Being Nonbinary Has Nothing To Do With Looking Nonbinary

It’s time to get rid of stereotypes about nonbinary people

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Me, at my gf’s handfasting ceremony

I’ve been on hormones for almost four years. My presentation is femme. I use she/her pronouns. But I consider myself nonbinary, neither a man or a woman.

Often there is this stereotype that nonbinary people must strive for perfect androgyny. But that stereotype is harmful and overlooks the broad diversity among nonbinary people. Just like AFAB nonbinary people don’t have to disavow a feminine appearance, neither do AMAB nonbinary people. Vice versa for masculine or androgynous looks.

When we create and enforce these stereotypes in the trans community, we risk playing gatekeeper on who is trans or not. But just like there is no “right” way for men or women to present themselves, there is not a “right” way for nonbinary people to present themselves.

There is a similar stereotype that all nonbinary people prefer “they” pronouns. But pronoun usage does not define whether someone is “really” nonbinary. There is no logical entailment between what pronouns you prefer and whether you’re nonbinary.

Furthermore, not all nonbinary people even identify as trans. Some do. Some don’t.

Another stereotype is that AMAB nonbinary people have facial hair. This is not true. While we shouldn’t use facial hair to invalidate the transness or femmeness of AMAB nonbinary people, we also shouldn’t be surprised that some, such as myself, have dysphoria about their facial hair and seek to remove it.

And speaking of dysphoria, there is no logical connection between being nonbinary and how much dysphoria you may or may not have or whether you want surgery or hormones. Some nonbinary people have strong dysphoria and go on HRT/have surgery and others don’t.

There’s this idea that being nonbinary is about being “in between” male and female. But there are many ways of thinking about being nonbinary. For some, it’s being neither male or female and defining your own gender. For some, it is about being “in between” and achieving a kind of androgyny.

And we can also think about gender as a multi-dimensional spectrum and nonbinary people falling somewhere outside the two primary positions of manhood/womanhood. In other words, there are many different ways for nonbinary identity to situate itself with respect to the binary. In a broader sense, nonbinary is just an umbrella term for anyone who does not identify within the binary.

In summary, there is no single way for nonbinary people to look or identify. There is so much diversity in the community and we do ourselves a disservice by focusing only on androgyny and neutrality as the ideals of being nonbinary. There is room for the full spectrum of expression within the nonbinary label.

Written by

Author & writer, ex-academic philosopher. Author of Transgressive: A Trans Woman on Gender, Feminism, and Politics with @JKPBooks — Out now!

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