Riley: Hey everybody, I’m Riley, and I get this question a lot.
“Wait, so you’re a girl? You’re a trans woman? But you’re also non-binary? How is that possible? I thought non-binary meant neither woman nor man? How can you be both?”
That’s the polite version. Usually it’s not so polite.
But the explanation for this is actually really simple. It just involves adding one word to your definition of non-binary. The common misconception is that a non-binary person is neither a man nor a woman, but actually, a non-binary person is someone who is neither strictly a man nor a woman.
It’s not that non-binary people can’t be men or women, it’s that they’re not just men or just women. They’re not binary men or binary women.
“Right, because they are aliens!”
That’s not a very nice thing to say.
“No, no, like the good kind of aliens. Like kryptonians, like Superman and Supergirl. Not like War of Worlds kind of aliens. They just have superpowers.”
No, you can’t tell them – no, no, we don’t – we totally don’t have superpowers. That’s, uh, not true. Not true at all.
“Okay, okay, sorry!”
But our genders do come in a pretty wide range because non-binary is just an umbrella term for a whole range of gender identities. It can include people who are agender, genderfluid, genderflux, genderqueer, androgyne, neutrois, demigirl, demiboy, and so on.
And because gender is such a personal thing, everyone experiences it differently. So someone might feel that they’re more of a man on one day, but then more agender on another day – and they could be both a man and non-binary.
Because gender is a spectrum, and you don’t have to identify on that spectrum or even stay in the same place on that spectrum all the time. For me, I feel like I’m far enough to the girl side of the spectrum to consider myself a girl, but I also feel kinda gender-neutral. It’s like my gender just floats around that general side of the spectrum.
So there are a lot of ways I could describe that. I could say transfeminine or femme non-binary or just non-binary woman. I don’t feel like a binary trans woman, but I also don’t feel like the word “non-binary” fully describes my experience. I’m like right in the middle. And it turns out there’s not one perfect word to describe someone in that part of the spectrum.
So the next question that generally comes up is my pronouns. How can I be non-binary if I use she/her pronouns?
Well, I’d love it if there was a specific pronoun for my part of the spectrum. If there was a pronoun that was in between she/her and they/them, I would use it. But that just doesn’t exist.
I do like they/them pronouns; I have no problem with people referring to me that way. I just generally tell people that my pronouns are she/her for the sake of simplicity. It involves less explaining, less arguing, less trying to convince them that those are legitimate pronouns. And also, I just like the feminine feeling of being called she or her.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m any less non-binary. She/her pronouns aren’t only for binary women.
And in a society where there’s a ton of pressure to use he or she pronouns, I don’t think you can fault non-binary people for just wanting to use what’s easier sometimes.
On the flip side of all of this, some people feel that they are just a man or just a woman, and those people would be binary men or binary women. They could be transgender, like someone who was assigned female at birth, but now identifies as a man; or they could be cisgender, like someone who was assigned male at birth and now identifies as a man.
But I don’t want to create this whole binary people versus non-binary people divide. In fact, I think binary trans people have a lot more in common with non-binary people than they often realize.
That’s because being transgender just means you don’t identify with the gender you were assigned at birth. Some people argue that the trans- prefix means “transition,” and that to be transgender means you have to have transitioned. But I think that definition is terribly outdated and doesn’t account for the fact that some people are never able to, or don’t want to, “transition” in the way that society has defined that.
So by that first definition, non-binary people are also trans. Not all non-binary people identify as trans, and that’s fine, but the experiences of binary trans people and non-binary people all have the common thread of not being cisgender – that is, not identifying completely with the gender you were assigned at birth.
So yes, you can be trans and non-binary. And in fact, when I use the word trans as a broad umbrella term, I do include non-binary people under that.
So that’s all there is to it. Non-binary people are also sometimes men or women, and non-binary people can also be trans. And they can have superpowers, but that’s only like 1 in every 250 of us, sooo…
“I knew it!”
This video is a part of my Feminism with Riley series that I’m doing in collaboration with Everyday Feminism, a website dedicated to helping you stand up to and break down everyday oppression.
Thanks so much for watching. I’ll see you next time.