Megha Mohan “'Why I invented Non-Binary Day'” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-62149521
There's a meme that pops up every now and then about a bird that is called a penguin its whole life. One day the bird meets a doctor who says, "You are not a penguin, you are what is called a swan." The swan is filled with relief. Suddenly, its whole life makes sense.
I had my swan moment in 2011 when I was in my mid-20s.
My grandmother had just died and I was at her apartment organising her things. Trying to distract myself after a while, I fell into an online rabbit hole and stumbled to the Wikipedia page for gender identities. It was here that I first read the definition of "non-binary". In those paragraphs, I learned about people who do not follow binary gender norms, people who feel they exist in an intermediate space outside the definitions of male and female.
"This is me," I thought. "I am non-binary. This has been me my whole life. And I've just never had the words to describe it." I started crying. I knew I had to tell my boyfriend.
As an older millennial, I grew up online. In chat rooms, I found communities of people who talked about sexuality, and came out as bisexual at the age of 14. Online, and later offline, LGBT communities welcomed me as I opened up about my sexuality and I felt I belonged.
Then in my 20s I fell in love with my boyfriend, Nathan. This came at a price. In my opinion, there's no quicker way to get cast out of an LGBT community than being a bisexual woman who is dating a man. People see you as "straight", someone who cannot understand the struggle, and suddenly conversations and events no longer include you. They call it bi-erasure, and it is a very real phenomenon. The invitations drip away. Private groups are set up without you. In my experience, people still understand sexuality in the way they do not understand gender identity.
When I found the Wikipedia page that explained my non-binary identity, Nathan was the first person I wanted to tell, but I was terrified.
When I saw him later that day, I said it quickly.
"So what's changing?" he asked.
"I might use different pronouns," I replied. "Or go by a different name sometimes."
He asked if I was transgender. Was I thinking about physically changing in any way?
I said no, I wasn't.
"OK, I'll try and remember your pronouns," he said, "but I'm not very good at remembering stuff."
We both laughed, relaxed, the air between us less taut. I explained to him how growing up I had felt mischaracterised as this "other" person, and now I had a name for what I was and immediately, I fitted a little better in my skin.
We were engaged soon after that and married in 2015.
For several years I used different pronouns in place of "she/her". I especially liked "zie/zir", which sounded soft and playful. They were gender neutral terms that people were using online that didn't assume the sex of the individual.
For a while I was in favour of singular "they/them" pronouns. But as I saw their use blossom and take off, I began to dislike them, and now I can't stand them. As a writer I take language seriously, and I've read several texts where people use the "they/them" pronouns which have left me genuinely confused as to whether they were speaking about an individual or group. Some writers argue that Shakespeare regularly used "they/them", to which I reply, "Very few people write as well as Shakespeare."
Now, things have changed in my life. I'm more comfortable in myself. It matters less to me when people call me a woman or use the "she/her" pronouns. I used to be really in favour of having a third gender marker on IDs like passports or driver's licences like they have in Argentina, Australia and India - and are proposing in South Africa. But now I'm not so sure. Do I want gender-minority data collected somewhere that is easily accessible for governments? Definitely not. I don't have faith in bureaucracies. I can see why it may be important for some people in certain countries, but not for me.
We can feel invisible in a world that still hasn't completely understood what we are. So it's nice to have a day that recognises our existence. Does it have to be a day where we're out in the streets marching? No. But it would be nice to get some flowers.
I think being called non-binary is important on an internal level. It's important for me to have those words to describe myself, and knowing who I am allows me to be more comfortable with myself. I want people to be happy with themselves. And if having a day helps you be happy with yourself, that's great. That is the best outcome I could have hoped for from that one-off blog post that I wrote 10 years ago.
*1:See eg. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Non-Binary_People%27s_Day https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%9B%BD%E9%9A%9B%E3%83%8E%E3%83%B3%E3%83%90%E3%82%A4%E3%83%8A%E3%83%AA%E3%83%BC%E3%83%87%E3%83%BC