What about this thing called non-binary?
There’s a chance you read about the news that actor Elliot Page came out as a non-binary transgender this week. I found this a good moment to share my thoughts about all of this. So, what about this thing called non-binary?
If you’ve been following the media reports, you may have noticed that Elliot Page has released a statement. Page stated not only to be transgender but also to be non-binary. I thought it was a good idea to stop here. What does this writing family man think about this? What about being this thing called non-binary?
If you followed the news two years ago, there was a good chance, you saw the coverage about Elliot Page and his announcement. The actor came out as transgender non-binary. The news generated all sorts of reactions, both positive and negative. In December 2020, I decided to write about this. In February 2023, I decided to update this article.
Elliot Page is an actor from Canada. One of the leading roles in The Umbrella Academy. A hit series on Netflix. The actor announced that he is transgender. Well, not only that. Page announced That he loves being queer and he’s non-binary. Yes, that is also possible. Not all non-binary people decide to use the pronounce they/them. Yes, not all transgender people consider themselves to be ‘just’ that.
So, not only did Page share the news about him being transgender. He also shared the news that he’s non-binary. Thus breaking with the binary system of female and male. When you are non-binary (English non-binary), that is the same as genderqueer. In other words: it concerns persons who are not only male or female. So there is no box or category where you can put these people in the way it has been done for centuries.
It is striking that there is often talk about making choices. You have to make a choice, it seems. That as a woman you like men or as a man you like women. Only this does not correspond to reality. The reality is that as a woman you can also fall for women and as a man, you can also fall for men. You don’t have to choose based on gender at all. You can also “choose” based on personality. That’s what you call pansexual. Incidentally, I believe that it is not always a matter of “choosing.” What you are attracted to, is something that is within you. That is not something that can be learned or unlearned.
The umbrella we use for all types of sexuality is of course known as LGBTQ+ (English) and in Dutch we know this as LGBT. Although the Dutch abbreviation may not be entirely correct. Put IQ+ behind it and the picture is complete. Everything falls under this umbrella. Even if you’re heterosexual, you still belong here. That is: if you are heterosexual and support equal rights, and equal treatment and you want to believe in the fact that it is not just about relationships between women and men or men and women. In other words, you are then a supporter or ally. Or simply, a straight ally. In other words, you are an ally. Someone who is on the side of. Someone who is not convicted.
Then what are we talking about? The abbreviation consists of a large number of types of sexuality and gender diversity. The latter is extremely important because it’s not always about sex. The word sexuality or sexual orientation immediately suggests that something physical is involved and it need not be.
When you use LGBTQIA+, this means:
- L – Lesbian: a gay woman
- G – Gay: a gay man. With the note that lesbians can also indicate that they are gay.
- B – Bisexual: both women and men.
- T – Transgender, transgender person, transsexual: Someone who feels they were born in the “wrong” body.
- Q – Queer of Questioning: Someone who does not want to be pigeonholed.
- I – Intersex: These are people with both feminine and masculine body characteristics.
- A – Asexual, Agender + non-binary and genderqueer or even Ally (although the latter is not accepted by some)
- Asexual: People with no sexual desire or who do not feel sexual attraction.
- Agender + non-binary and genderqueer: What we talk about in this article; is someone who is not exclusively female or male.
- Ally: Those who actively support the Community. There is much debate if these people should be included, as they are not the people that are struggling for equal rights. Yes, they support them, but they don’t face discrimination and violence the way people of the LGBTQIA+ Community do sometimes.
Then there is the plus sign. With this, you arrive at so much more. Think, among other things, of pansexual (not being attracted to gender, but to people), bi-gender (two genders), gender-fluid (flexibility of gender, without attaching a certain value to it) and so much more.
Some say we should use the abbreviation LGBTTTQQIA, to include everyone. But others say it will not include everyone. It’s a difficult discussion. That’s why people use LGBTQIA+ instead. Besides, it makes it easier to include more people.
Before I move on to non-binary, it’s worth mentioning another mention by Page. The word transgender. Strictly speaking, it means that at birth someone is not given the gender identity or expression that corresponds to who they are. It is dangerous to say that there is a birth in the “wrong” body. The word “wrong” has a negative connotation. It’s not wrong. There’s nothing wrong with this!
