Last month I released the results of my Readership Survey, a deep dive into the stuff my readers are made of. Among the questions I asked, the responses to two of these elucidate the most pressing needs of non-binary individuals looking for answers.
What are your most burning questions about gender and/or transition?
What’s not out there: What articles, information, or resources would you like someone to create?
There are many ways to make an impact. A majority of topics fall outside the scope of what I can cover, or I feel wholly unqualified to take on, yet nonetheless are extremely important to address.
This is why I created Featured Voices, a new series where I invite guest writers to publish their experiences around a monthly theme. This allows me to highlight the non-binary topics that you feel are missing.
Moreover, I’m using my platform to boost yours. Add your link to Community page and let somebody find your blog / vlog / comics / ramblings.
I present this list as a challenge to the rest of you. If your experience touches upon anything mentioned below, think about how YOU can add a positive contribution.
On My Blog
In the catacombs of my blog, you can dig the archives to read about:
- top surgery, regardless of identity
- testosterone, and its various options
- disclosure / coming out
- backtracking on a previous decision (like being adamant about never going on testosterone, then going on testosterone).
- dealing with unaccepting parents
- post-surgical depression
Of course, coverage on any of these is not exhaustive, nor will it ever be. But I’ve feel I’ve written enough such that, when people email me, the answers are almost always somewhere inside my blog.
Lack of Representation
People like us have certainly existed, yet the problem is we can’t find their stories, either because they kept it secret, kept it private, or it was lost to time. That’s why I encourage you to start your own blog, pitch an article, post something on social media. It can be anonymous! It can be short-lived. But it will exist out there for someone to find. And the larger the target becomes, the easier it is to find.
I started my own blog five years ago (equivalent to 500 trans years) precisely because I couldn’t find anyone telling my story. At the time, I was female-identified and all I wanted was top surgery. It was highly anonymous (I didn’t post pictures of my face until a year later), and I had no agenda other than to document my process so others like me would find it and know they weren’t the only ones.
So I encourage you – nay, implore you – to put yourself out there. Everybody has a story worth telling. You will make a difference, I promise.
In contrast to LGB or even trans people, the population of non-binary individuals remains small, at least from our view. The best we can aspire to is online community, which is often our only window into this world. Don’t discard it: connections formed online can be powerful.
For physical communion, other than traveling once a year to one of the large transgender conferences (held mostly in the US coasts), what are the options? Consider starting a support group in your region. It could be virtual, where you meet by Skype once a month. The important part is having a chance to talk face-to-face about local issues that affect your trans life. Also, don’t be shy about joining LGB or Trans groups in your area. I’ve forged meaningful with other queer folks because we do ultimately share similar experiences.
You might also find caring allies in unlikely places where you simply enjoy spending time, like a climbing club, a comic book meetup, or a crochet circle. Finding people who care about you as a person can often be more valuable and provide more emotional relief than random folks who happen to share a common attribute.
And no, we don’t have a secret lair… that I’m telling you about.
MAAB Non-Binary Transition, Social and Medical
A lot of people have wished for a blog similar to mine from the AMAB perspective – if you know of any, please add it on the Community page.
My research on transition has led me to search for and understand non-binary MAAB transition paths. I’ve corresponded with many folks with whom I’ve exchanged resources and discussed possible options. There’s a half-written draft in my folder just waiting to be finished. It’s coming! Soon! ish!
However, my knowledge on this topic, and more importantly, my personal experience, will always be limited. For example, the aforementioned post in preparation will only cover medical transition. I believe that, while anything I put out there is better than nothing, it certainly won’t satiate the gap in resources necessary for this community and their allies.
On that note, this month I’m publishing MAAB non-binary writers as part of the new Featured Voices series. There’s still time for you to submit your story!
