10 Things You Should Never Say To Someone Non-Binary
The trials and tribulations of being X-why?
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
1. “You’re physically male/female. I’m not going to call you ‘they’.”
Adapting someone’s pronouns is a small courtesy and one that it won’t kill you to extend. However, some people behave as if you’ve just asked them to strip naked and paint yourself blue when you ask. If someone wanted to be called John but their parents had named them Luke, most people probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
2. “’They’ is grammatically incorrect.”
It’s amazing how many people who don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re” or “its” and “it’s” will still come out with this line. It can take a bit of getting used to “they/them/their” but most people won’t be too irritated by mistakes if you’ve at least tried.
3. “Are you going to physically transition?”
Some non-binary folk do decide to undergo procedures such as top surgery (the removal of breasts) but many do not. To be honest, it’s probably none of your business unless the non-binary person you’re talking to volunteers the information.
4. “It’s just a trend.”
Non-binary gender identity is documented through much of recorded history and in many cultures, from the cross-dressing temple attendants of ancient Mesopotamia to Thai “ladyboys” and Native American “Two Spirits”. It has admittedly gained more exposure in the Western world in the last few years, but it is by no means a new concept.
5. “I don’t understand it.”
With this statement usually comes the inherent suggestion that the speaker isn’t going to try to understand it, either. Nobody is asking you to become an expert in five minutes if you are extra-comfortable in your own “assigned” binary identity, but take the time to listen.
6. “You’ll change your mind.”
Sure, maybe. Genderfluidity is a common position on the non-binary spectrum, meaning that those who identify as such might dress or act in a different way from day to day. Equally, however, it’s possible for gender identity to change over the course of months or even years.
7. “It’s an insult to the Suffragettes/feminism in general.”
This is one commonly-held position for opponents of the non-binary and trans “movements”. One obvious reaction is to respond by saying that feminism has traditionally been about eliminating discrimination based on gender, which embracing non-binary gender could potentially achieve. Many non-binary people choose to identify as such because they feel oppressed in their “assigned” gender. Unfortunately a lot of mudslinging has gone on on both “sides” and that has somewhat clouded the issue.
8. “So you’re half male and half female?”
Not necessarily. Many non-binary folk identify as not wholly but mainly one gender. Others place themselves on more of a spectrum. It’s a mixed bag and nobody but the non-binary person in question is really permitted to explain where they fit (or, equally, not to explain if they don’t feel comfortable doing so).
9. “It’s not as bad as being trans.”
Actually, enbies (non-binary folks) do arguably fall on the transgender spectrum. And as such, they are subject to similar prejudices to those who transition to or present as a binary gender different to their assigned birth sex.
10. “So you’re bisexual then?”
Sexuality and gender identity are very different things. Whilst many people who eschew traditional gender stereotypes are also part of the queer community, not all of them are. A large proportion of non-binary people are attracted to one particular binary gender.