Why Is Everyone Suddenly Nonbinary?

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Hi, I’m Aiden McPhillips, and I’m a senior at Huntingtown High School. I’m a straight A student, a member of NHS, and a theatre kid.

I’m also nonbinary and have been using she/they pronouns for the last year.

It hasn’t been a super public thing, plenty of my friends and fellow classmates have no idea. It’s not something I tell my teachers about unless they ask, it’s not even something I ask of my family. It can be a very awkward thing to tell people, as it comes with a lot of questions, so I thought I might answer some here and now.

 

What Is Nonbinary?

Carl Clemons-Hopkins

When we think about gender, we often think of the binary: man and woman. This is textbook, this is what we’ve decided is normal, and what we as a society are comfortable with. The truth is gender is a spectrum beyond those two options. Nonbinary can be between those two options, or far beyond them. Many different religions and cultures saw beyond the binary, but colonialism set the binary as the only option. Over the years, we’ve begun to break down the idea that some things are “meant for women” and others are “meant for men,” like the idea that clothing can be worn by anyone: men can wear dresses and women can wear suits. But moving past gender stereotypes is only one step, we must also recognize that people can exist beyond those two categories, and we have no say over what they can and can’t wear or do.

 

Why Do So Many People Suddenly Identify as Nonbinary?

Gender identity is not a trend, it never has been, and it never will be, as it is accompanied by negativity, not popularity or clout. However, as the world becomes more aware of gender as a spectrum, we see more representation of all the different ways people can express themselves freely. When people see others that they can relate to, they feel more willing to come out and express themselves in the same way. I didn’t believe I could be nonbinary until I realized I related more to nonbinary friends’ perceptions of gender than my girl friends’ perceptions of gender. It’s a result of exposure, not a trend.

 

How Can I Tell Someone Is Nonbinary?

There’s no one “look” for being nonbinary. Some believe that to be nonbinary is to be the exact middle between man and woman, but this ignores the idea of there being infinity possibilities upon the spectrum. The best way to know if someone is nonbinary is to set up an open environment where they feel safe enough to tell you about their gender identity. Forcing someone to disclose their gender identity in a new group, such as making everyone put their pronouns on their name tag the first week of school, can actually be more helpful than hurtful, as it may put students in the position where they will either have to either out themselves or misgender themselves. Most of it comes down to an open and accepting attitude, providing opportunities for others to open up about themselves.

“They” Is Not a Singular Pronoun, And I Won’t Use It Like It Is.

You have been for years, and you probably do it without noticing.

“Someone left their phone over here, should we leave it in case they come looking for it?”

“Some kid just got rushed onto an ambulance, I hope they’re okay.”

Because we don’t think about it when we use “they” and “them” in a singular context, we feel strange suddenly thinking about it. But there’s nothing new about it, and it’s not breaking any grammar rules.

How Do I Support Nonbinary People?

The easiest thing is to use the name and pronouns that make them feel comfortable, and to be aware of others that are misgendering them. Correct others when you can. You might mess up, it takes some getting used to, but just correct yourself and move on. Transgender and nonbinary people might not feel safe with certain people knowing about their gender identity, as it might put them in danger of harassment or further harm. Awareness and empathy are the most important when it comes to support. There are so many sets of pronouns and intricacies to gender identity, no one is asking you to be perfect. I can’t even tell you everything about being nonbinary because I’m just one perspective. It just comes down to listening and being willing to learn and be kind to others. If someone’s name on their transcript is James, but they ask to be called Jimmy, you jot down a note and call them Jimmy. You can provide that same courtesy to anyone, regardless of their gender identity.

I was given to write an article about pronouns and normalizing talking about them during the spring of my junior year. I wrote a lot of notes with a friend about what we wanted to say, but I stopped because I couldn’t really decide how personal I wanted to get.

The night I came out to a lot of people as nonbinary and gay was the same night I came out to my brother as just being gay. He had been saying some obnoxious, careless, and bigoted things that I couldn’t take anymore. I told him his words didn’t exist in a vacuum, that his words affected others, and that he knew someone who was of the LGBT community. It was his little sister. By saying the words he was saying, he was telling his little sister exactly how he felt about her and about who she was and who she is. Unfortunately, that really didn’t seem to matter to him all that much. I’m lucky that he hasn’t shut me out or stopped talking to me, but I don’t really feel lucky.

Unless you have ever had to challenge a norm simply by being your honest self, by not lying to yourself and others, you don’t know fear and anxiety behind that kind of decision. I’m writing the article because it’s something I want people to know about, yes, but also because I don’t know how many people I can look in the eye and wait for them to consider whether or not they’re going to accept me. I can’t place my life in my brother’s hands while I wait for him to consider whether or not he’s going to continue to love and respect me. No one should have to be  afraid of being their true selves around the people they love. Absolutely no one.

The Common Idea of What Being Nonbinary Is: