Being Transgender Non-Binary at Queens
By Jay Prebble, Contributor
I am transgender non-binary. For those who haven’t heard that term before, it means that my gender is neither male nor female. I have felt different my entire life. I never quite fit in with either the boys or the girls. I couldn’t identify with either. When I heard about non-binary genders, I found the language I needed to explain who I am and the validation that I was normal and not defective as I had thought for years. I developed the confidence to gradually make changes that I had wanted to for a long time including my name, pronouns and gender expression. I finally felt able to be myself and stopped trying to conform to societal norms.
I am fortunate that most of my friends are accepting of my gender identity, transition and the use of the right name and pronouns. While some of my family are struggling to adapt to the name and pronoun change (and they haven’t had long to get used to it), I am still accepted and part of the family. Some non-binary people are disowned by family, rejected by friends or bullied because of their gender identity.
As people like me find the language, more and more of us are coming out as non-binary. We have been described as made up, a trend or a fad. The term non-binary is relatively recent, although genders other than male and female have existed in many in non-western cultures, including the South Asian Hijra, Native American two-spirit people and the five genders of the Bugis of Indonesia. Non-binary genders are not yet legally recognised in the UK or Ireland, although campaigns for gender recognition reform are underway.
Being non-binary in a culture that does not always accept us can be difficult. Whenever I meet new people they are trying to fit me into one of two boxes; some place me in the M box and some the F box. Sometimes people stare while they try to decide, mostly frequently when I try to use public toilets or changing facilities. I was once threatened with violence due to my gender expression (a threat that thankfully wasn’t followed through). Most places in Belfast don’t have gender neutral facilities although some Queen’s buildings do, and when present they enable me to use toilets without being made to feel uncomfortable or being concerned about violence.
In addition to the introduction of gender neutral facilities, Queens has also introduced a Trans Equality policy (which can be viewed online) which also applies to non-binary people. However, not all trans/non-binary students are treated according to this policy. If you are not happy with how you are being treated or are concerned that processes are not being followed contact Advice SU or the sabbatical officers in the Student Union for support.
If you are transgender, non-binary, intersex or questioning your gender and want support, it can be found at the Belfast Trans Resource Centre (belfasttrans.org.uk). If you are non-binary or think that you might be, you can also go along to the Non-Binary NI meetups. (https://www.facebook.com/nonbinaryNI/).