Being An Ally: How Can You Support Non-Binary People?
While we’re continuing to evolve, learn, and be accepting of individuals for their uniqueness, it’s true that we still have some ways to go.
Yes, many are familiar with gender-neutral pronouns, but there are still far too many who have a hard time using them. This makes it even more difficult for those who identify as non-binary—individuals who already have countless other challenges to face.
But the truth is, using gender-neutral pronouns is not a difficult thing to do. And doing so allows individuals to be seen, heard, and respected for who they are. Surely we can all appreciate being treated with kindness, don’t we?
At the same time, we know that using gender-neutral pronouns can be an adjustment. We are all human and have the ability to make mistakes, but the difference is knowing when to admit to those mistakes, and taking the initiative to learn and understand the dynamics and the meaning behind those who are non-binary.
So let’s start with the basics…
What is Non-Binary?
Non-binary means that one’s gender doesn’t fit within the binary categories: man or woman. In this way, non-binary individuals could have both masculine and feminine traits, or neither, which is why many non-binary people often identify as part of the transgender community.
For those who are non-binary, they may feel as though their gender is more expansive than what the binary system recognizes.
Additionally, someone who is non-binary is oftentimes not comfortable with the assigned sex that they were given at birth, and the pronouns that come with that sex. For e.g. he or she. Because of this, non-binary people often use the pronouns: they/them.
But whether one is binary or non-binary, the issue surrounding gender norms is still a conversation to be had by all. Things such as society telling us that boys should play with action figures, and girls should have Barbies, for example, is pushing an agenda that boys should be masculine, and girls should be feminine.
From a young age, society dictates that men should be strong and dominant. They should be the breadwinner of the family, while women should be the homemaker, bear children, and be submissive to their male counterparts. These notions are outdated, incorrect, and take away from the uniqueness of individuals. It also hinders children and adults to expand their interests, and live their most authentic lives.
So, today we’re hoping to provide you with seven different ways that you can support non-binary individuals, so that we can be more educated, and more inclusive as human beings. We all deserve to be treated with respect, and to have the freedom to be who we firmly believe we are.
7 Ways You Can Support Non-Binary People
1. Use the Correct Pronouns
As we mentioned, non-binary people often use the pronouns they/them. And if you’re unsure of someone’s pronoun, it’s 100 percent OK and polite to simply ask in a caring and respectful manner.
Also to note: gender identity is not just a preference. It is something that is deeply rooted in who we are. So it is not a question of “Which pronouns do you prefer?” but actually, “Which pronouns do you use?”
2. Use Correct Names
In a similar realm to pronouns, if someone has recently changed their name or has asked you to call them a nickname, it’s not your prerogative to ask why they’ve made this change.
What you can do however, is be respectful enough to use their new name or nickname, and continue to be caring.
3. Be a Positive Change
For some, it may be challenging at first to refer to their friend using a new name or pronoun. So if you are in the company of someone who uses the wrong pronouns by genuine mistake or because they are uninformed, you can gently and swiftly remind them.
You could say something like “Remember, Sam uses the pronoun ‘they/them.”
Alternatively, you could talk to your friend and ask them different ways that you can support them in situations like the one above.
4. Get Educated
It’s OK not to know everything under the sun. But, it’s not OK to be ignorant. For that reason, we encourage you to learn more about non-binary people and gender identity.
This will not only make the world a more accepting place, but will prevent non-binary people from having to assume the job of educating everyone they meet about their gender journey.
5. Share Your Pronouns
Whatever gender you do or do not identify with, making it visible to the public helps create a safer and more welcoming space for all. It is not solely up to non-binary people to have to tell or inform others of what pronouns they use.
For example, you could sign off your emails with your pronoun, add it on your website, Instagram and other social media pages, and/or your Zoom meeting name. In this way, we can eradicate assumptions, and create a space that’s inclusive for all.
At the same time, we could all start using more gender-neutral terms in general, such as parents, partners, children, siblings, folx, pals, or everyone. This also includes the way in which we address people using Ms or Mr. Using Mx. is a way in which to respect all individuals, whether they are or are not non-binary.
6. Be an Advocate for Gender-Neutral Bathrooms
Without shaming those whose gender is binary, it is impossible for those who are binary to understand the anxiety around entering public bathrooms. Not only that, but it could, in some situations, also be dangerous.
Having to choose a space that either aligns with their anatomy or how others perceive their gender can only be uncomfortable, scary, stressful, and psychologically taxing.
For that reason, we encourage you to be more active in the creation of single-user spaces that aren’t categorized as either ’male’ or ’female’. This will not only help to increase inclusiveness, but also eradicate a lot of fear and anxiety for non-binary people.
7. Be Thankful
When someone tells you who they truly are, it’s a big and oftentimes scary act. When you’re supportive and thankful that they’re sharing themselves with you, you’ll have the chance to learn, grow closer, and celebrate diversity.
And when you’re thankful and appreciative that someone has disclosed something about themselves to you, such as being non-binary, you’re contributing to a greater sense of overall wellbeing for that person. This gives them the power to feel more comfortable, confident, and happy in their own skin in a world that doesn’t always feel the same way.
These seven ways in which you can support non-binary people are not difficult. In fact, they’re easy to practice on a daily basis. And it’s up to every single one of us to create a space that’s safe and inclusive for all of our wonderfully diverse individuals in the world!