July 14 marks International Non-Binary People’s Day — an international commemoration to raise awareness for the non-binary community and educate the public on the ongoing issues they face.
Invented by author Katje van Loon over a decade ago out of Katje’s exploration of identity, it lands halfway between International Women’s Day in March and International Men’s Day in November. Falling in July is, of course, intentional as it speaks to living outside or between cisgender binary norms.
Today, it’s recognized globally and allows us as a culture to take stock of the lived experience of those in the non-binary community. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), those who are non-binary do not identify as either male or female and, thus, fall out of the traditional binary ideas of what gender is.
That expression of gender as a non-binary person can greatly vary, further speaking to the shirking of gender norms at the core of the community. Non-binary folks may identify as being both a man and a woman or as falling completely outside these categories. Many non-binary people also identify as transgender, though not all do, per the Human Rights Campaign. There is no one way to look, present, or express one’s self as a non-binary person.
Some may even prefer to use a different word to express the different parts of this experience: gender non-conforming, genderqueer, agender, bigender, genderfluid, and more. As NCTE is keen to note, “none of these terms mean exactly the same thing – but all speak to an experience of gender that is not simply male or female.”
Non-binary folks face a unique set of challenges based on their identity that others may not. Many face invalidation of who they are based on the separation from the gender binary, which can lead to painful misgendering or misidentification. That can include intentional use of incorrect pronouns, “dead-naming” (the use of someone’s former name after it has been changed to better reflect the person’s identity), gender-based comments or insults, and more.
Others experience discrimination based on their identity and expression which can be hateful and sometimes violent. Much like the transgender community, some non-binary individuals also face fatal violence just for being who they are. In 2023 alone, at least 13 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed.
There can also be challenges that arise in securing appropriate government-issued identification, seeking appropriate medical care related to their identity, and navigating daily life in a world so built on binary thinking.
Yet, there is also so much queer joy and happiness that comes with living authentically beyond the binary: the friendships, the community connection, the freedom of self-expression, and the fluidity of living outside the rigidity of binary gender. While the world has plenty to learn and grow, there is already so much good inside the non-binary community, and that needs to be celebrated as we push for a better world.
Together, we must raise our voices in earthshaking unison and highlight the non-binary community however possible. That takes on many forms:
- Giving non-binary folks a platform and voice to share what their experiences are and how allies can offer support.
- Showing up in spaces that demean or belittle non-binary experience with resounding support for the community
- Educating and better understanding the non-binary world, and our personal places in it.
- Supporting legislation at the state, local, and federal levels that champions non-binary wellness and access to necessary identification and care.
- Making this a year-wide effort, not just a day or week of awareness.
This International Non-Binary People’s Day, let’s all do our part to build a world beyond the binary that makes it easier, safer, and more accepting to be one thing: ourselves.
For more information and other LGBTQ+ resources, check out sexualbeing.com.