Coming Out At Work (as Non-Binary)
I’ve blogged about my experiences at work. However, I feel my personal circumstances led me to “cop out” on this issue. I never actually transitioned on the job because I kept changing jobs every year, each jump coinciding with major shifts in my identity. It’s perhaps also not addressed frequently in the blogging space because non-binary bloggers tend to be quite young (the average age of my readers is 25, and 40% are students).
In the meantime, I recommend Janitorqueer, where Kameron has been updating us on the gradual coming out process at work.
Older Non-Binary People (40+)
With an average age of 25, I feel like I’ll be aged out of my own readership audience pretty soon.
Call it the millennial trend of over-sharing, or the like-attracts-like snowballing of resources, but it’s clear older non-binary people just aren’t documenting their own stories online as much as their younger counterparts. Luckily, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting “older” (more experienced) non-binary people at conferences, via listserves, or through local groups. Shout out here to Kyle, Jay, and Jamie.
Other than mere representation, these were some of your specific questions:
- how our gender identities evolve/reveal themselves over time
- navigating your children: coming out, understanding your identity
- transitioning with long-time partners
- servicing the needs of the elderly: more exposure to hospitals, service care, elder communities
Once again reminding you of that average age statistic, younger folk are less likely to be in a long term relationship by their mid-twenties. The dating issues they’re dealing with are also probably different from someone well past their twenties.
However, it’s not only visibility of relationships with non-binary people that is lacking; it’s the partner’s perspective that is a rare commodity. For example, I wish we could Queer Rock Love could marry itself and have babies, but alas, Paige is only one person with only one amazing non-binary partner.
You also wish there were more stories on:
- how to start a family post-transition
- successful couples (me! me! <<raises hand enthusiastically>>)
- straight couples who are now perceived as gay
- being gay and trans
- the journey of cis (non-queer) partners
- trans and pregnant
Parents of Non-Binary Teens
At the request of the conference director, I presented a Non-Binary Youth workshop at Gender Odyssey for the first time last year.
It’s increasingly common for kids to come out at 16, 14, or even 12. While there has been a huge uptick in resources, information, and support available for parents of young trans children, it’s usually geared towards binary-identifying ones. Even when providers acknowledge diverse identities, the nature of the solutions surrounding coming out, social transition, school, athletics, protective laws, medical transition, may often exclude non-binary kids. While many concepts overlap, it can still be difficult for parents of non-binary children to connect with other parents when their issues, needs, or paths look so different.
This topic remains widely underserved, with open questions like:
- how do I understand my child’s identity?
- what does a successful socially transition look like?
- how can I support a fluid identity? what if they keep changing their mind?
- should I let my kid take hormones / have top surgery?
- how do I talk to my kid about sex?
- how do we deal with siblings or extended family?
- where can I connect with other parents?
Conversely from teens, a major issue they are running into is how to get their parents on board. Where do they even start explaining this to them?
Costs Associated with Transition
This came up so, so, so many times in the survey. As a population we are simply less likely to have stable financial means given the social vulnerability and stigma around our visible identity, not to mention intersecting issues of race or disability or class or mental health that exponentially compound the obstacles.
Specific resources you feel are needed:
- Actual costs of transition
- Paying for transition: financing, saving, fundraising options
- Using health insurance: procedure, requirements, actual costs
- No insurance
- Non-transition medical costs – primary and secondary healthcare
- DIY transition
- Housing / Jobs
No Physical Transition
To me, transition simply means taking steps towards becoming more comfortable in your gender. An act as as simple as getting a haircut can be transformative for self esteem and identity. However, both trans and cis people can become obsessed with medical aspects of transition.
There are many trans people, binary or non-binary, who do not undergo a physical transition, because:
- They have no desire for it
- Not possible due to lack of financial or social resources, disability, or country of residence
- Long wait periods preclude them from continuing; especially true in countries with nationalized healthcare, or for minors
I’m still surprised when people equate “transition” with surgery, and you’re right at being surprised that I don’t see this coming in the first place. What’s absolutely clear is the need for surfacing this topic with greater frequency in mainstream and trans communities alike.
