Lately, there has been a wave of online commentators who mock nonbinary people. Bloggers, TikTokers, and other posters make fun of an entire population of well-meaning people who lie somewhere “in the middle” of the gender spectrum.
On TikTok, @feelinmiz2.0 does a mocking dance in a fake doctor’s suit, stating “Notice how the Pr0n0uns in your bio do not alter your genitals.” In July 2020, Elon Musk tweeted “pronouns suck.” In September 2020, Canadian commentator Debra Soh wrote an article titled “How the Nonbinary Trend Hurts Those with Real Gender Dysphoria.”
Defamation of nonbinary people is everywhere in the media.
Nonbinary people, born either biologically male or female, don’t feel like they are female, but they also don’t feel male. Some nonbinary people feel more “masculine” than others, while other nonbinary people feel more “feminine.” Other nonbinary people feel like there is no spectrum at all, and that there are infinite genders, just as there are infinite ways to be a person.
Nonbinary people generally face many more obstacles than individuals who choose to fall on the binary, as either male or female. For instance, they can be in a constant battle against society to “pass” — or appear as either gender. Choosing clothes and a style of presentation that is androgynous or mixed, they can be misgendered all the time. Nonbinary people can also struggle with what gender marker to use on passports or driver’s licenses.
Additionally, individuals who do not pass as either male or female have a harder time finding employment. Research from the U.S. Census Bureau found that the unemployment rate among transgender workers is two to three times higher than the U.S workforce.
Now that “nonbinary” has come into the public consciousness, and entered the public discourse, many cisgender people feel threatened, or scared, of nonbinary. Even in my personal life, I run into close friends who laugh at the first mention of nonbinary. It seems to be a typical reaction: chuckle at how silly the idea feels. Sometimes, these people are progressives, and they have liberal views. But they still don’t understand nonbinary.
The general public seems to understand binary transgender people a lot better — people who fall as either male (transman) or female (transwoman). This is because our way of presenting falls in line with theirs.
The moment our way of presenting falls out of line, and the moment we question the cisgender world view, the public starts to laugh.
There is some pretty simple logic behind accepting nonbinary people as valid:
• If you were color blind, and could only see black and white, you would not state that people who saw colors did not exist.
• If you were a straight man, and only liked women, you would not question that gay men existed.
• If you were dyslexic, and had a difficult time reading words, you would not question that other people had an easier time reading words.
• If you grew up cisgender, and there were people — thousands of them — who said they did not feel like either gender, why would you decide to suddenly mock them? What bearing does it have on your life?
• If you have laughed at nonbinary people, do us a favor and be quiet. I have three words for you: Leave. Them. Alone.
Laugh at other things, like how there was a fly on Mike Pence’s head during a national debate, or how chihuahuas are hilarious creatures when they’re angry. Just don’t laugh at us.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this piece included a reference to an article titled “Why I Will Not Be Using Your Preferred Pronouns” in The North Coast Journal. That piece was satirical. The Blade regrets the confusion.
Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a transgender man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Isaac is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, @isaacamend.