The Do’s & Don’ts of Meeting Non-binary People
Wikipedia defines non-binary as: “Genderqueer (GQ), also termed non-binary (NB), is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine…”
More and more people are identifying as non-binary and accepting this term as a gender identity. Because
of this, people are becoming more aware of its existence, and might not know how to respond to it.
I’m no expert, but I do have a little advice if you’re wondering how to interact with non-binary/genderqueer individuals.
Do: Ask for pronouns.
While not all non-binary people use different pronouns, many do, and a good rule of thumb is “if you’re not sure, ask.” Chances are the person will gladly tell you what pronouns they prefer. It also helps when you introduce yourself to a new person to say “my name is ____ and I prefer she/her or he/him pronouns, etc.” to let people know from the start that you’re open to discussing pronouns.
Don’t: Assume pronouns.
We all know the adage about what happens when you assume. While it might go well, it’s never okay to make assumptions about people before speaking to them. So again, if you don’t know, ask. The worst that can happen is they give you a funny look when you ask them for pronouns. Also, remember that not every non-binary person uses they/them pronouns. There are a number of variations, which is why it’s important to ask what pronouns someone prefers.
Do: Educate yourself.
If you’ve never met a non-binary person before, do a little research to familiarize yourself with what it means and what you should do with that information. Asking people who identify as non-binary is okay, but keep in mind that it’s not their job to educate you.
Don’t: Rely solely on a nonbinary person to educate you.
As mentioned above, it’s ultimately up to you to familiarize yourself with unfamiliar concepts surrounding gender identity. Just because your non-binary friend knows a lot, doesn’t mean they want to be constantly questioned. They are just people, not all-knowing gurus on the nuances of gender.
Do: Apologize if you get pronouns wrong.
Mistakes happen. One of my best friends identifies as non-binary, and I do my best to use their preferred pronouns, but I still slip up from time to time, and it’s not the end of the world. If you catch yourself slipping, correct yourself as soon as you realize, and try to do better next time.
Don’t: Make a huge scene about the mistake.
The last thing people want is someone drawing unnecessary attention to your slip-up. If you misgender someone, correct it, but don’t start apologizing profusely mid-conversation. If needed, pull the person aside later and apologize, explaining the mistake. Chances are that they noticed the mistake but most people won’t take it personally if you take responsibility for it.
Do: Respect a person’s identity.
Just like some believe that being straight is the only “normal” orientation, there are many who believe there are only two genders. But in reality, gender is fluid, and identifying as non-binary is just as valid as identifying as male or female. People deserve respect, no matter how they identify, and it’s not up to you to judge or spread hatred to others.
Don’t: Assume that nonbinary = transgender (or vice versa).
Often, being non-binary means identifying as neither male/female, or identifying as both. Just like with transgender individuals, you should never ask inappropriate questions about genitals or whether someone has had “the operation.” That’s personal and is up to the individual whether they wish to share that information with close friends/loved ones. Not with random strangers they just met.
Everyone deserves the same respect, no matter their sex, gender, or sexual orientation. Everyone is doing their best to live happy lives, and it’s not our business to judge others. TravelPride is all about acceptance and exploration, and I hope that these values can be shared by everyone who reads these articles. It’s a big world, filled with unique people. The least we can do is spread the love.
Originally published at TravelPRIDE.