LGBTQ+: KS5 Winner
Sarah Ibrahim, our Chief Key Stage 3 Editor, wins for this fabulous interview that she conducted with a member of the non-binary community. Ash is still not 'out' with their family so their identity has been changed for this article.
Interview with a member of the non-binary community
Since the Stonewall Riots, we have seen an astronomical change in the acceptance and rights of the LGBTQ+ community, with marriage and adoption rights coming into place, outstanding developmental healthcare being offered to the transgender community, and witnessing new people in different countries being legally able to celebrate Pride for the first time. However, there are still parts of the LGBTQ+ community that remain misunderstood. There is a lack of education surrounding many identities and expressions. The one identity that comes to mind is the misinformation surrounding the non-binary community. In the LGBTQ+ community in the UK, 6.9% of respondents to the ‘national LGBTQ+ Survey’ said they identified as non-binary. Despite the large amount of people who identify as non-binary, there is a real lack of education surrounding the gender identity. I thought the best way to understand the community better would be to talk to a member and understand the first-hand experiences that come along with identifying as non-binary/genderqueer.
Here, we explore what it means to be a part of the community, and delve into the impacts this has had on them and others. I spoke online to a wonderful person called Ash. Ash uses 'they/them' pronouns and identifies as non-binary; they were happy to answer some questions that I had about their experiences in the community but chose to remain anonymous.
The first question I asked was one I felt was vital in understanding truly what it means to be non-binary.
Q: What does identifying as Non-binary mean to you?
A: To me, being non-binary means freedom. It means self-acceptance. Being non-binary means I can be unapologetically me; I don't have to conform to the binary people want to shove me in. My friends inspired me to explore my gender. Most of my friends are non-binary. I have so much support from them and my partner. My mom was very accepting although it took her a while to get things and understand. I'm not fully out to my father or other relatives. Just my mom and my sister. I cried super hard when I came out to my mom. It was like coming out a second time.
Q: How early on did you know? Were there any indications earlier on?
A: It's hard to pinpoint exactly. I remember in high school I would feel a disconnect when people used ‘she/her’ pronouns for me. In my freshman year of college, I changed my name to a gender-neutral one before I changed my pronouns. It has been a very gradual slow and steady realization for me. I am still exploring my gender identity and learning. But I think my body told me before my brain did. I think once I wasn't just a kid anymore, I started to realize that I didn't fit in the gender binary.
Q: Was there a specific moment or time in your where you ever felt truly free- maybe even liberated in your identity?
A: Yes. When I finally decided that I would use they/them pronouns in college. I remember being so scared to claim them as my own because I didn't "look non-binary". My friend had been out before me and they presented pretty femme- and I realized I could be both. Once I realized that there isn't one way to be non-binary or present non-binary I felt so at home in my body. Going to drag shows and seeing drag kings and queens also liberated me. The more I learned the history of non-binary and non-conforming the more things just clicked into place.
Q: there is anything that people around you (and around the non-binary community) could do to make your life better/ easier?
A: In college, there was a lot of ‘gatekeeping’. We had a very small community of queer people, and for me it felt like a social status to them. I always felt out of place dealing with biphobia in that community too. The need to prove that I am queer enough and non-binary enough really hurt, especially from fellow queers. I don't think that sexuality and gender should be viewed as a social status. It was very weird, but I'm glad I have a bigger and more accepting community now that acknowledges these things. ‘Gate keeping’ just discourages people from exploring their gender and or sexuality.
Q: And finally, do you have any advice for any readers who were exploring or struggling with their gender identity and/ or sexuality.
A: Take your time!!! It's taken me such a long time to get to where I am and I'm still learning new things. Don't rush yourself into a label for the sake of finding a label. Be free to experiment. You can change your mind too. If you find one label and try it out and it doesn't feel right that's not a bad thing! Seek validation from yourself, not others. Your body and mind know what's right for you. Find people you can talk to in a judgment-free zone. And as a general reminder, you are not an imposter! Especially if you are just starting to find communities or gender expressions you identify with. It is okay to think you are one thing then decide later down the road maybe you are not. It is all a part of the process of finding what feels right for you. Be patient and kind to yourself! I think the last thing I would say is that with gender, there is no right or wrong way to express yourself.
My interview with Ash taught me a lot about how to approach the topic of gender with people and allowed for a safe space for both me and others to educate themselves on the journeys other people have faced in regards to truly finding themselves, and thus, creating a sense of awareness for the non-binary community.
If you are struggling with gender or sexuality, there is help both within the school and outside. Talk to a trusted adult if you do not feel safe, and if needed, ChildLine offers 24-hour support for any issues, including any LGBTQ+ issues.