Outside the Gender Binary
Sophie Austin chats with a student who identifies as non-binary to dispel any myths and misconceptions.
A conversation can do many things. It can end wars, start revolutions or order a pizza. Conversations are the threshold to finding out about a world bigger than your own.
It’s Pride Week here at UON, and what better way to celebrate LGBTQI+ community than by starting conversations? The community often questions the conventions of gender, and whether it is as definite as it seems. This is where the Genderqueer community comes in. Being Genderqueer relates to those who do not conform to the stereotypical genders, but instead are both, none, or a combination of male and female.
I had the chance to sit down with Ollie, 20, to ask what it’s like identifying outside the gender binary.
Q: Could you tell me what you identify your gender as?
Ollie: I identify as non-binary, and I’m kind of just living in that sphere where multiple words can fit me. Non-binary is normally what I would go with, but transgender and queer also fit me. It’s just kind of “not living in the binary of man or woman”.
Q: Which pronouns do you use, and how do you ask people to use those pronouns?
Ollie: I use they/them pronouns and I’m pretty open with friends about the fact I’m queer. It’s really common in my friend group to ask about pronouns.
In terms of lecturers, I usually email them and tell them. If it’s a new person it’s a lot easier to say “hey, I use they/them pronouns” if I’m going to interact with them more than once.
Q: When did you first realise you identified as non-binary?
Ollie: I had heard about binary-trans, which is male to female or female to male. Then I came to uni and did SOCA1010 and I learnt that gender wasn’t a binary and sex and gender were different and my first-year brain was blown. I went through this stage for about six to eight months where I just thought I was really into gender theory.
I explored it, watched a lot of transgender YouTubers, and it got to a point where the only thing that was stopping me from identifying was wondering if I would change my mind in five years. But gender is fluid, you can change your mind in five years. If this is how you feel now, then identify as it now. There’s no point not living true to who you are.
Q: What are some of the common misconceptions people have about non-binary people?
Ollie: There are so many. One is that “I’m just doing it for attention” … You don’t do this for attention. Do you think we choose to be a minority? You don’t wake up one day and say you want to be more oppressed.
Another one is the whole “this is just a new Tumblr fad”. When you do your research, you can find the Fa’afafine people in the Philippines have had a third gender for years. Native Americans have five genders. Western society has been behind in gender. In these non-white cultures, what would be classed as the [non-binary] people were actually celebrated.
I also get people telling me I have to be androgynous to be non-binary. Or that if I present femininely one day that it automatically disregards me identifying as non-binary. I could present solely as feminine and I would still be non-binary. How I choose to present myself does not define me.
Q: What would you say to someone who might be going through gender dysphoria or want to identify as Genderqueer?
Ollie: Give yourself time. If you consider it for two weeks and then it leaves your mind then it’s probably not the right fit. But if you continue to feel that it is right then it must be.
Join communities. There’s a heap of non-binary YouTubers that do amazing work. Plug for the Queer Collective, you’re more than welcome to come here to find support or resources. And just know that gender is fluid and if you feel this way now, it’s more than okay to change your mind in five years’ time.
Pride Week kicks off the 11th of September and celebrates the LGBTQI+ community all week with a range of events. To get involved, check out the event page or the Queer Collective on Facebook.
If you have any questions about gender identity or sexual orientation, you can visit the Queer Space at the NUSA Building for information and support.
Image credit: Charlotte Butcher via Unsplash, no changes made.
I think it’s telling that Ollie realised that they were non-binary after studying gender in a sociology class.