To Be “Non-Binary”
By Robert E. Williams II (They/Them)
TGNC identities are receiving mainstream attention. The vernacular of gender pronouns and gender theories insert themselves in conversations online, streaming platforms, music, fashion, and so on. When observers are presented with Non-Binary folks, however, it appears a particular “model” seems to fit the “needs” of mainstream consumption.
Often the case when non-binary folks are “defined,” the iconography of tall, thin, white folks with “androgynous” features are depicted. With this iconography circulating amongst cisgender people, cis-folks are lead to identify these NB folks as the “acceptable” form of non-binary. This iconography is not only problematic in miseducating cisgender folks of what it means to be non-binary, but also white washes non-binary identities.
Non-binary identities prexisted before the mainstream recognized them. Non-binary identities date back to Mesopotamian mythology where references are cited of folks described as being neither man or woman. The Egyptians listed three genders of humans: man, woman, and sekhet (often translated as “eunuch”). The Bugis people of Indonesia recognized five genders, including Bissu, a combination of genders. The Hijra of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are feminine eunuchs who did not identify as man or woman.
It was in the 19th century when European Colonialists began the policing and erasure of non-cis genders in South Asia Countries that the beginning of “cis-gender domination.” In the US, anatomy became a source of “advancement” for American masculinity. This was defined by asserting gender norms for the advancement of the white race. White Masculinity employs racist thought to distinguish itself as “superior” by odd means. With TGNC identities posing a threat to the institutions of the binary, to which cis-white men benefit from, cis-white men sought to police these identites by first targeting BIPOC communities, inserting transphobic and queerphobic thought, and implementing the association of gender/sex with biology.
With context of the history of NB identities, it becomes clear that the erasure of BIPOC non-binary folks is occuring once again. In the same way White Masculinity attempted to police gender and race in the 19th century, NB identities are currently under definition by the exposure of specific. iconographies of NB folks in the media. Exposure is key, as association of a term with a face will generate a “definition” of identity.
To combat this, here are five NB folks you need to follow:
Writer. Performer. Speaker. Fashion Icon. What can’t they do (the limit doesn’t exist). If there is at least one person from this list you need to follow, it’s Alok. Their social media feed is filled with their spoken word, book recommendations on Good Reads, TGNC folks they highlight, resources to various social movements, and the list goes on. They are a force to be reckoned with and there is a reason why they are one of the many faces for TGNC & Queer Liberation.
Wednesday Holmes (they/them)
Wednesday is a London based artist and activist. You can see a majority of their work featured by Voices4 London and Far and Pride (they are a community organizer for both groups) where it is utilized to spread awareness for the activist groups along with generating gender and queer euphoria. Their Instagram page is filled with daily affirmations of gender and queer identities. Wednesday has a niche aesthetic bursting with colors that leaves you no choice but to smile and join in the rainbow parade.
Indya Moore (they/them)
Known for their role as Angel on FX’s “Pose,” Indya Moore is more than just a powerhouse actor/model. They utilized their platform to draw attention to violence against Black Trans Women and GNC folks. Through fundraising campaigns and interacting with folks on their social media platforms outside of their home base community, Moore is a next generation leader in the TGNC Liberation. A follow on their social will enlightened you on what it means to be non-binary and trans.
Tyler Ford (they/hir)
Tyler Ford is a New York based writer, editor, and award-winning non-binary advocate. They previously served as deputy editor of them. and their written work can be found in publications such as Teen Vogue, V Magazine, and The New York Times. Ford’s work expands on exploring and presenting queer and trans identities to the mainstream. Exposure to their written work will inspire any reader and lead them to their next designation on gender education/exploration.
Bob the Drag Queen (he/him/his/she/her/hers)
Queen of the People. There’s a reason Bob holds this title. Prior to her time on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Bob rallied for queer liberation, taking to the streets protesting. After winning the crown on her season of Drag Race, Bob took her platform to advocate for Black Queer Lives. She’s continued to tour the world performing in solo shows and collective shows. She gives it to you every season and deserves your attention.
This list does not seek to define non-binary folks, as gender is of the individual’s construction. These folks are high influential in their field and offer great in depth conversations about what it means to be queer and/or non-binary (as folks can identify as non-binary and not identify as queer). Exposure to non-binary folks from various backgrounds, of various body types, and different racial identities allows cis-folks to understand that there is more than one clear image of what it means to be non-binary.