Alright, y’all. It’s time to address an internal problem we have in the trans community—I spend a lot of time trying to communicate our issues to cis people, or instructing them on how to interact with us. That doesn’t mean that all of us in the trans community are perfect.
Far from it, actually.
You see, while the trans community is one of, if not the most maligned minority in the world, we still suffer from racism, elitism, and gatekeeping just like any other group. Unfortunately, just because we are subject to discrimination based on, you know, simply existing, that does not mean that many of us try to understand other subdivisions both within and outside the trans umbrella.
While I can and will go into the issues of racism in the trans community (white trans people be on the lookout for that post because it will be brutal), that will come later. For now, I’m going to focus on a different question: whether or not non-binary people negate the claims of binary trans people.
Now, I am a binary trans woman—that means that I identify as one of the binary genders (male or female), which in my case is female. Basically, if transpeople were flavors, I’d be boring ass vanilla. However, there are many people under the scope of “transgender” who might identify as both, or neither. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to call this group non-binary for simplicity’s sake, but people along this part of the gender spectrum do use a number of different labels, such as genderqueer, agender, or gender fluid.
I will say this—this issue lies on both sides of the fight. There are binary trans people who say that non-binary trans people make it more difficult for people to believe that we’re real human beings worthy of respect. These same people say that it is hard enough to make people believe that you can cross gender lines in one way, never mind turn it into a goddamn rotary of gender fuckery.
On the non-binary side, there are folks who will preach that the binary is flawed, and that gender in and of itself is a problem as we traditionally understand it. These folks will often say that binary trans people are limiting themselves based on traditional gender roles, and that it is improper or even problematic to do so.
To both of these groups, I have something to say. Now, you may want to get out some paper, because this will be terribly complicated. Now, come closer. Closer.
You close enough now? Paying attention? Good.
You’re all full of shit.
Gay gasp! Did I just say that? Oh, I think I did, didn’t I? Perhaps I’ll say it again–you’re all full of shit! How thrilling!
Let me break down this down for you in blatant terms. Binary trans folk—non-binary people do not make your lives harder. If anything, they help further an understanding of how complicated gender is. Imagine gender as a room in a house. On one wall “Male” is written, and on the other, “Female”, and you stand on one side, and move to the other, and are happy as fuck to do so.
Just because you went from one side of the room to the other DOESN’T mean that there isn’t a whole space to explore in between, with furniture and windows and carpeting and a whole bunch of other shit. Non-binary people can sit on that furniture. Hell, they may not even be in the house. They’re on the goddamn porch. On the lawn. Just because all you know are the walls of the room, doesn’t mean they have to join you there.
Now, before you go jumping for joy, non-binary folks, I have words for you too. Binary trans folk do not make it so that your gender or lack thereof isn’t legit either. We are allowed to go and stand at that wall if that’s where we need to be. While I understand that to you it may read that we’re reinforcing gender stereotypes, our very existence rejects them, just like yours. Also, add in the fact that many of us experience discomfort because of our genitals not being the right way, it becomes a bit more complicated than just a label alone.
As far as the binary being poisonous—I agree wholeheartedly. There are many people in the non-binary community who preach for a destruction of the binary. That’s fair—the binary understanding we have of gender is toxic for everyone, even for cis people. Forcing someone into a role because of what parts their doctor says they have is a problem on many fronts.
However, eliminating the binary does not and will not change how binary trans people identify. That is also fine. Destruction of binary gender roles does not need to come at the cost of how someone has come to identify themselves—gender roles can disappear, but we will still have folks who use binary pronouns or that use gender neutral ones.
More than that—we’re all fucking trans, and we should not be telling each other how we can or cannot identify. That sort of gatekeeping is bullshit, and we already have enough of that from TERFs and Trump Supporters.
So yes, call for the destruction of toxic gender roles. Express yourselves wherever on the spectrum you fall. Explore the room–go from one wall to another, to the middle, to the porch, come back–figure out where it is you want to be. Use whatever terms you need to define this amorphous existence of life we all share. But do not use who you are to define how other people have to exist. Your journey is yours and yours alone—and everyone else has a different path to take.