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Being Nonbinary in a Binary World

Content warning: this article contains descriptions of body dysphoria and being misgendered.

Hey kiddo,

I know you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m doing writing to you on a public platform since I keep a diary just for posterity, but I’m hoping this can help more people than just you. You’re probably 13 or 14 but even if you were 25 and trying to figure this all out, I’d still call you kiddo.

So, let’s start with the basics okay? Cisgender isn’t an insult. I know you’re always so quick to take the defensive—so many years of familial “jokes” will do that to you. It’s simply a classification used for anyone who aligns with the sex identification they were given at birth. Like mom: she was born a female and identifies as one, so she’s cisgender. You, on the other hand, are not.

It isn’t a surprise, is it? You never really felt like you fit in with the other girls your age and the boys never let you play with them so that always left you in a weird middle area. When you stumbled across gay and lesbian forums online, something inside seemed to click on. You related, these were your people! That little hole that had been slowly eating away at you was going to be closed, once and for all. When you came out as a lesbian you thought, finally, FINALLY! This is it, this is the classification I’ve been missing my whole life. This is why I have always felt othered. But it wasn’t, now was it?

Because you came out as a lesbian, and despite all of the hardships you endured with friends, family and yourself, that hole only grew. It pulled at your conscious thought at random moments. Even though you wanted to explore it, being a lesbian—being a woman—was safe. “Maybe I’m a boy,” you would think late at night when the objects on your chest made you want to throw up. Thinking back, that always makes me laugh. Being called ‘he’ or ‘sir’ or ‘a boy’ made tears well in your eyes and nothing hurt more than people not seeing you for you.

After years of knowing you weren’t a boy and you weren’t a girl, you finally understood that being happy meant coming to terms with the fact that you, once again, floated in that gray area. I think what took so long in figuring this out is the lack of language. Not knowing what’s going on in your brain hurts, but not having the language to make sense of it hurts even more. Two years later and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get everyone to call you your name and pronouns. I know you’re scared. I am too—not much has changed in five years. But this is your happiness we’re talking about, Ev. No one gets the satisfaction of taking that away from you.

With so much love,


PS: The normalization of gender-less language is the first step in creating a world that is not controlled and driven by the gender binary. It’s also the first step in making those who live outside of that binary feel as if they aren’t othered. To anyone who fears they may have misgendered someone, the easiest fix is to ask to be sure you have the right name/ pronouns, and then apologizing if you got it wrong before.

Evyn is a senior at UCF double majoring in creative writing and philosophy and minoring in women's and gender studies. When they aren't writing for HerCampus (or for fun), they're probably having an existential crisis about the existence of humans. With an extreme love for caffeine, there's a good chance they're up at all hours of the day. Follow them on Instagram @evynessence
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