Gender is very much visible in the current media, with the transphobic bathroom laws being enacted in at least parts of the US. For anyone who knows me from twitter, it’s probably not escaped you that I’m neither straight, nor cis. And more-or-less not a woman.
First, let’s go through a bit of vocabulary, since I know a lot of my friends are confused about it (and if you aren’t, this is a quick read).
In either of the abbrevations, (X) can either be M for male or F for female.
- Assigned X At Birth
- Forcibly Assigned X At Birth
- Designated X At Birth
- A non-binary person who is more leaning towards being masculine
- A non-binary person who is more leaning towards being femme
- Non-binary, used as “they are non-binary/NB/enby”
- Trans woman
- Woman who was AMAB
- Cis woman
- Woman who was AFAB
- Trans man
- Man who was AFAB
- Cis man
- Man who was AMAB
What is non-binary?
The gender binary means that either you’re a woman, or you’re a man, and that there’s nothing in between. That is a far too simplified model, which is where the gender spectrum comes in. Overall, if someone calls themself non-binary, they in some way do not fit into the model of man-woman. Maybe they’re both, or neither, or rude gesture towards the idea of gender. There’s a lot of online resources to find information about what being non-binary (and gender overall) means to different people, and this is just a quick introduction to get you up to speed.
Gender, as seen by others and me
I’ve walked through my entire life as a girl, and then a woman, with she-prononuns, while merrily ignoring any kind of limit of what "girls can do". I never had the idea of limitations because of gender when I grew up, because my mother taught physics, mathematics and chemistry, and my oldest sister’s work as a chemistry engineer in the pulping industry has earned her several Swedish patents.
I first questioned my gender assumptions when I started spending more time around trans people, in particular trans women. I would try to figure out how they knew they were women, because I like to understand people, and at some point the hugest difference between myself and them made itself clear. This is true for most cis people, and most binary trans people, and a fair share of non-binary trans people: they have an innate sense of gender.
A lot of people object to being misgendered (whether cis or trans). Some might be more precise with pronouns ("I’m a he" or "I’m a they"), others just have categories they don’t approve of ("any except gendered are fine" or "don’t call me he, apart from that any is fine").
I don’t have a sense of what gender I am, and in fact the question of needing to have a gender feels like it’s the wrong question. I also don’t have any issues with any pronouns, as long as they’re not used to disparage me (calling me it is a good way to get my hackles up). If asked what gender I am, I will generally go with one of the following:
- Non-binary: I am enby. I am an enby person. I am an enby.
- Agender: I am agender. I am an agender person.
- Me-gender: I am me-gender. I am a me-gender person.
- Something that might pass for witty in bad lighting, such as: "501. Method not implemented"
Here we get into the really fun nitty-gritty of gender, especially with being non-binary. The world has an idea of what "male" clothing (and bodies) look like, and what "female" clothing (and bodies) look like. My body is read as female mostly (because I’m of the booby/hippy variant), which is why I like to use a more male-presenting look, such as suits, and pants with bracers. Not because I’m masc-of-center, but because I’m also not femme-of-center.
It’s generally harder to read us enbies than people who are closer to the binary, which leads into my final point:
I was once asked how to deal with pronouns, by someone wanting to be respectful. My answer is the same now: ask. Get into the habit of introducing yourself with name and pronouns, and asking the person for theirs. There’s a lot of different pronouns in English, some more common than others. Even if you think you can clearly see that this person is a "she", don’t assume it.
This has the unexpected bonus of pissing bigots off while having gender-non-conforming people probably like you a lot better.