When I came out to my mom, we were in the car. I was terrified to tell her, even though coming out as a lesbian was way easier for me. I think I found it difficult because I was almost certain that she didn’t know what “nonbinary” was. I stuttered over words I’d thought about for days, bringing the subject up with a surge of hot fear making my hands shake. I said something like, “Mom, I’m nonbinary, could you please use they/them pronouns for me and call me ‘August’?” I’m sure I was less articulate than that, but I got the important stuff out. My mom accepted this request pretty quickly, but she still had to ask questions about what “nonbinary” means.
A nonbinary person does not identify with the two binary genders: boy and girl. They fall somewhere in between or off past one side on the gender spectrum. They’ll often use the pronouns they/them/theirs instead of she/her/hers and he/him/his. Nonbinary is a gender identity that is closely related to transgender, as shown by the representation of us in the trans pride flag, “The stripes at the top and bottom are light blue, the traditional color for baby boys. The stripes next to them are pink, the traditional color for baby girls. The stripe in the middle is white, for those who are intersex, transitioning or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives” (Helms 2).
The problem with this information is that it’s not common knowledge. It’s common for families to be unaware of or misunderstand what being transgender means, so when a trans person confides in their family they also have to explain themself. This same experience repeats itself if that person chooses to share this information with more people, like friends or peers or teachers. Often trans people even have to educate their doctors about this subject: “In addition, gender diverse patients are often put in the untenable position of providing education for their health care provider. This is inexcusable on the part of the health care provider. The gender diverse patient should not be the primary source of education in the health care setting” (Dickey 5). There aren’t enough people that know about this identity. And if a cisgender (one who identifies with the gender that matches their sex) person knows about transgender people, they probably view the identity from a cisgender point of view. An example of this can be seen in how transgender people are treated on television. Jamison Green, a trans man, writer, activist, and past president of FTM International, was lied to about the topic of the talk show that he agreed to appear on, and was subjected to “Transsexuals with regrets,” instead of “The truth of surgical sex reassignment” (Pragmatic Shifts 4). Transgender people are referred to with outdated terms that are approaching the status of slurs (transsexual) in common language.
Dickey, Lore. “Toward Developing Clinical Competence: Improving Health Care of Gender Diverse People.” AJPH Transgender Health, vol. 107, no. 2, February 2017, pp. 222-223. Basic Search: EBSCO Host.
“From the “Jerry Springer Smackdown” to the “Oprah Winfrey Smackdown”: Pragmatic Shifts in Transgender Visibility on Talkshows.” Basic Search: EBSCO Host.
Point 5cc, web.archive.org/web/20150709055037im_/http://point5cc.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Point5cc-Blog-TransFlag.jpg.
“The History of the Transgender Flag.” point5cc, 23 April, 2015, web.archive.org/web/20150709055037/http://point5cc.com/the-history-of-the-transgender-flag/.