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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

I am a non-binary person, which means that I am not a boy or girl. People have varying levels of knowledge on the concept of non-binary genders, but the general expectation is that a non-binary person is androgynous (and white). Most often, non-binary people aren’t androgynous and they do not owe androgyny to anyone to be “real” or valid. However, I do happen to be both non-binary and androgynous, and let me tell you it is a unique experience. 

The Double Take and Stare 

Many times when walking down the street I’ll see someone do a double-take, or stop and look after me as I go so they can try and figure out if I am a girl wearing men’s shorts or a boy wearing makeup. I’ve even had people take a picture of me on the subway (yes, more than once).

Sometimes it is funny to me, but other times it feels dehumanizing. It can be fun to defy gender expectations and just do what I want, and to see how scandalized people can be by the fact that I don’t follow the rules of the gender binary. But it can also be scary and humiliating. Having someone take a picture of me on the train so they can gawk at it, so they can show it to their friends and ask “is that a chick or a dude?”, makes me feel like I’m a zoo animal. Like I can’t go anywhere without feeling watched and having people theorizing about my genitals. 

So Many Assumptions!

A frequent phenomenon for me is to be gendered based on the group of people I am with. If I am with a group of female friends I am often assumed to be a girl as well. When I go out to eat with my dad I am assumed to also be a man. It is kind of strange, but I suppose when your face says either/or people go with what they think is most likely based on their own experience of the world. 

Asking a for a Binary Opinion

This is my favourite one. 

Unfortunately, it is not very common that a public venue has a gender-neutral bathroom. Malls and school buildings often have a single stall bathroom for disabled people that also functions as a gender-neutral bathroom, but restaurants and office buildings often do not. With no other options available to me, I usually turn to a friend and ask “Do I look more like a boy or a girl today?” 

Because there are a lot of people who have a real problem with anyone who isn’t visibly male or female entering the gendered bathrooms. It can be unsafe for a gender non-conforming person to enter a restroom and be visibly different from everyone else in there. You can get yelled at, be assaulted or have the police called on you if someone feels like you shouldn’t be in that bathroom.

Even if nothing bad happens to you, it can be a very uncomfortable experience to feel like you stick out in the crowd. Having people giving you looks or staring and trying to decide how comfortable they feel with you being in the bathroom with them when you are just trying to pee will never be a fun time. So, I have to turn to a friend and essentially ask how likely it is that I’ll be harassed if I use whichever bathroom because I’m androgynous. 

Fetishization and Objectification 

I don’t know if you know this but many trans people, both binary and non-binary, are fetishized. I suppose people find it sexy to blur the lines a bit. Trans people are often treated as some sort of hot in-between that can be used to explore one’s sexuality without going all the way to gay town, so to speak. 

Trans people of all sorts are treated as a sort of best-of-both-worlds sex toy by cis people who think they are doing us a favour by being attracted to our unusual bodies. But no one wants to be seen only as potential sexual gratification, for people to act entitled to their reciprocal interest, and have their own complexity thrown out the window so someone else can get off. 

In my own experience, I’ve had guys treat me like a was technically a girl and disregard the boundaries I had about how they could interact with my body. I’ve dealt with girls who felt like they could tell me who I was actually allowed to be attracted to, and who felt like they could call me and my body whatever invalidating thing they wanted because they weren’t sure what parts I had anyway.  

There is nothing sexy or flattering about being reduced to ~mystery genitalia~. Trans and/or androgynous peoples’ existence isn’t a fetish. We don’t exist to help someone through their experimental phase. Especially not me, who is asexual and very much not interested. 


On the other side of things, there is the complete disregard of any sense of sexuality. 

The time when the majority of people are the most androgynous is before puberty when secondary sex characteristics come into play. That being the case, androgyny can sometimes be seen as a sign of immaturity or youth that leads to desexualization. I suppose an androgynous face can be seen as a “baby face.” 

Look, I may be asexual, but no one who’s already graduated high school and gotten an apartment of theirs wants to be treated like a child. Especially not in a kind of transphobic way. 

The Dreaded Question(s)

Are you a boy or a girl? 

What is in your pants? 

So…do you have a…y’know…?

I get these questions a lot. The answers are as follows: no, here’s a helpful link that might give you an idea, and I have a lot of things (like a snake plant, a pair of sushi socks, and an obsession with the Great Canadian Baking Show). None of these answers seem to be very satisfactory, though. I inevitably will hear them again. But my answers will get better every time. 

Fun with Presentation 

Now the fun stuff. 

I am able to have a lot of fun mixing up my gender presentation. Sometimes I just want a taste of that male privilege, and I can dress like a dude and actually go walking at night. Amazing, really. Sometimes I just want to feel pretty so I end up copying women because they seem to have that on lock. Most often I’m just vibing with no particular goal in mind aside from smashing the patriarchy, and I end up looking like the embodiment of an unfortunate teenage phase. Which I suppose is fitting, since some people think that’s all my gender is anyway. 

In Conclusion…

Honestly, even with all of the challenges, I wouldn’t give up being androgynous or non-binary for anything. I like being able to change people’s perception of me by putting on a bit of makeup, or by hiding my hair under a beanie. I like how I look just fine. I just wish the ambiguity didn’t spark so much discussion or cause people to see me as less than human. I’d prefer if going to the bathroom didn’t involve a process of calculating risk, and if going out to a club or a party (pre-and-eventually-post-COVID) didn’t result in someone trying to use me as a pawn to put their sexuality to the test, but I can’t control other people. I can just keep being myself and hope that one day I won’t have to cover my fear of being hate-crimed with humour. 

Levi Hearne

Toronto MU '24

I'm a first year English student at Ryerson and a Toronto Film School graduate. My hobbies include learning about ocean critters, caring for my houseplants and acrylic painting.
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