My name is M Sigma. This means a lot to me.
I recognized not too long ago that I’m non-binary. I feel very strongly about this term, non-binary, I love defining myself not by what I am but by what I’m not. Because I don’t fully know what I am. I love words, but language isn’t sufficient to describe me. Being non-binary also makes me feel zen: I am the absence that fills. There are some other terms that make me feel euphoric and seen: genderfuck, genderqueer, and genderfluid. No single term fits perfectly, but these are the ice cream flavors of gender that are my current favorites. As a child, I liked mint chocolate chip best, but now I go wild for cake batter ice cream, and I like rainbow sherbet a lot too. Things change. And maybe the ice cream flavor I’ll like best in my whole life isn’t even a thing yet. It’s also important to know that I’m non-binary whether I’m presenting as masculine, feminine, androgynous, or anywhere between and beyond these labels. Who I am is not negotiable and is only up to me.
As of writing this article, my pronouns are: they/we/she/my name (pronouns can change often, and might even by the time I post this). I use alternating pronouns, so please don’t just stick with one; change my pronouns up frequently, even mid-sentence. Something like: “I was watching M coming out, and she looked so good. I’m such a fan of ours.” Alternating pronouns means a lot to me and gives me a great deal of euphoria too. My name also means a lot to me, so please respect these changes and do your best to address me the right way.
I also don’t like being referred to by any masculine terms. Here’s a reference chart of words I do and don’t like.
I’m eager and excited to live authentically as myself, to be able to feel as good as I do about this recognition publicly as I have privately.
Please also respect my privacy, be patient with me, and don’t make any assumptions about me. While I may communicate more about my journey someday, for now, this process is scary and strange, and so I’m going at my own pace as I face new vulnerabilities. Lately, I’ve been cycling between sheer, queer joy and wanting to slink back into “the closet.” It just depends on the moment.
I spoke recently with a non-binary friend of mine, and we talked about how the process of coming out itself is yet another performative aspect of gender and cis-hetero-normativity, that cisgender straight people don’t have this closet to come out of, which just creates new binaries or furthers existing ones. But I also recognize my privilege in even being able to come out at all and feel like just maybe I can be myself.
But it’s also really hard in ways that will be all too familiar to non-binary people, and ways that cis people don’t usually have to worry about. This next part has some trigger warnings, generally discussing violence. I don’t go into any specific stories or instances, but I will address troubling statistics and themes. So TRIGGER WARNING for: police violence, physical and sexual abuse, and suicide all related to non-binary and/or trans folx.
Realizing I’m non-binary is hard because many trans and non-binary people are unable to be themselves… because their community doesn’t acknowledge, honor, or accept them. Or maybe gender variant folx can’t come out because they are living with people who can withhold financial, medical, or socioemotional support, and they’re not sure or maybe even already know clearly that they will be held hostage for trying to be themselves. Or maybe we can’t come out because modern society has been ruled for centuries by colonizers who don’t recognize us and have done their best to erase gender variant cultures across the globe. This affects me.
Realizing I’m non-binary is hard because a lot of non-binary folx are homeless, especially right now, and non-binary folx experience unsheltered homelessness at a disproportionate rate compared to cisgender people, and that could be me.
Realizing I’m non-binary is hard because almost half of all transgender people have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, and that could be me, and that rate is even higher for trans people of color, those who have done sex work, been homeless, or have or had a disability.
Realizing I’m non-binary is hard because we can’t go to or trust the cops because 58% of trans and non-binary people who interact with law enforcement are mistreated, ranging from harassment, misgendering, or assault, and that all could happen to me.
Realizing I’m non-binary is hard because I’m a new member of the queer community, a community that can’t gather right now in a pandemic, a community that I cannot explore or engage with and learn from as easily, my social transition limited by six feet at a minimum. But at least since I’m avoiding public spaces, I don’t have to worry about which restroom I’ll use when I go out… for now.
Realizing I’m non-binary is hard because 90% of non-binary individuals face discrimination, often in the form of harassment in the workplace, and 19% of non-binary individuals reported a job loss as a result of their identities, with no anti-discrimination laws to specifically protect non-binary people. That could be me who’s discriminated against.
Realizing I’m non-binary is hard because over half of transgender and non-binary youth consider suicide. And that non-binary youth was me.
Realizing I’m non-binary is hard because I also finally realized I’m non-binary two or three weeks before my country decided between re-electing a leader who actively works to harm the transgender community and someone who’s at least promised to protect transgender people. And over 70 million people in this country chose the leader who is harming me and could have harmed me even more.
And when I think about all of these systemic injustices that exist, the people that hate me for existing, or who are ignorant about me, the system that could have any and all of these terrible things happen to me, I realize why these systems of oppression exist. These oppressive systems exist to create fear in me so great that I will cower and choose not to be who I am. These oppressive systems exist to control me. The system doesn’t have to function this way, but the system puts me at a greater risk for homelessness, joblessness, being denied health coverage, physical or sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, and suicide… all for being myself. But I exist and I can’t be controlled. I have no choice but to be myself. Despite the horrors that almost definitely await me, I still have such queer joy. And while being who I am shouldn’t have to be radical or brave, my queer existence shouldn’t have to be something that puts me and those like me at so many disadvantages, I’m non-binary, and I’m proud, and I won’t let the oppressive systems stop me from that, and I will fight back.
Thanks for reading. I have two asks of you, for myself and on behalf of other non-binary people:
- Please actively put in effort to be respectful to me. Educate yourself. Practice saying my name and pronouns if you’re used to something different. Put in time to show you care. Check pronouns together when we meet new people. Because when you’re not respectful of my pronouns or my name or my identity, you’re hurting me. You’ll mess up, and I’ll mess up too, but I just ask you to do your best. Because that’s what I’d do for you.
- The best way to show you care is to help make the world better in the future for me and people like me. Right now the state of the world is unacceptable for trans and non-binary people. We need radical change just to belong in our own lives. So take action to help those most in need, pay attention to intersectionality, and call out issues immediately when you see them. Know what you’re going to do if we’re together and someone makes any kind of aggression against me. Know what you’ll say when I need you when something goes wrong. Because odds are, that’ll happen. And know it will be a different world for me and other people if you do know what to do, and you actively choose to do the right thing and follow through with it. I hope you’ll join me in this fight.
Thanks so much.
If you’d like to learn more about what being non-binary means, I recommend checking out the resources below that have helped me on my journey. I hope these things can help anyone and everyone else to better understand gender:
Please support the following organizations that help transgender, intersex, and non-binary people: