals, and becomes filled with threats to be warded off. The threats exist. We differ in how we try to deal with them. Sara Ahmed, who is trans-inclusive, points out some deny them. Between that and magnifying them, becoming a Crusader against them, comes a middle way, awareness of risk without obsession.

I see value in drawing people’s attention to the threats. Others are in denial: they should wake up! “I could not believe how compliant they were”- it feels like an uphill battle, like being Miles Bennell on the road outside Santa Mira seeing lorries full of giant pods. Much feminist work, such as #MeToo, involves speaking out where we have been silent.

It is enjoyable, though not positive in the same way, to radicalise each other, swapping verbal formulations on Twitter and forums. It gives a sense of belonging. That radicalisation can attach to any cause indiscriminately, good or bad.

Being open to accepting trans people means being willing to see good in others, or change your mind. Someone under immediate threat concentrates on evading the threat. You look at wider possibilities when the threat is gone. Some people may not be persuadable: here is Elena Ferrante on how all women are oppressed. Meanwhile masculinity is war on the irrepressible plurality of human existence.

Gender Recognition in Scotland

The Scottish Government proposes that a person should get gender recognition, if they make a formal declaration before a Notary Public that they intend to live in their acquired gender until death. Making a false statutory declaration is a criminal offence, and their research on other countries allowing self-declaration has not found evidence of false or frivolous statements. There is support from women’s rights organisations including Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland, whose joint statement says, We do not regard trans equality and women’s equality to be in competition or contradiction with each other. We support the Equal Recognition campaign and welcome the reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid in Scotland provide trans inclusive services on the basis of self identification. We will continue to work collaboratively with Scottish Trans Alliance and other equality organisations with the aim of ensuring that new processes are appropriately designed and without unintended consequences.

Limiting the number of times one can change sex might restrict frivolous applications. Malta requires second and subsequent applications to be considered by a court. However Sam Kane has transitioned three times, male to female to male to female, and I feel each time she did it feeling distress and oppression. She reverted because of sexism and transphobia. These things are not her fault and she should not be penalised for them. Colombia only permits two changes, which must be at least ten years apart. That might make me fear an honest declaration, since I cannot correct it if I am wrong. When I transitioned, I thought it possible that I might be trying to live male five years later. It is an additional difficulty, just one more thing requiring a leap of faith. I consider my real transition to be the day I transitioned at work, or “went full time”, which required enough clarity, determination and trust, as I would have made a fool of myself to revert.

Even the suggestion that men might do this frivolously, or maliciously to get access to women’s space, is repulsive. Even three in a year might be a leap, a bad experience causing reversion, then a second leap of faith which is even more courageous. I do not want someone showing that courage and determination to be investigated in case they were frivolous. Instead, deal with actual wrongs. Women’s space is not a good place for sex crime, as the criminal is outnumbered. Women’s support groups have experience with difficult behaviour and ways of dealing with it.

The Scottish Government proposes that 16 year olds should be able to affirm their gender change, as Scots law generally gives rights as adults to people over 16, and protections as young people until 18. They are consulting on various options for younger children, such as allowing parents to affirm for them. The parent would be trusted to do this in the best interests of the child, and consider the child’s wishes. Alternatively, a child who could show they had sufficient maturity to make the decision could affirm.

Ireland and Denmark do not require the consent of a spouse before a married trans person can declare their gender. If the gender change breaks the relationship, the trans person should not have to undergo the expense of divorce before getting their gender recognised. If the relationship remains, the trans person will not make the declaration without their partner’s support. In either case they should not require the partner’s consent. Consent can be used to put improper pressure on a trans person. The other may feel betrayed, and feel that the trans person has broken the relationship, but that does not entitle them to take revenge by refusing consent.

Now, if one partner seeks gender recognition the other can use that as grounds for divorce. This should not be a separate ground for divorce. The usual ground is “unreasonable behaviour”, and a spouse should be able to argue that gender change is unreasonable behaviour. This is such a slight change; it means that gender recognition broke the marriage in the particular circumstances of this couple, rather than normally or generally.

