Being a non-binary person in a binary world

Dr. Ender Ricart
3 min readDec 21, 2020

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It sucks, and I wish it didn’t.

The easiest part of being a non-binary person is stating to yourself and others that you are a non-binary person. You specify your preferred set of pronouns, as in my case — they, them and their. Boom, congratulations you are a non-binary person…now what? What does it even mean to be non-binary? The answer is less than satisfactory at present, but it has potential, in time, to be more than the sum of its parts.

A wide chasm has opened between the binary of “Masculine” and “Feminine” that is being filled by gender identities like non-binary, genderqueer, gender neutral, etc. The problem across all these identities is that they continue to be made up from: 1) bits and pieces of either binary, 2) compared and contrasted with the gender binary, or 3) intentionally formed as “other” to the binary. That is to say, these alternative gender identities are all tethered to and defined through the masculine-feminine binary. If my non-binary gender identity is inherently trapped in the binary in some way or other, how can I truly claim to be non-binary?

It is truly a quagmire. I cannot conceive of something wholly “other” as nearly every-thing about me is anchored in one of the two pillars of social identity “masculine” or “feminine.” Things like: how I speak, my vocabulary, my body language, my clothes, my style, social interactions, my relationship with my sexuality, work interactions, and more. They are all tied up in some aspect with the established gender binary. My life has become a looking glass of gendered behaviors, thoughts, interactions, and understandings.

The worst part of it all is that there is no way out, there is no “other path” to choose. Instead you are left picking and choosing which parts of masculine and feminine gender you will cobble together to form and represent your non-binary gender identity. It is always unsatisfactory. So, I am left with this feeling that my non-binary personhood is just a shallow truth that I am unable to embrace with any authenticity.

Perhaps it is just a matter of time, after all, “masculine” and “feminine” gender identities have dominated the socio-linguistic landscape for more than five-centuries, with commodification of gender identity entering the picture in overdrive over the last century. The breaking-open of the gender binary, the filling of the chasm with “messy” genders, can be seen as a first step towards the weathering and dismantling of these two stalwarts of gendered identity. While this is a move in a positive direction for alternative gender identities, to be truly “non-binary” we need to go further. I am a non-binary person, because I believe there should be NO gender identities, just identities.

I wish I had an inspiring statement for any readers coming here, maybe some knowledge and wisdom. I only have my story and experiences. If anything my articulations are a testament to just how hard it is to explain what it means to be a non-binary person in a very, very, binary world.

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