There’s a chance you read about the news that actor Elliot Page came out as a non-binary transgender this week. I found this a good moment to share my thoughts about all of this. So, what about this thing called non-binary?
The words are written by someone who considers himself to be an ally. Some of the details or ‘in and outs’ will be considered as different from the standards. Remember, this is a personal reflection. These are my thoughts. Yes, sometimes I can be wrong in the choice of words. Remember, I don’t want to offend. I only want to stress out the importance of emancipation.
Yes, memes and jokes are present. Unfortunately. Memes and jokes about Elliot Page, who dared to share the information about being a non-binary transgender. I found this a good moment to share my thoughts. I wrote an article in Dutch about this subject but found it important to also share my words in English.
The news makes you think about things in life. It can be a good moment to think about what is considered ‘normal.’ There are many people who don’t believe that it’s normal. I think it is.
Not a choice
The Wikipedia page is already modified. Ellen has been replaced with Elliot. It’s now he/they when it comes to the pronouns. Most of the media covering this have already used the right words. Remember, this is not a choice. It’s not a choice because this is about being the person that you are. Being non-binary isn’t about not being able to make choices; to chose between female or male.
Non-binary is related to genderqueer. It’s not about being female or male. There is no label to put on and this makes it somewhat difficult for those who can’t understand this. It is, however, a matter if you can change the word “can’t” to “won’t.” Not everyone will understand this.
For ages, we have gotten used to the difference between females and males. Labels are put on behaviour, clothes, toys and whatever object can come to mind. The most common mistake to make is that a non-binary person is unable to make choices or decisions. Why else can’t they decide to be female or male? Well, news flash: they are perfectly capable of making choices and decisions! I think it’s based on a well-considered decision.
Yet, society demands us to make choices. According to some people, you are supposed to love or like based on your gender. Meaning: as a girl or woman, you should love a boy or a man. As a boy or man, you should love a girl or a woman. BS, of course. Why else would there be such a thing as homosexuality? It’s possible to love someone of the same gender. It doesn’t stop there. You don’t need to choose based on gender. It’s possible to fall in love with someone based on their personality, without this gender thing.
Who you are and the way you love isn’t based on a simple choice. It’s part of who you are. This is not something that is thought or can’t be changed in any way.
Let’s call it an umbrella, the diversity that comes with our sexuality. The abbreviation LGBT comes to mind. If it does, that’s a good thing. You’ve heard about this, but did you know there is more than just these four characters? Did you know that there should be a plus sign at the end? If you want to use the full abbreviation, it should be LGBTTTQQIA. Well, add the plus here too. This leaves us with LGBTTTQQIA+. Not everyone is familiar with this abbreviation, so what’s it about?
First of all, it doesn’t only include gay people. Did you know this abbreviation can also include heterosexual people? Well, it depends whether you’re not homophobic and you think that there should be equality for everyone. If this applies to you, then you are an ally.
So, what’s it all about? Well, this abbreviation consists of many types of sexuality and gender diversity. Diversity is very much important because it’s not always about sex. The word sexuality or sexual orientation can suggest that something physical is part of this. It doesn’t have to be. It can be, but it can also not be.
Here’s what’s it all about. Remember, I don’t know everything and I used different resources for this list with abbreviations. If I’m wrong, let me know!
- L – Lesbian: A homosexual woman
- G – Gay: A gay man. With the note that lesbians can also indicate that they are gay.
- B – Bisexual: Both woman and men.
- T – Transgender, transgender person, transsexual: Someone whose gender identity differs from the sex to which they were assigned at birth.
- Q – Queer of Questioning: Someone who is exploring, or unsure or doesn’t want to be labelled in any way.
This is the LGBTQ, but the plus sign is important. Because it makes sure the following is added:
- I – Intersex: These are people with both female and male body characteristics.2/TwoSpirit (Two-spirit): An indication of North Americans (the original inhabitants) to indicate a so-called third gender. This designation was officially added in the 1990s, but its history goes back much further. There is partial overlap with the “I.”
