While we may think non-binary is a new term, in the latest Census, at least 30,000 people identified as non-binary in England and Wales alone – while globally numbers are much higher.
To mark International Day of Non-Binary People (July 14), we asked some non-binary influencers to share what they want people to know about the misconceptions and challenges that come with being non-binary, and the freedom it brings…
Valeriə Avalle, 28, a blogger and Asics athlete from Italy
“I’ve always known I was non-binary, ever since watching cartoons, I struggled to identify with female characters. Then growing up, I started asking myself questions and realising that my gender identity didn’t match my biological sex, but at the same time not even the opposite one. I’m not a woman, I’m not a man, but at the same time, it’s like I’m both,” says Avalle.
“My greatest wish is to be seen for the person I am, and that the state in which I live may one day recognise non-binary gender as such and allow me to rectify my documents properly. Even if our gender identity is not known, it is still valid and must be respected.”
Jade Forbes, 28, an artist from Bury St Edmunds
“Non-binary isn’t a look or aesthetic, non-binary isn’t thin, white and androgynous. Any person you’ve ever met could be non-binary, including those who present very feminine or masculine. Every single person is themselves and as many people as there are, there are that many ways to have a gender – or not, for agender folk. If it was safe to explore [gender], many more people would,” says Forbes.
“When non-binary people are finally included in things, it feels like the only ones being chosen or paid fit very much into cisgender ideas of what non-binary looks like – which it can, but not all of us [look like that].” Emily Brinnand (aka Brinny), 33, a mind-body development coach from Hove
“Being non-binary is defining and expressing my own femininity, defining and expressing my own masculinity, and defining and expressing whatever is in between,” they explain. “When I first heard the term non-binary, I quietly said to myself ‘that’s me’, before speaking it out loud or sharing it with anyone.
“[Being non-binary] is not one way of being or living and that’s what is beautiful about it. It is for defining. It is about unlearning and peeling away layers of patriarchy and heteronormativity.
“Non-binary life is raw. It can be freeing, vulnerable, confusing, fun, limitless and exciting.”
Essie Dennis, 28, a writer from London
“It’s not about how I look or how you see me. It’s about how I see myself. It’s very internal for me,” says Dennis. “I didn’t suddenly become someone different once I found out what gender fluidity was – I just found a word for what I was always feeling. And it’s ok if people don’t understand – we can’t all understand each other fully – but just believe me when I tell you who I am.
“For me, gender just isn’t a big deal, and I always found it difficult to wrap my head around how particular everyone was about it. On some level, I always knew I didn’t quite fit neatly in the gender boxes I was given. I mean, if cis-binary gender is the only way to live, then why does it need to be so strictly enforced?
“A lot of queerness exists in the grey areas and in the way we reject the status quo. If someone feels like they don’t fit the categories set out for them, then it’s not their problem. The categories just weren’t wide enough to begin with.”