They are also talking of increasing recognition for non-binary people, though this will require action by the UK government and additional rights in Equalities legislation.

They don’t address the question of what it means to “live in your acquired gender”. For me, does it mean always wearing wigs and at least attempting to talk in a feminine register? Does it mean anything else about clothing preferences, or particular behaviours? I think it means what the person believes it to mean. Women can wear what they like and do what they like. I feel most people who change gender will have a particular view about what it means, and attempt to resemble the assigned gender, but that is subjective too.

Consultation document pdf is here. It describes ways to respond to the consultation.

Escaping the Binary

Man/woman, trans/cis, even binary/non-binary? Some trans folk see themselves as binary trans, a man or woman rather than something in between, so how much is “non-binary” a reaction to that limited way of being trans, or a new thing?

Radical feminists are dismissive. It is merely self-indulgent to claim different pronouns, even to change desired pronouns according to mood. I’m not going to ask what pronouns to use, said the woman. And she looks like a normal woman, she’ll not escape harassment that way. But I am not sure what Lucy’s objection is. You define yourself by what you are not- non-binary.

To me non-binary is the ultimate freedom-word for gender. I can manifest male or female or Other because I am not constrained by the Binary. The feminist might say it was unnecessary, and that being a woman does not constrain her gender expression. Perhaps we are more attuned to the objection of others, and need a word to reassure us.

I believe reality is too complex to express in words, which may constrain our ability to perceive it. I find my perception getting more complex, as I see beyond my verbal description then find new words to describe what I perceive. I use non-binary for permission, rather than understanding. I do not do something because I am non-binary, with an understanding of how non-binary people behave, but because I am I. Others may find a stereotype they like and conform to it, calling it non-binary, but while I conform to stereotypes I no longer name them to be reassured that I am fitting in, but to try and find my real desires, and break conformity. Then again, rebellion is as unfree as conformity, and I seek freedom.

I am certain that not all people who call themselves non-binary are non-binary in the same way. Yet the name might lead them into internet groups where they gain understanding of their new identity, and there are some rules about how to be accepted.

I read that we make our decisions unconsciously, and rather than controlling them the conscious mind merely rationalises them. Why did you do that? Oh, I don’t know, it could be any reason. I pity the man who testified before a tribunal a different reason from what he had said elsewhere, and so ruined his credibility in his judges’ eyes. How could we know the real reason anyway? Because I am a person like this, or someone who behaves like that, or I had this provocation. I wanted to. Then non-binary would merely be a rationalisation, though it may work at the unconscious level as permission. How much do I have to fit in, and can I be free to be idiosyncratically me? I might try independence, see others object, and flee back to conformity. Then I might rationalise that, to self-aggrandise or beat myself up.

I want to make my own decisions without constraint by concepts- I am this, so I must not do that. Though “having integrity” is a good concept and choosing it may be worthwhile. That is the basis of Virtue ethics. And “I am not very bright” might help reduce my self-castigation: I usually work things out in the end.

Trans and culture

Some people are gay. Get over it, as they say. More precisely, some people are same-sex attracted, and “gay” is a useful cultural response to that, a way of containing and explaining the various effects same sex attraction has on people.

Strip away the culture from trans, and what is left? People from widely different cultures live as the opposite sex. Hijras are hijras, Femminielli are femminielli, presenting as women but not seen as women. Elagabalus proclaimed herself “Empress” of Rome, rather than Emperor, a rare example of a transitioned woman with the power to insist. People squabble over instances of those found to be female-bodied after careers as soldiers or physicians- were they transitioning from identity, or were they women choosing that way to survive in a man’s world? Hijra have penis and testicles removed, and so do many modern European trans women.

