#BreakingTheStigma - Non-Binary and Genderfluid Identities

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

This post was written for and first appeared in the Breaking the Stigma blog (run by @_BreakingTheDistance).

How would you describe your non-binary journey?

My non-binary journey was very tangled, long, and confusing. When I first started getting hints that I wasn’t a cis woman, I had recently come out as a lesbian. It really scared me, to not know whether my new gender feelings would negate my lesbian identity. When I didn’t even know what I was feeling, since I hadn’t yet heard of the term ‘non-binary’, or even that it can be an umbrella for so many other identities. 

It’s no secret that we live in a very binary world, but for a while, it was a secret to me that it was possible to live beyond this. All I knew was that I no longer felt like a woman, but I knew I didn’t feel like a man either.

If that wasn’t enough … as quickly as my non-binary gender feelings began, they went away, and suddenly I felt connected to womanhood again. This confused me even more. Was I faking those feelings? Was I confused? What was happening to me?

For a few months after this, I felt very solidly like a woman, but then the disconnect came back again. This time, I decided to look deeper into it and do as much research as I could. This mostly came in the form of watching YouTube videos from trans and non-binary creators, hoping that I would find something in their experiences that resonated with my own.

After hours and hours of research, I finally cracked the surface of non-binary-ness, and discovered all of these amazing sub-terms to describe identities that aren’t solely male and/or female. It was then that I found the term ‘Gender fluid’. It was almost immediately that I connected with this term, and all of a sudden, my experiences made sense.

I wasn’t confused or making up my feelings, the reason my gender identity seemed to shift these few times is because it is quite literally fluid! I do not live solely as a non-binary person, or solely as a woman, or solely as anything in between. Sometimes I feel non-binary, sometimes I feel genderless, sometimes I feel like a mix of a few different genders. None of this is wrong or impossible. It’s just who I am!

What stigmas do you experience around your identity?

Because I look like a cis woman, I am often solely treated as such, especially in non-LGBTQ+ spaces. I don’t always feel comfortable outright sharing my identity, or correcting people when they call me a woman.

On one hand, this is definitely a privilege, as I don’t face direct hate for being gender-fluid. But on the other hand, it makes me sad that people automatically assume I am a binary woman. This bothers me to different degrees, depending on what part of the gender spectrum I currently identify with.

This very binary world really isn’t set up to accommodate non-binary people, unless people specifically work to do so. Most restaurants and buildings have men’s or women’s bathrooms, not gender neutral bathrooms. Most forms that ask for gender make you choose solely between “male” and “female”. If I’m not presented with a non-binary or ‘other’ option, I typically choose the “female” option, but only because I was assigned female at birth. However, this isn’t truthful or authentic to myself and I wish that I could always choose the option that most accurately correlates with my identity.

How has being non-binary influenced you in a positive way?

Being non-binary has influenced me in the most positive way possible. I spent the majority of my teenage years trying to fit myself into the cis, straight narrative and world. I dated men and dressed and acted the way that women are “supposed” to act. My body and identity never felt right in these spaces and for the longest time, I assumed that meant there was something wrong with me.

However, now that I fully understand myself. I realize that I was uncomfortable in traditional women’s roles, spaces, clothes, etc. because I was not a woman. I don’t have to change myself one bit to better “it in”, because there is no set way to look or be non-binary.

Of course, there’s no set way to be any gender, but society heavily dictates what is “normal” and “appropriate” for men and women. In a way that it doesn’t for non-binary people because it doesn’t really recognize non-binary identities.

Being non-binary means I am completely, 100% free to be myself and do what makes me feel good. Since coming out as gender-fluid, I have felt so much peace and comfort with myself. I wish that teenage Zoe could have felt this happy and free from self-hatred. But what matters most is that I feel this way right now, and so long as I continue being my authentic self, I will keep feeling free.

Do you feel accepted in the LGBTQ+ community?

For the most part, I do feel accepted within the LGBTQ+ community. Especially in my virtual Instagram communities, people seem to be really open to the possibility of a lesbian who does not identify as a woman, and I don’t feel ostracized or treated differently because I am non-binary.

However, in a lot of real-world spaces, I know there are many cis binary queer people who do not “agree with” or “believe in” non-binary or trans identities. There has been a lot of talk in the past few months about dropping the ’T’ from LGBTQ+, since apparently trans issues have nothing to do with sexuality issues? I don’t agree with this at all.  The whole point of the LGBTQ+ community (for me at least) is to provide a space for anyone who does not fit in with “societal norms” according to their sexuality, gender, or genetics. I know so many people who are like me in that they’re both not-straight and not-cis.

However, I choose to only surround myself with people who will understand and uplift my identities. I feel very certain about who I am, and I know that I firmly belong in the LGBTQ+ community, no matter what anyone else says. I hope that, by speaking openly about these issues and my journey and identities, I can help create a community that is fully accepting of everyone.