International Non-Binary Day 2021: Interviews with three of HRC's Youth Ambassadors

by HRC Staff

International Non-Binary Day, celebrated around the world every year on July 14th, is an occasion to lift up non-binary members within the LGBTQ community. At a time when young people’s identities are being targeted by legislation in multiple states, it is crucial to remind LGBTQ young people that their identities are valid - and worth fighting for.

The term non-binary describes someone who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people 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. Non-binary can also be used as an umbrella term encompassing identities such as agender, bigender, genderqueer or genderfluid.

Even though Western cultures tend to reinforce the idea that gender identity and expression are a strict binary, it’s simply not true. Non-binary people have existed for centuries and they show us every day that knowing one’s self and identity is a powerful thing that no one can strip away.

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done when it comes to securing full protections and rights for our non-binary siblings, but amid that work we must take time to celebrate as well.

In honor of International Non-Binary Day, we interviewed some of our non-binary Youth Ambassadors about their lived experiences as non-binary youth.

[answers have been edited for clarity and grammar]

Ash Silcott (they/them):

What do you wish you knew before coming out as non-binary?
That I didn’t have to look purely androgynous. That it is okay to look more feminine or more masculine.

How has your life changed since you realized you’re non-binary?
I have felt better about myself and I have gained confidence that I never had before.

What was the hardest part about coming out as non-binary?
Having people who have been with me all my life still use the incorrect pronouns, knowing that it would hurt me.

Luke Chacko (they/them, he/him, she/her):

What would you say to a young person who is questioning their gender identity and wondering if they are non-binary?
Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace it. Being non-binary is beautiful because people put other people in gendered categories. Clothing, make up, shoes, etc. But for me, being non-binary is so impactful on myself and on other people. You don’t have to be put into a category, or a label. You are just yourself.

What do you wish you knew before coming out as non-binary?
I wish I knew what [non-binary] was sooner. I had always felt different from my peers with my identity, in both gender and sexual orientation. I didn’t know what non-binary was. I thought it was just another sexuality and no one wanted to tell me what it was because they didn’t know either. I always felt that I could never be put into a feminine or masculine role. When people did that to me, I would get angry because I am more than just a man or a woman, I’m a human. I’m a human who gets to express themself however they want to.

What was the hardest part about coming out as non-binary?
The hardest part for me when coming out as non-binary was having people understand my pronouns. I prefer they/them but when people say he or she I don’t mind. However, I know that with he or she pronouns, I am being put into a gendered box. I was afraid people would think of me differently if I was going to go by they/them, but I learned that it doesn’t matter what people have to say about my identity. It matters about whether I’m comfortable with who I am.

Alise Maxie (they/them, she/her):

What advice has helped you with the coming out process that you want to pass onto others?
Always do what’s best for you. Don’t hide who you are if the only reason for hiding is to be “easily understood” by others. I always thought if I really showed the world who I was and used my pronouns I would be a burden. If they care about you they’ll adapt. I promise.

What do you wish you knew before coming out as non-binary?
I wish I knew that I could be non-binary & still connect with the identities of a Black woman. Being non-binary doesn’t mean you can’t have any other gender identity. I always thought it had to be one or the other and for the longest time, that made me hate who I was. I now identify as a non-binary woman and feel no shame about it.

What do you want other non-binary youth to know?
The biggest take away would be realizing that nothing is wrong with you. You don’t have to be equally feminine & masculine to be non-binary. There is no checkbox you have to meet for the “ideal non-binary” person. There is no such thing as looking non-binary. You and your pronouns are valid however you are! Some people will accept you and some won’t but don’t be afraid.