Here’s Why Non-Binary Students Need Allies
Identifying outside the gender binary By Miguel Johnson
Being non-binary means identifying as a gender other than exclusively male or female. As a person who identifies as non-binary — in particular, as genderfluid, which means that my gender varies over time — I struggle when people try to put me into boxes that I simply don’t fit into. People either want me to behave how they feel a boy should (i.e. hyper-masculine all the time), or they want me to shut up, be “girly” and obsess over makeup and gossip. They won’t allow me to be a little bit of both.
At school, I feel as if I have to choose between being myself and being safe and accepted. Oftentimes, I see other members of the LGBTQ community bash non-binary people, especially in classrooms and on social media.
Being non-binary can be especially difficult when it comes to gendered spaces, like bathrooms. As a non-binary person, I have to think about what bathroom everyone expects me to use, whereas binary people don’t have to worry about this. Being able to use the bathroom safely is a luxury that I simply do not have.
#MyAllies recognize their privilege and help to make me feel safe at school.
Recognizing my privilege within the gender binary By Drew Adams
I identify as a transgender male, so I identify as one of the two binary genders. The truth is, being binary is a huge privilege. In general, our culture only recognizes two genders, guys and girls. Bathrooms, toys, clothing sections, deodorant scents, hair and skin products — so much in our society is gendered.
This is especially true in our schools. In so many cases, non-binary students are forced to use gendered bathrooms, since there is no gender-neutral alternative. Also, a lot of teachers still use the “girls on one side, boys on the other side” method to split the class into groups. I can’t begin to imagine how non-binary students must feel in those situations.
But as an ally to non-binary students, I have to recognize my privilege. In my position of privilege, I always try to challenge traditional gender roles and the idea that there are only two genders. I also do my best to respect gender-neutral pronouns, like they and them. In general, I have to be supportive and accepting.
Miguel Johnson and Drew Adams are members of GLSEN’s National Student Council.
Photos by Wunmi Onibudo.