What is the common factor underlying all these cultural responses? Whether people, either gay or straight, are promiscuous or prefer long term partnerships depends partly on circumstances; I read in the eighties writers disgusted by gay people who said they were promiscuous, and that was disgusting, but also immature and unserious and a sign that homosexuality was pathological, yet I am aware of life-partnerships from before 1967, the date of partial decriminalisation in England. So too trans responses may depend on circumstances. If transgenderists in the old sense, living full time presenting female but not using hormones or surgery, were seen by anyone as “women” I doubt they would object.

If trans women had surgery because they thought it made them women, or made others believe they were women, or believe that they had some medical condition which was properly treated by surgery and therefore they lost the stigma of a sexual pervert, that would mean surgery arose from circumstances, was a cultural response rather than a part of the underlying phenomenon. If the advantage you obtain from the operation is wholly symbolic, it is still an advantage; but society might be better if we could be accepted without having to be mutilated.

There is not only the phenomenon of trans, and cultural expressions of it, but reactions to it and cultural expressions of that. Some say it is a delusion, harmful to the sufferer and to other people who are affected by the sufferer’s actions, and some say it is part of ordinary human diversity. Decent people indulge arachnophobes, taking care to check whether there are spiders and getting rid of any, rather than telling them to pull themselves together.

I say there is a phenomenon of feminine or effeminate men, who do not fit the masculine stereotype, who transition because they fit the feminine stereotype better. If that is the case, the belief in onesself being a woman would come from shame at not fitting masculinity, then seeing the cultural expression of transition. Aha! An answer! The concept of transition arising from gender dysphoria does not require there to be just two genders, and everyone is either one or the other, only that the person transitioning believes that. So the concept of non-binary or gender queer will subvert traditional transition: I do not fit masculinity, but I can find some other way of being, rather than pretend to be a woman.

As people debate these questions, their motivations affect their answers. Are they trying to subvert rigid gender roles by supporting transition, or to protect people from mutilation by preventing it? Do they see trans folk as a threat? Do they seek our best interests, or seek to use us for some other campaign? Are they phobic about us, letting disgust and fear run riot because they imagine it is rational and reasonable, or are they objective?

In the world without Patriarchy, would anyone transition?

Social pressure

Do people transition because of social pressure? How could you know?

Now, I identify as a pansy, a feminine male. Before transition, I felt social pressure to conform to standards of masculinity, but I was aware of “transsexuals”. I felt liberated when I could express myself as Clare. In May 2000, I decided to transition. That decision lasted less than a week: I went to the local TV/TS group and sat with the TSs. None of them had jobs. They seemed miserable. They did not seem to pass particularly well. I thought I could not do it. Then at another group I found trans women who seemed to be able to make a go of life, and in November 2000 I decided to transition. I transitioned in April 2002, and still express myself as female. I have no plans to revert.

As I understood it at the time, there were two kinds of people with a Y chromosome who dressed as women. There were transvestites, who did it for sexual kicks, and transsexuals, who did it because they were really women. TVs were perverts, ridiculous and disgusting, but TSs had a medical condition, and were not to be condemned. I did not feel able to express my feminine self as a man, so the alternative was to transition. I wanted to transition, so I was TS.

In the Northern Concord, of those who did not proclaim themselves TS, there were still people who were like blokes down the pub who happened to be dressed strangely, and some very feminine types. I was friendly with the latter, and some later transitioned.

I wanted sex reassignment surgery. I paid for it. Now, I believe that I had it because of social pressure, because it was part of my understanding of what a transsexual was. Some of that pressure came from the transsexual support group, but also from cis folk, who talked of a “sex change”. Now, many who transition full time do not have SRS. We are “Trans”, which includes cross-dressers. We can make our own path within Trans, rather than being classified as one or the other of TV/TS.

There may be social pressure to identify as trans:

I discussed that article in detail. The mother finds professionals and others surprised that her daughter is not trans- there is social pressure- but mother and daughter are resisting it. It does not show that people transition because of social pressure, that someone comfortable with gender non-conforming behaviour will transition, and certainly not that anyone who could conform to the cis gender stereotype would feel any pressure to transition. It also supports the cisnormative default: the girl is thought to be trans, because she is not like girls are supposed to be. But she could still fit social expectations if she were trans, confirming how girls and boys are different- though the mother writes of others’ surprise, not disapproval. The gender non-conformist who refuses to transition is the real social pariah.