- A – Asexual: People without sexual desire or who do not feel sexual attraction.
- A – Ally: Heterosexual women or men who are not only against homophobia but also in favour of equal rights and equal treatment. Also referred to by the letter “S” of the English word “Straight.”
- A – Agender / Non-binary gender / Genderqueer: What we are talking about in this article; someone who is not exclusively feminine or masculine.
- P – Pansexual: These people do not fall on gender but personality.
- B – Bigender / Dual gender: An identity in which two genders are held.
- G – Gender Variant / Gender nonconformity: This involves behaviour that goes against the standards that society assigns to “typically” female or “typically” male.
- P – Pangender: Also known as Genderfluid. A kind of flexibility concerning gender, without attaching any particular value to it.
So, this leads to the abbreviation LGBTTTQQIAA. Yes, this is not only a long abbreviation, but it’s also hard to remember. That’s why the abbreviation LGBTQ+ is used. The plus sign makes it possible to add new identities and orientations, something that can certainly happen.
One point to note is that some feel that Ally does not belong in all of this. That can be discussed.
Before I move on to non-binary, it’s a good moment to focus on part of the statement by Page: the word transgender. This is the term we use when someone is born with a different gender than they identify themselves with. Sometimes people use words like ‘different body’ or ‘wrong body.’ It’s difficult to use these words, because of the negativity. I see it as a fuck-up by Mother Nature. No, it’s not wrong. It’s something that needs to be corrected if it applies to the person. Again: these are the words of someone who is a supporter, not an enemy! There isn’t a bad thing when it comes to transgender persons. Unfortunately, it’s not how everyone sees it.
Elliot Page came out as a transgender and doesn’t want to be labelled. A brave announcement. Page is non-binary and this part makes it hard to understand for some people.
It’s a ‘thing’ when someone identifies as non-binary. Questions are asked if these people aren’t able to make a choice or decision. The assumption that they’re not able to choose between being gay or heterosexual is very wrong. It’s beyond that. It’s beyond a sexualisation. Unfortunately, when it comes to gender identification and even sexual orientation, people want to sexualise this. The sexual orientation of someone else isn’t wrong if it doesn’t match your definition. Sorry, but who are you to judge? Still, many people do so. Being gay as a man means you must be weak. A fag, a puss…. There are many examples of words or sentences used to condemn. Not only for men. Also for women. Actually, for everyone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. Even heterosexuals who are allies. There must be something wrong with ‘these’ people…
News flash: respecting others doesn’t make you wrong!
Being judgemental is one thing. Bullying based on gender identification or sexual orientation is another. Don’t get me started about violence. We all seen the images of the two ladies who were molested in England in 2019. All because the group of ‘brave boys’ wanted them to kiss. They refused and that was the only right choice. You can read more about this sad event via the BBC.
Transgender people are also confronted with violence. Abuse and threats seem to be common, which they’re not! The Dutch transgender network TNN recently made it clear that there is no real solution to stop this violence. This violence starts with a condemnation. This condemnation turns into verbal abuse and can lead to violence. It’s not ‘just’ beating, no it’s beyond that.
“We” (not everyone) are so good at judging others. We judge others based on their looks, their likes and their loves. It’s not okay. It’s terrific. In a way, perhaps, horrific.
When someone dares to step forward and tells the world about being non-binary, it can also lead to some strong reactions. People mistakenly think of non-binarity as gender-neutral. While they can be related, they don’t belong together by default.
Let’s go back to the decision making-part. Let’s not. Because it’s not simply a matter to chose something. Remember, this is something that defines someone. It’s not about buying a pizza and making a selection of what toppings should be on that pizza. This is life and yes, it means that you have to decide things. But it doesn’t mean that a non-binary person is unable to make these choices.
News flash… People who define themselves as being non-binary can make choices too! Just the way every other person will do. But this is beyond making choices. This about acceptance. Not the acceptance of others (true, that part is also important). It’s about accepting who you are.