What I understand is that Page has indicated that he is transgender, but at the same time wants to let go of the pigeonhole thing. That is also possible. This makes Page non-binary.
It’s quite a thing, being non-binary. Some people make it seem like it’s a fad. When a girl or woman indicates that she is non-binary, she is probably a lesbian. Or at least bisexual. If only it were that easy. Even handling lesbians or bisexuals is putting you in a box based on gender. That is not much different for a boy or man. Although the comments about boys or men who indicate that they are non-binary are sometimes harsher. It has to do with sexualization. Someone’s sexuality or orientation can be made sexual by others. Because it’s exciting because it’s exciting. Anything that deviates from that is ‘wrong.’ Boys or men who indicate that they deviate from what others consider ‘normal’ are referred to with the most insulting swear words. If you as a man can’t do something or do something wrong, then you’re a sissy, fagot or gay.
As an example, I have the swear word ‘Blinde homo’ (translated: as ‘blind homo’). This swear word is used by idiots who believe that this is the most normal way to question a referee’s decision during a football game. It shows how ‘normal’ some people find it to use ‘gay’ as a swear word.
Not only is the verbal violence directed against men. Women are also affected by it. Is it justified to say that women are less often confronted with ‘real’ violence? They also have to take violent reactions into account. Think of a low point from 2019. You can read more about that on this page of the BBC.
Transgender people are also more often confronted with violence. Abuse and threats are the order of the day. The violence is acknowledged, but there seems to be no solution. It starts with a conviction. Then the bullying follows and this can sometimes lead to violent incidents. Not just for people who are homosexual. Transgender people also have to deal with it. Not just them. Others under the umbrella we know as LGBTQ+ are also facing it. Even when you indicate as an ally to accept and respect. Then there must be something ‘wrong’ with you, right?
It all starts with judgement. Judgment leads to bullying and bullying leads to violence. When you read these words, it seems simple to stop them. All it should take is some education and the problem is solved. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Two years after I wrote the original article, I decided to update this article.
In November 2022, my daughter made the bold decision to do what you may compare to Elliot Page. It seemed to be a bit reversed. Where she previously defined herself as non-binary, she now came out for it. She let the world know how it was. She’s a girl!
The acceptance at her school is enormous. Exceeded expectations you might say. Only the school next door is less tolerant. That is special because it belongs to the same school community. It happens weekly that she has to deal with a nasty comment or that someone laughs at her.
What does that have to do with Elliot Page? Quite a lot. Following his confession, Page faced a multitude of hate and backlash. The well-known reactions about what he wasn’t. People emphasised the name he used before. A name that had become superfluous. Indeed, that name can still be seen on film credits. Does that mean you still have to use that name now? No, from the moment Page announced the exact situation, we have to respect his decision.
What you may not be able to understand is Page’s problem. You may have been brought up to believe that there is a female-male binary system. Maybe you’re just getting used to the idea that there is such a thing as transgender people. Then you might be thinking: Non-binary, what am I supposed to do with that?
You don’t have to do anything with it. Only show respect for the people involved. That’s nothing but whatever other part of any other person’s life it’s about. Because this is about the identity of a person. Just as you have certain things that go with your identity, this Elliot Page has an identity. An identity that has changed. Call it rectified or corrected. Something that should have happened a long time ago. That it didn’t happen before is not up to you to make statements about it. It is up to the person in question to take the time to do so. Others never have anything to say about it.
To be clear, Page being non-binary does not imply that it is “gender neutral.” Just look it up. These are different concepts.
Finally, because this is also important. Non-binary has nothing to do with not being able to choose. People who are concerned can make a good choice. They have thought very carefully about it. So good that they have stepped out of the binary system.
In short, Page’s disclosure at the time was one that you can only respect. Page is Victor now in The Umbrella Academy. The makers have solved that perfectly, so my other half told me. Page’s Wikipedia page has also been updated, as has the IMDB page.
Image at the top of this page: Unsplash.