This article first appeared in Equality magazine. Read the latest issue of the magazine at hrc.org/magazine.
Self-described “resident messy lady” and non-binary activist Jacob Tobia understands the significance of non-binary visibility and pride. Now more than ever, activists are raising awareness about gender expansiveness.
“I think that having days where you get to talk about your community and honor the experiences of everybody that’s part of the community is wonderful,” Tobia told Equality.
Non-binary people do not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. They may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or as falling completely outside these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do.
This International Non-Binary People’s Day, which is observed each year on July 14, HRC recognizes that this is an important day for visibility, and that we have a long way to go to increase awareness and understanding about non-binary people.
Tobia, the author of “Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story,” hasn’t had a traditional “coming out” story.
“By the time I used the term non-binary, gender non-conforming or genderqueer to describe myself, it was like an afterthought,” they said. “I was expressing my gender in a way that was gender non-conforming, I was learning about my gender and started wearing lipstick and putting on makeup… then figuring out what the label meant for it way after that.”
Among the things Tobia, a former HRC intern, does is challenge the perceptions around what it means to be non-binary.
“When I think about specifically non-binary folks, the dominant idea of what a non-binary person is someone who is white, skinny, assigned female at birth and transmasculine and hairless,” Tobia said. “That’s the idea of what a non-binary person is, and that is not all of us and we have to transform that ideal we have to get visibility for non binary folks aside, for assigned female folks who are non-binary… we have to have visibility for hairy transfeminine non-binary ladies like me, we need visibility for non-binary older folks as well as younger folks.”
Non-binary actor and activist Bex Taylor-Klaus agrees that non-binary representation has a long way to go, but added that the evolution of transgender and non-binary visibility has been surreal.
“It’s inspiring and beautiful to watch the evolution,” Taylor-Klaus told Equality. “Dreams I didn’t know I had come true every day.”
To non-binary people struggling with their identities, Tobia hopes they’re patient with themselves, because the journey isn’t the same for everyone. Being patient with yourself is a significant part of a coming out journey, and Taylor-Klaus said the most rewarding experience with dealing with this journey is the hope youth bring by living their truths.
“Definitely the tiny baby queers coming out to me and telling me how helpful it’s been for them to see someone like them in media,” they said. “A young boy gave me a butterfly keychain he had made and told me he had just come out as trans and seeing me gave him courage to finally do it. I still have the butterfly. It reminds me that what I do matters.”
This International Non-Binary People’s Day and every day, HRC will continue to support, empower and uplift the voices of non-binary people and ensure that LGBTQ advocacy is inclusive of them.
“Gender identity is a very long journey and a super long road for everybody. Everyone experiences gender that changes over their lifetime, and I think it is really important to be super patient and kind with yourself and to give yourself all the space you need to properly metamorphosize the beautiful non-binary butterfly you’re becoming,” Tobia said.