Coming out as being non-binary or any gender identity isn’t about getting people’s attention. It’s expression. It’s about telling the world who you are. This identity doesn’t make a person less or more. What makes it beautiful is that someone dares to speak out. To make a stand.
Who you are isn’t something that is defined by others. It should never be prescribed. Being someone is important because you matter.
It’s a common mistake to confuse non-binary people with the phrase gender-neutral. A mistake, because gender-neutral is more than being non-binary. It’s applicable even for heterosexuals. Gender-neutral is without a reference to gender. It’s more than identity, it’s a way of life. It’s about dressing yourself or the way you’re dressed by your parents (when you’re a child). It’s even about toys for children. Who is to say that a girl can’t play with cars? Who is to say that a boy shouldn’t be happy with a baby doll?
Yes, it’s very much related, but not the same. Gender-neutral means that you’re willing to put aside labels. In education, this seems to be hard, especially when you take a close look at advertisements.
While it’s not about dressing up, it’s important to mention this. I’m looking for the example close to home. My son wanted to wear his sister’s princess dress. It was so beautiful. Who was I to refuse that?
It is to be careful because I do not want to suggest that it is about dressing up later in life. When you put on a fancy dress, there will come a moment when you take it off. Unless, by the way, you’re my daughter, who thinks it’s best to sleep in fancy dress …
If only it were as simple as putting on something else. If only it were as simple as black and white or light and dark. It doesn’t work like that. This is about deviating from the applicable standard. Who says that this standard is also correct? Nothing can be taken for granted. Not even when it has been ‘learned’ or when it is ‘known’. Let’s be honest for a moment? How much do you know? If you’re honest, you have to admit that you don’t know everything. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re willing to be openminded.
“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”
Let’s compare preference or identity with art. Not everyone likes a painting that was painted by a well-known painter. But it is not about that beauty. I think it’s the thought behind it. What moved the painter to make this painting? Does this make a painting less beautiful or more beautiful? Isn’t it all about the perception? Remember, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.” It’s up to you to decide to show respect. Not everyone will understand and it can cause negativity. This negativity can lead to bullying and even violence. In most cases, it’s because there is no empathy or no understanding. That’s why I find it important to write about these things. Perhaps it will help others to understand this. That is also part of emancipation.
That’s right, we have arrived at the subject of emancipation. Emancipation isn’t only about women and their position in society. If you compare emancipation to be an umbrella, many related issues are under this umbrella. This also includes the emancipation of the LGBTQ+ community. After all, emancipation is the pursuit of a full place within a community. But this isn’t just a matter of a struggle for those who feel left out. It also comes down to those who aren’t left out.
When I was asked to become an ambassador for the platform Emancipator, it made me think. As a man, should I do something with the emancipation of women? Yes! It’s because I’m a man and I believe in equality, I should be involved. Things will change once the mindset of men is different.
This article is written by a father of two young children (9 and 11), who – together with their mother – wants the children to grow up in a world based on equality. Equality and freedom. So they are capable of making their own decisions and having the possibility to be who they want to be. We always explained that ‘different’ should not be ‘bad.’ It’s not good to be disrespectful to others. I think my children are very much capable to look beyond and not treat others as bad or show disrespect. No, this doesn’t make my children angels. There are certain moments that they are perfectly capable to be obnoxious. They are children, that seems to be part of it … * sigh *
Furthermore, I write all this down as someone who has not experienced it or is experiencing it, such as Elliot Page. Maybe I used the wrong words. By wrong, I mean hurtful in this case. That is never my intention. I support the message. I believe it is not always a question of labelling. Sometimes that is not possible, sometimes that is not possible. Sometimes it is good to look beyond for tolerance, creativity, peace and so much more. Transcending boundaries and especially not telling others how to do it, because their choices would not be “normal”.
News flash: There are no ‘normal’ people…
But hey, what do I know about it now? Maybe as a stay at home dad, I should vacuum again …