The diversity in non-binary genders is paralleled by our diversity in visible presentations of our genders.
Things you’d like to talk about more:
- Looking gender-normative (either as assigned gender or “opposite” gender)
- Expected non-binary presentations: masculine AFAB / feminine AMAB
- Non-normative presentations: non-masculine AFAB / non-feminine AMAB
- Femme without being female / Masculine without being male
- Not presenting androgynously
- Don’t identify as trans, yet have dysphoria and/or seek medical transition
- Micah’s comment: not sure if the reader meant “don’t identify as binary trans man/woman” or simply as trans in general. Even when people’s experiences align with or “fit” a concept, using a label or identifying as trans is still a personal choice. Regardless, this speaks to the experience of not fitting in with the primary non-binary or trans narrative.
Is Non-Binary a Sustainable Identity?
I estimate that 100% of non-binary people have wondered about this, and perhaps continue to wonder about this indefinitely. A lot of the posts around my personal journey speak to this question, as I myself attempt to discover whether this is possible.
Many assumptions lie beneath this question, primarily the fear of being forced to choose between living as your assigned gender or transitioning completely into the “opposite” binary gender. Other fears that are left unanswered:
- Introducing / explaining non-binary gender to people who are not familiar with it
- Coping long term with continually coming out
- How do I compromise between what I want for myself and how I want other people to see me?
- How do I accept that most people will never see me as nonbinary?
- Existential stuff.
If we follow the trail of the question above, we’ll bump into the broader issue of authenticity, feeling like we are being our “true” selves, and figuring out what our “true” selves even are when faced with a world that fails to acknowledge our existence. I wrote about this exact concept twice: “Finding Yourself” and “Be Yourself.”
“Am I making this up?” is the most frequently asked question. Survey responses that echoed this:
- How do you know you are non-binary? / How can you be sure?
- Genderless / the experience of not having a gender
- Validity of my gender
- Regret of past or future choices
- Mourning the loss of past self while embracing a new identity
- Dysphoria and Depression
- and intersection with mental illness
Politics and Policies
Trans rights usually refers to binary-trans rights. Given our rigid gender system, the way certain laws or policies apply to trans men or trans women can end up with no room for dealing with non-binary genders, or best a gray area. While we can dream of genderless spaces and respect for all genders, we are confronted with reality, as we live our lives IRL.
Among the fights we cannot forgo are:
- How non-binary genders fit into the legal landscape and rights of trans people
- Social or legal recognition for non-binary people
- Political discourse on gender, feminism, equality
- Not another binary: cis vs trans
- History of gender
- Intersections of gender identity with: sexuality, race, class, culture, disability, mental health
- POC-specific resources
- Funding for research and studies of non-binary experiences
International: Living Outside of the US
I assume that the amount of information about non-binary genders in other languages is very little compared to what is available in English. Furthermore, most of the resources generated center around US experiences: the culture, political system, healthcare, and history. Plenty of comprehensive local resources also exist in Canada, Australia, and UK, where 20% my readers live.
For those living in other countries, you need access to:
- Localized Resources
- Access to physical transition
- Local providers trained in trans health
- Inclusive healthcare policies
- Insurance coverage
- Inclusive of non-binary identities
- Advocacy and policy
- Legal protections, non-discrimination policies
- Cultural acceptance
- Language barrier: non-English resources
I’ve met a handful of international advocates from Mexico, Brazil, Netherlands, China, Poland, India, Costa Rica, who are amazing at mobilizing their local community – raise your hand if you’re here!
Contrary to tradition, I will leave you not with an answer, but with a question, the same questions we started with:
What articles, information, or resources would you like someone to create?
And one last question: How can YOU make an impact?
Help Micah Create Non-Binary Resources
Support the time, energy, passion, knowledge, and chutzpah that go into creating more resources centered around non-binary needs: patreon.com/neutrois.