How to Break the Gender Binary
My best friend Z was the first to suggest that I might not be, strictly speaking, a woman. Z had recently come out as nonbinary—that is, not identifying as entirely male or female—and encouraged me to explore my own gender identity as well. (ICYMI, biological sex is assigned based on anatomy; gender refers to intangible concepts like social and cultural norms.) At first, I dismissed it. I was already queer, vegan, mixed race, and left-handed, so I didn’t need another reason to feel different. But privately, I mulled it over for months, until, finally, Z pointed out that most cis women probably don’t need a spreadsheet of data to confirm their womanhood. Fair enough. It took me more than a year to come out publicly. When I did, I went big: I created a weekly podcast called Gender Reveal, which includes educational segments, listener questions, and interviews with rad queer and trans folks, from chefs to comics. Feeling left behind in this wild new world of gender?
No worries, I’ve got tips.
How do I know if someone is nonbinary? You don’t! Nonbinary people can present as masculine, feminine, or anywhere in between. To be safe, avoid gendering strangers. (“They” can be used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun; even Merriam-Webster is on board.)
My friend just came out and started using they/them pronouns. Is it still OK to call my friend bro/man/he anyway? Not if you want to be respectful. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
How can I support nonbinary folks? Educate yourself! Correct folks who misgender us. Request gender-neutral restrooms at work. Most of all, believe us when we say we’re nonbinary.
Isn’t “nonbinary” just a made-up thing for attention-seeking teens? Joke’s on you, buddy—all gender is made up.