This week we get to the hard-hitting, makes-you-uncomfortable-that-people-think-that-way kind of stuff: how people who are nonbinary are perceived by people who don’t know much about the topic or don’t bother to learn more about the topic once they’ve established their opinion. The viewpoint of these people is probably one of the most confounding, ungrounded views I’ve ever come across: they think that people who are nonbinary or trans* along the male/female binary are simply labeling themselves as such to gain attention.
I’m going to try to keep this neutral.
First things first, I would like to reiterate what I’ve said in previous posts: gender identity and orientation are not a conscious decision, they are not a choice, and if they fluctuate it is never on purpose.
This fact is the first point that conflicts with the popular stereotype. The idea that people deviate from the so-called “gender norm” on purpose is completely false. No one can choose their gender identity, and the repercussions and consequences that come with identifying as a gender that falls outside the binary male/female are too great to face on a whim. As much as I wish it were different, a person’s gender still largely dictates how they can act, what they can wear, and what they can do in today’s society without being ostracized. When a person figures out that they do not identify with the publicly accepted male/female system, they have to deal with the fact that clothes, behaviorisms, and even body language that are accepted and categorized by the majority are no longer completely applicable to them. Suddenly, they are faced with finding a mix or a happy medium or some combination of whatever makes them feel most natural and most like their outside reflects their inside, and most of the time the end result falls outside of societal “norms.” No one would choose to go through this experience.
The second point that conflicts with the stereotype is the fact that the majority of society is still largely unaware of or very prejudiced against a nonbinary gender spectrum. A lot of people today still attack, both verbally and physically, that which does not conform to their idea of what is acceptable. The majority of people who identify as nonbinary have experienced verbal and physical abuse, and this happens even without a formal statement from their person establishing their identity. They also have to face purposeful misgendering when people knowingly or unknowingly use the incorrect pronouns, or even worse: use “it.”
Even if a person who is nonbinary chooses not to identify themselves to others—which is a valid decision—many times their outward behavior or appearance still singles them out as different, and people attack. People have been beaten; harassed; assaulted verbally, physically, and sexually; denied medical care; raped; murdered; and even driven to suicide.
And now I ask you: who would voluntarily choose to go through that?
Identifying as nonbinary is not a cry for attention. It is not a choice. It is not always something that a person wants to do and they may deny it their whole life.
When a person publicly identifies as nonbinary, accept it for what it is: the truth. And when they do, support them and educate yourself so that hopefully their public transition may be easier than so many of the others who tried and have since lost their lives.