Talk of “social pressure” implies that we are in some way unfree, unfulfilled or prevented from self-actualisation. I would say that I felt I could be more myself if I conformed to the concept of the transsexual woman, so I leapt at the chance. Cisnormativity creates transgender: I would not have needed to transition had I been able to live as a flamboyant pansy, still male. (“Been” able or felt able? Social pressure was too strong for me.)  That is, there is social pressure on the gender non-conforming person to satisfy societal expectations, either by conforming to gender expectations of their sex or by transitioning.

Aged 51, I feel more able to resist social pressure, but possibly I am just ignored. I cycled to the station and took off my wig, unable to bear it. “You need a pair of long earrings,” said that woman. Um. Probably strong makeup too. There is an acceptable look for bald women, but it certainly is not my male pattern baldness, with hair thick round the back and sides but wispy or absent on top. I am paranoid about that even though I shave the sides.

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I tried that line on a trans activist facebook group. Cisnormativity creates transgender. One said Dysphoria is an emotional response to the gender variation of self, which may be a misunderstanding. Cisnormativity creates the idea that a boy should be “boyish”, and grow up to be “manly”. But it may be a disagreement. She is really a woman, she thinks. Another said she observed in children aged 2 or 3 distress at possessing a penis. I find it disturbing that the child, who is allowed to dress as a girl, should know that penis=boy, and not wholly credible without some parental pressure, but she believes that.

How you see it depends on your theory. I say we- transitioners, detransitioners, closeted people, open gender non-conformists, are all the same, all people who do not fit gender stereotypes, who respond to the difficulties that causes in different ways. She says she is a woman with a trans history, yes, really a woman. How you behave depends on your theory. I might not have transitioned had I not believed I really was transsexual. Later, I realised the question which mattered was “Will I be happier if I transition?”- what do I want to do, rather than who am I or what is my fundamental nature. I resisted transition, imagining I was not really TS: thinking I was autogynephilic instead. I say “non-binary” is a freedom-word, a claim I make when I want to act in a particular way, not a separate way of being human as bi or gay is. Different people might argue we are all NB, or all trans, or all GNC, and would act differently because of their theory. Which word you choose may either retrospectively justify your desire, or alter the way you express that desire. The way you do not fit stereotypes may be minimal or extreme, and how much that distresses you will differ.

It is not just we who debate these things. The doctors, and the wider society, debate them too. Some people, not personally affected, argue for what they think is good for the individual, some for the wider society, having different ideas of what it means to be man, woman, human. Ignorant people have strong opinions. Should people have access to cross-gender hormones and surgery? Should society repress gender non-conformity as a perversion, or only permit it to be expressed in a particular way? We can’t make our decisions isolated from the wider conversation, and we may be angry with people trying to push us into a path, or an understanding of the phenomenon, when it’s not the one we want.

On another trans group, person after person anticipates or celebrates their SRS. That I feel now I had it because of social pressure does not mean that anyone else did. For some dysphoria means a loathing of the body because it does not fit the person, which is cured by surgery.

All this is an introduction to the article in The Stranger, and particular responses to it.

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Katie Herzog wrote an article, The Detransitioners: They Were Transgender, Until They Weren’t. Julia Serano and others responded, Katie Herzog wrote again, woundedly saying she was only a journalist reporting people’s stories and experts’ opinions, and Julia Serano wrote again. Briefly, I feel the problem is that people want to make their own decisions- transition, detransition, surgery, hormones, behaviour- but feel that expressed opinions about others’ decisions may make their own more difficult. As Serano writes,  trans communities are highly aware of how notions of “social contagion,” “trendsgender,” and “cisgender people being turned transgender because of peer pressure” are routinely used by those who wish to rollback transgender rights and access to healthcare. We won’t get hormones if others are simply gender non-conforming and public pressure says taking cross-gender hormones is icky, they will not permit it.

But then I say we don’t make our decisions free of public pressure. We may feel that pressure in different ways, as there is no consensus. Detransitioners, social conservatives and TERFs say Transition is Bad. Social liberals recognise that men have been dressing as women since Deuteronomy and probably long before, and there is a tradition of trans surgery going back to Lili Elbe. Depending on the circles we move in or what we read, different options present themselves to us, and what attracts us to one rather than the other may be luck or chance.

Serano has also written, stop pitting detransitioners against happily transitioned people. Yes. We’re the ones who have to live with our non-conformity. We share a lot of common interests. We should strive to minimize unwanted irreversible changes, she says. Of course. But when I so badly wanted SRS in 2003, I did not know I would regret it later.

This is long enough already. I may come back to these articles. I want us all to be able to make whichever decisions feel right for us, to deal with gender issues- but we cannot do that in a vacuum, as if there were no social pressure. It is continued: Social Pressure II.

How feminine is Clémentine-Hélène Dufau’s portrait of Maurice Rostand!

Trans, or non-binary?

Why would you say you were non-binary, rather than trans?

I do not have “a woman’s” spirit, or soul, or mind, or brain, but my own. When I say I am a woman, it is an approximation, and refers to a cultural concept of what a woman is rather than a concept independent of culture, if such a concept is possible. I do not believe I am really a woman, though some trans women believe it of themselves- some call themselves women with a trans history. That could be a way of shutting down argument, rather than explaining: they do not want to explain my behaviour to anyone. If you have to justify yourself you are already less than the Normals, who need not explain themselves. I might do that by saying, “I am Clare”- I am who I am, which is even more difficult to attack.

It seems to me that the names we call ourselves can be used to explain ourselves to ourselves or to others, or to give ourselves permission to behave in a certain way, or to argue to another that I should be able to behave in a certain way. When I first saw a gender psychiatrist he gave me a card saying that I was undergoing treatment for transsexualism and it was appropriate for me to use a woman’s loo. I never had to bring that card out, but I carried it in my handbag until I went full time.

-Why are you dressed as a woman?
-Because I am trans.

Omygod I have this compulsion to dress as a woman.
I am trans
Therefore dressing as a woman is alright.

Do as thou wilt so long ye harm none. However I dress does not harm anyone.

Today, it was really hot, so when I got to the town centre and chained up my bicycle I could not bear to put my wig on. Anyway, under the helmet I was sweaty, and did not want all that sweat in my wig. I put on my skirt over my shorts and walked through the town. “I am embracing my inner non-binary,” I thought. I can have a skirt, breasts made of flesh rather than padding, and male pattern baldness not completely obscured by having just shorn my head with clippers. I am, just for today, non-binary. I went into a charity shop, then thought I cannot try that on because I am so sweaty: so I am concerned for others still. I noticed my awareness narrowing, a self-defence mechanism: rather than thinking “Everyone is staring at me” I only notice other people to avoid bumping into them, deliberately not noticing how they look or if they are looking at me. So, possibly several people were staring at the odd man in a skirt. After going round with my wig off I could just decide I am entitled to do that, and not need a name for myself to justify it; but in the meantime I can take different names which seem contradictory.

So you might call yourself non-binary if you wanted to do things you felt were restricted to one sex or the other. That seems fine if you want to present male three days a week and female the rest of the time. It is more of a problem if you think women should not shout, or men should not cry. That is a radical feminist objection: a woman can behave as she wishes, according to her own nature, and should not be restricted by patriarchal concepts of what is “feminine”. Harridans and pansies unite! But I do not use these names to restrict anyone, but to liberate myself.

However, there is no clear line between “trans” and “non-binary”, so that you could clearly identify a person as one or the other apart from their own identification. And lots of people behave as they wish without the need for these labels. Some are more normal, and some have more self-confidence.