Gender Rants: It’s Not That Deep!
Non-Binary? What’s that?
Well, the long and short of it is that non-binary, or enby, means something different to each enby person. (Enby is used as opposed to NB, which is an abbreviation for non-black in some circles.) There are as many ways to be non-binary as there are enby people; the fact of the matter is that no matter what non-binary means to a person, it probably has no effect on your life… so stop being an asshole.
What I mean by that is that another person’s gender identity or lack thereof has nothing to do with you. Refusing to use someone’s correct pronouns or name does not make you any kind of warrior for righteousness or the proper way of doing things; you are not sticking it to the leftists or proving a point. All you are doing is hurting someone who trusted you enough to come out to you, someone who probably has already dealt with a million others like you but was hoping you would be different. What you are doing is communicating that you winning some imaginary battle of wills means more to you than that enby or trans person’s sense of identity and safety. If your coworker Michael prefers to be called Michael, you are clearly the asshole by insisting on calling him Mike. Why should it be any different if Michael tells you he now prefers to be called Jade? And if your coworker Jade asks you to refer to them using they/them pronouns instead of he/him, is it such a chore for you to make that change? As another human being who probably doesn’t kill puppies in their spare time, Jade deserves enough respect for you to make that effort to change the way you refer to them. Even if Jade does kill puppies in their spare time, we can talk about what a horrible human they are without misgendering them or disrespecting their identity. To you, it might seem like a nuisance or strange to change the way you refer to Jade, but I guarantee Jade’s gender identity has caused a lot more strife in their own life than it has to you. It does not matter whether or not you believe in the existence of the transgender condition (I personally encompass enby under transgender, but not everybody does!), it costs you nothing to do your best to get pronouns and names right!
But they/them isn’t grammatically correct!
Dude, I’m not an English major. I don’t know about the historical occurrence of using they/them as a singular pronoun. But goddamn it, who cares? Who among us hasn’t said “ain’t”, “y’all”, “finna”, “gonna”, or started a sentence with the words “but” or “and”? Furthermore, language is built to evolve! The English language has been a hodgepodge of a hot dumpster fire of a language from the start, so why are we suddenly so concerned with what is grammatically correct? It is not unusual for my chosen family to say “she is… uhhh they is… dang it! They is not around today..?” I promise your enby friend, family member, or coworker does not care if your sentence is grammatically correct. (For the record, you would usually pluralize everything else too, even though they might just be a singular person.) If it is that hard for you, do what my family does… just use their *correct* name!
But really, if you find someone’s lost phone, do you not turn it in to the front desk and say “someone left their phone in the restroom, can you make sure they get it back?” There you go, using they/them as a singular! Good job 🙂
Also, I have definitely heard some cispeople say they “don’t use pronouns”. My friends… life would be very confusing if no one used pronouns. She, he, they, etc. are all pronouns, and they really make life easier. Trust.
AFAB And AMAB
Quick tip, AFAB stands for assigned female at birth and AMAB stands for assigned male at birth. If someone tells you they are AFAB or AMAB, it is incredibly rude to invalidate the wording they have chosen to use. Per my conversation with my (soon-to-be-former) therapist:
Them: What’s your gender?
Me: Well, I’m non-binary.
Me: … Assigned female at birth, I guess.
Them *laughing*: Ok, I’m just going to put down female.
If someone has entrusted you with something that is important to them, respect that. I understand as a medical professional one might need to know what my physical makeup is. However, let’s first of all respect that intersex people exist, who even by “biological standards” may not fall into a binary category. Second, there was no reason for you to let me know the distain you hold for my gender identity and the way I feel about myself. Either way, you’ve now made it very clear to the person you are talking to that you are NOT a safe person to be open with in any capacity. And now you (my former therapist) want to ask me about whether I’ve had suicidal thoughts? I think I’ll keep that to myself, thanks.
And if you’re not the physician of the trans person in question, why in the Sam Hill do you want so badly to know what’s in a person’s pants/genome?
It’s Just Not That Deep… For You.
Look, I don’t know what’s going on with your life or what your experiences are, just as you don’t know me or my experiences. And I respect your truth and your experiences, as I hope you respect mine! If you have a past trauma or experience that makes properly naming or gendering people an issue, let’s talk. Maybe someone has been overly aggressive in correcting you, and now you just kind of don’t like all trans folk. Ok, fair. It’s human nature to take our experience with one person from a certain group and project that onto everyone, and no one likes to be chastised for a mistake. But the same way it is wrong to categorize all men as assholes or all women as naggy or all kids as brats, it is wrong to assume all LGBTQ+ folks and allies are going to have that rather pushy, “social-justice warrior” flavored reaction that some find distasteful. The truth is that most trans people in general, and enby folks in particular, are terrified to correct you on their pronouns, or even tell you the right ones in the first place! Please try to look at the person first, and their queerness as a part of that person, not the whole person.
Now, pretend we’ve established why correctly gendering someone hopefully isn’t that big a deal for you. For the person you’re talking to, it is a big deal. It can be life-changing, or life-saving.
To be constantly told that you are not what you know yourself to be, both in big ways and little ways, is exhausting. To have it communicated that an important part of what makes you, you is invalid and doesn’t matter and maybe that its complete bullshit? That hurts. That hurts a lot. We all hate rejection, and sometimes a coworker you barely talk to insisting on using the pronouns they have chosen for you instead of the ones you’ve told them are correct is more rejection than we can handle. Remember that many, if not most, trans people are also being rejected by those who used to be close to them: parents, siblings, longtime friends, and romantic partners. My mother, who I donated half of my liver to in order to save her life, told me I was dead to her when I came out and still refuses to use my chosen (and soon-to-be legal) name. Be kind. It might not be that deep to you, but for some people, it is. Be kind.
Ok, I’m Ready to Stop Being an Asshole… but Really, What Does Enby Mean?
Basically enby means that you don’t vibe with the gender binary. You don’t think we need to confine ourselves to being a boy or a girl. For some, this means they feel like a different gender on different days. Sound weird? Well, guess what… it doesn’t effect you, so who cares? For others, that might mean presenting like their assigned gender but using they/them or other pronouns. Seem confusing? Just do your best! It might mean looking as androgenous as possible, or defying normal gender expectations and expression. For me, it means dressing however I want (usually pretty masculine), cutting my hair how I want (super short until recently), looking vaguely masculine, getting as much muscle as possible, and loving myself. It means finally understanding why I never really felt like a girl, but also didn’t feel like a boy. It means coming to terms with the fact that I might never grow out of that adolescent anxiety about my body not looking the way it should. It means making sense of feeling uncomfortable with my hips and chest (that’s called body dysphoria, my friends!) It means great personal indecision every time I have to use a public bathroom. Mostly, it means finally getting to live as myself the way I want. A piece of me is finally falling into place, and it’s unbelievable.
Please be kind to our trans siblings. It’s really not that deep, but it is.