A Primer on Non-Binary and Transgender
Gender identity is becoming an increasingly prevalent matter as transgender and non-binary individuals are more visible now than ever before, banding together, campaigning for fair treatment, and asking people to question the binary that has been touted as the end all of gender in western society, despite examples of people who have broken the mold throughout history across the world. Younger generations especially are becoming more open to the idea that gender is not one of two options assigned at birth, but rather a spectrum.
Who is transgender? Well, anyone who identifies as a man if he was designated female at birth (a transman), and anyone who identifies as a woman if she was designated male at birth (a transwoman). Non-binary people are those who identify as neither man nor woman.
How can cisgender people (those who are not trans or non-binary) accustom themselves to the existence of transgender and non-binary people? Ultimately, it comes down to respect, and acknowledging that everyone’s reality is subjective. If somebody tells you which pronouns they go by, and what name they’d like to be called, use those pronouns and that name for them (as you would for someone who goes by a nickname). Do this all of the time and not just in front of them; it is not respect if you use the pronouns they were given at birth and their birth name (commonly known as a “dead name” in the trans community) behind their back. When people do this, it indicates that they actually don’t respect trans and non-binary individuals. Closeted children who hear their parents misgender and dead name people who they know are trans or non-binary come away with the impression that their own identity will not be respected by the people who are supposed to unconditionally support them.
It is also essential to disregard any stereotypes concerning trans and non-binary individuals. Like everybody, trans and non-binary people are unique and have their own experiences relating to gender and society. Just because there are certain ideas of how trans and non-binary people should present, does not mean that they are obliged to fit with society’s expectations, which often coincide with the gender binary. Like color, how a non-cisgender person presents themselves exists on a spectrum. A transwoman can have a beard and is still a woman, a transman can have breasts and not desire to medically transition or bind and is still a man, transwomen can dress traditionally masculine and transmen are free to wear dresses as they please. Not every trans person or non-binary person defies expectations, but some do, and their identity as trans or non-binary is as valid as those whose experiences more closely align with typical gender norms.