By Juli Carosella
It was 2019 when little freshman me had just come out as non-binary. I was with a group of my friends explaining to them my pronouns and while explaining I said to them “I’m trans.” One of my friends, she looked so confused as she said to me, “I thought you were non-binary, not transgender? It’s not like you are going from female to male, right?” I knew she didn’t mean any harm by that statement, she is one of the most supportive people I know. However, her question got me thinking…
Do people know that non-binary individuals identify under the trans umbrella? And if so, do they acknowledge non-binary individuals or any other individuals who don’t identify as their birth gender during transgender days of note?
An easy way to think about this is that transgender can break down into two categories; binary and non-binary. The binary side includes female and male genders. The non-binary side is where things can start to get a little confusing. On this side there is genderqueer, gender fluid, demigender including demigirl and demiboy, bigender, agender, and so many more. Even within the community, these non-binary identities are often excluded when talking about anything having to do with the transgender community.
I know this exclusion first hand, In my highschool’s gender and sexuality association (GSA) I often felt excluded from other trans members during bonding events. I felt like I couldn’t relate to their problems or struggles. Although me and other transgender students faced similar difficulties such as being misgendered and not being able to express ourselves in traditional gender norms, because I identified as non-binary, I felt as though my own struggles could not compare to theirs. I later learned you cannot compare and match struggles, we all face different hardships.
But in high school, all you want is a group of people who understand who you are and what you are going through. I felt that I wasn’t trans enough for my transgender friends but I wasn’t cis enough for my cisgender friends.
Even in GSA I felt like I was put on the sideline from my own community. Of course everyone respected my pronouns, but at the time I was the only non-binary person in the club, so we couldn’t connect on the same level. What I always wanted was for someone who could understand what it was like as a young non-binary student to join our club so I could have someone to talk to.
Eventually I found a few people who shared similar experiences and questions with me. They also identified under the non-binary spectrum of transgender. We had so many similar thoughts and questions on sexuality and gender. Questions like if I’m gender non-conforming and like females am I lesbian or straight? Or how should I cut my hair to appear more androgynous despite my feminine facial features? And although we didn’t always arrive at answers to our questions, we all finally had someone who could understand why we were asking these questions in the first place. I finally felt a part of the community because I wasn’t alone. To be honest it was amazing. I was more confident in my identity at that moment than I ever was before. And it was just having a few people who got that part of me to help me feel like I actually belonged.
We all know about the atrocities that our community is facing right now, especially the recent attacks toward the transgender community. So I hope if you take one thing from my story it is that as a community we need to be united. No matter what you identify as, reach out to see if you can connect with someone and support them. Don’t let them be the person in the club who is on the sidelines. We are stronger together and we cannot risk being fractured.
Juli Carosella (they/them/theirs) is a proud queer non-binary individual with a strong love for cats and nature. They have a strong drive to better themselves in every way possible and hope to see an end to mental health stigma in their lifetime! Follow them on Instagram at @Juli_.xx