I'd like to thank Piers Morgan for stretching a four minute segment about being non-binary into a 15 minute feature, thus possibly making it the longest conversation about non-binary issues on mainstream TV. We witnessed a pretty surreal pantomime with Piers Morgan and I managed a plug for my new gender variant kid's book, co-incidentally the day before it was released. This was also International Day of Homophobia, Transphobia (including NB-phobia) and Bi-Phobia.
Since Piers Morgan dominated our segment of Good Morning Britain, it wasn't possible to get all our points across. There seems to be with a confusion with what non-binary is and what gender-neutral is, even within the community itself. There also seems to be misconceptions about gender identity v gender expression and whether or not non binary belongs to the trans community or not.
But let's start with gender neutral (or gender neutrality as Piers Morgan likes to refer to it). People hear the word and imagine grey androgynous blobs, as my partner Owl has pointed out. This is not the case. Gender neutral is pretty much the same as unisex, meaning for all.
Gender neutral clothing means that the clothing isn't in particular meant for women nor men, but for everyone. When workforces (such as the police) or schools make their uniforms gender neutral, it means that the attire is something that can fit all and isn't restricted to being just feminine or masculine. What this does is allow everyone to have an even playing field and people aren't divided into categories solely based on their gender and sex. Clothing does not define your gender or your inner sense of self. The problem with uniforms is when people are forced to wear a specific type of clothing based on gendered ideas of what is suitable for men and women. Gender neutral uniforms or facilities prevent trans people or gender non conforming people to be forced into specific type of clothing that they feel uncomfortable in. So in the case of uniforms and toilets, we use the term to mean equality for all. This can only be a good thing-and don't worry, this doesn't take away from anyone identifying as a man or a woman.
Non binary refers to an identity or a sense of self where a person feels that they are neither a man nor a woman. This means that their inner sense of self does not align with what it is to be a man or a woman. In a society that has very strong ideas and expectations of what women and men are, some people are bound not to feel like they belong to those groups. Gender is a complex structure that has changed through time and has different meanings in different cultures. There are many cultures that have a wide range of gender identity and denying the fact that gender can be more expansive than two options of a man or a woman is an oversimplification of the human experience. There are very few things, if any, in this world that can be considered entirely binary and gender and sex surely aren't.
There have been a few comments related to the clothes we were wearing: "Why does one dress like a man and one dress like a woman?"
Your gender identity refers to the inner sense of self where as your gender expression refers to how you express your gender outwards. Therefore, whether you define as a man, a woman or non-binary, you can inhabit any gender expression. People mostly fall within the traditional categories, meaning that women usually express themselves in a feminine way and men in a masculine way. The obvious assumption would then be that non binary people would appear as androgynous or gender neutral. Such an assumption couldn't be further from the truth and we all know that not all men present masculine, nor all women present as feminine and therefore not all non-binary people present as androgynous or gender neutral. Non-binary people (just like everyone else) express themselves in all sorts of ways, dressing in whatever feels comfortable.
There has also been a discussion on whether non-binary falls under the trans umbrella.
In my mind, being trans refers to a collective experience of your gender not aligning with the gender and sex you were assigned at birth. Whether or not people are trans women, trans men, non binary or any other category is irrelevant as being transgender has to do with your experience of your gender identity and not the journey, whether social or medical. Some trans people have a medical transition, others don't. Those who do decide to transition medically are not more valid or more authentic trans people. In my mind the trans umbrella encompasses anyone that does not align with the gender or sex they were assigned at birth. This is why myself and my partner refer to ourselves as non-binary trans. There are certain non-binary people who would not necessarily refer to themselves as trans and that is entirely their choice. In our case, we find solidarity within the trans community and refer to ourselves as a part of it.
Dr. Elly Barnes from Educate and Celebrate had a fantastic chat on an ITV news segment, proving it is possible to explore trans issues with dignity and respect.
With all this momentum and mis-understanding of what non-binary looks like, if you identify as non-binary, I invite you to tweet a selfie to me @thefoxfisher with the hashtags #ThisIsWhatNonBinaryLooksLike #MyGenderation