Nonbinary is an umbrella term, or a gender identity in and of itself, describing a spectrum that is not exclusively male or female — it describes identities that lie outside or between the identities of man or woman.
There is no single way to look, act, or feel nonbinary.

July 14, was International Nonbinary People’s Day, a day to recognize and celebrate nonbinary identities. In honor of this day, we’ve interviewed some of our staff that identify as nonbinary to hear their perspective on what nonbinary means to them, what they would like others to know, and what it’s like to serve a population that shares their identity.

Here’s what they said:

Layzon Lehmann, Safety Intervention Coordinator (No Pronouns):

Non-binary people are nothing new, non-binary identities have been recognized for millennia by cultures and societies all around the world. Due to colonist ideals some of this history has been moved out of the main view of the public. There isn’t just one way to be nonbinary, nonbinary is a cosmos of opportunities to express your gender fluidity.  

Being able to interact and assist individuals that identify as non-binary has been one of the greatest challenges and gifts I have ever had in my life. It is a gift because I get to answer questions that are within my wheel house about being nonbinary. It is a challenge because I am forced to keep learning and adapting to new terms, personalities, and the trauma that continues to be experienced by folks that identify as nonbinary.”

Tommy Schafer, Manager of Data and Evaluation (they/them/theirs):

“I wish people understood that nonbinary people come in all shapes, sizes, gender expressions, sexualities, and identify along the full spectrum of each of these traits as well. I also wish that more folks understood that binary gender categories are a product of the institutions of white supremacy and capitalism, and that genders we now typically categorize under the nonbinary umbrella have existed in various human societies for millennia. (This is why I tend to identify more as gender-queer specifically because binary gender is a constructed falsehood to begin with, so who are we to have to call ourselves, NOT-the-false-category, when that category isn’t even real?)

It’s humbling to serve people who share this identity, especially because it is so hard-won on a day to day basis by many of us, through having our pronouns recognized, or not having folks assume our assigned gender at birth. In my data and research work, ensuring that I include nonbinary people in gender categories and then, furthermore, advocating for the explaining the importance of doing so to other researchers furthers our legitimacy as a group. This feels necessary in order to break out of a society that assumes binary gender in every instance it can.

Fredy Roberts-Ramirez, TGNC Youth HIV Prevention Program Manager and The VOICES Project Manager (they/them/theirs/Fredy):

“I would like people to know that nonbinary people sometimes don’t show their gender expression on the outside. Being nonbinary is a feeling and is usually something you feel internally.

I love the fact that I can come to work and see young people like me and be able to be an example for them, and also show them that they are not alone. I want to show young people it’s okay to be yourself and express yourself how you feel most comfortable. Also it’s okay to live outside the box, just be authentically you.”

Katie Wright, Research Assistant (she/her/hers):

Sometimes it feels like people see non-binary folks as just trying to figure out if they are male or female, which to me isn’t the point. The point is that I’m neither. Some days I feel very masculine and I embrace that side of me, and other days I feel very agender and I don’t relate to being a gendered human at all. It’s definitely a journey and it’s something that is constantly evolving. I wish more cis people felt comfortable exploring the vastness of their own gender identity because for me it has been very freeing.  

I guess the second thing I’d say is that I’d like more people to trust nonbinary folks to be the experts on their own lives and identities. I’ve had conversations with people who don’t understand how or why I identify as a nonbinary lesbian. They’re like, “well a lesbian is someone who identifies as a woman who is sexually attracted to other people who identify as women…so if you don’t identify as a woman you can’t be a lesbian.” To those people I’d just say if you’re confused about a subject, you listen to the experts and learn from them. And I’m the expert of my own identity, so if I’m telling you that I’m a nonbinary lesbian just trust me on that and take my word for it. My identity is not up for debate or discussion.  

I feel incredibly honored and humbled to serve a population that shares my identity. I work in research, and because historically the field of research has caused a great deal of harm to TGNC communities I work very intentionally to make sure that the individuals I work with feel heard, respected, seen, and safe.”

Dionte Purnell, Community Relation and Engagement Specialist (he/him/his, or anything respectful):

“I wish society understood that there’s more than two genders, even though in our society, the most recognized are male and female. Me identifying as a nonbinary gender with a femme gender expression is also normal. People get accustomed to the norm, and in this society that we live in now, nothing is normal. More individuals need to understand and be respectful of that. To sum it up, normalizing nonbinary genders means expressing me and being me without any judgement.

I love serving the population of individuals that share my identity so much as well as serving the community that doesn’t. I was born in this world to love everyone and I mean that. So, I try to treat everyone with respect. For my community that relates to my identity, it’s a feeling of acceptance, with no judgement. It’s liberating, comforting, and just an understanding of who we are as people and owning it.”

Jessie Savage, PCMH CCE, Quality Improvement Analyst (they/them/theirs):

“A couple of things I’d like people to know about what being nonbinary is that while it can be an umbrella term, it’s also my gender. Also, there’s no one way to be nonbinary when it comes to dysphoria (or lack thereof), wanting to medically transition (or not wanting to), or even how we express ourselves.  Everyone’s experience is different and I wish it wasn’t so hard to find healthcare professionals that understood – since 2011 it took me almost six years, three therapists, and two healthcare centers to find a primary care physician that understood what I wanted out of my medical transition.

[Serving a population that also shares my identity] is humbling, but also gives me a fire to come into work every day and advocate for trans rights in healthcare.  Having the platform to improve data collection and uplift nonbinary voices in conversations where we might not normally get seen helps keep conversations that impact trans health focused instead of being derailed. It’s just really nice to be doing something for my community.

Nonbinary people can use any pronoun, dress with any gender expression, medically transition if they want to, legally transition if they want to. Of course, nonbinary people can choose one or none of these options to express their gender identity. We currently live in a world that integrates a strict binary view of gender, but gender is very expansive and individual. At Howard Brown Health we are proud and happy to serve nonbinary people in our communities.

If you want to learn more about our gender affirming services, look here for our transgender and gender nonconforming heath services or call 773.388.1600.

Tags: Q&A, TGNC

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