Sincerely, me: A Journey into Self-Acceptance
14 July marks International Non-Binary People’s Day, a day aimed at raising awareness of the issues and discrimination faced by non-binary people around the world.
Non-binary is an umbrella term used to describe people who feel their gender cannot be defined within the margins of gender binary. Instead, their gender goes beyond simply identifying as either a man or a woman and instead may feel that their gender is fluid and can fluctuate between more masculine and more feminine, or that they simply don’t identify with one gender.
“Sincerely, me”, a blog written by an anonymous colleague about their non-binary identity. They talk about their journey into self-acceptance and the role that the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has played in that.
I was 14 the first time I said it out loud. In the shower, out of earshot of my parents, I whispered to myself, “I am non-binary.”
Then I cried for 20 minutes.
Out of sheer relief more than anything else. I finally had a word to describe myself that fit. That explained why I would feel so uncomfortable when called a girl. That explained what made me hate my chest and want to hide.
I spent a lot of time thinking about internalised misogyny, and body image, and if I really was non-binary or if I just hated what it meant to be a girl today. I also spent a lot of time thinking about if I felt like a boy but using he/him pronouns felt just as wrong as using she/her. In the end, it came down to feeling like if male was blue and female was red, I was yellow – not a mix, not between, something else entirely.
From that point I considered myself “out”. My friends knew; they would use they/them pronouns for me. I introduced myself to new people using a different name. I even told my mother. She instantly shut that down, insisting that I was just young, confused, attention seeking, the list goes on.
That was when the rift started. With my friends I was one person, and with my family I was another. At work my colleagues knew my family, so I was always that “other” person, and that has continued for about a decade.
I never realised how big of a problem it was until someone else mentioned it. Funnily enough, it was at work, with a colleague in the LGBT+ Network. We were talking, discussing being closeted and coming out and, despite our identities not being remotely similar, they said something that really resonated with me.
“It’s like you’re 2 separate people and it’s exhausting.”
And it is, isn’t it?
Never had I felt so seen, so understood, so tired.
That was a tipping point for me. Emboldened after the conversation, I bought something I’ve wanted since I was that 14-year-old crying in the shower. A binder. For those of you who don’t know, that’s something that flattens your chest, making it appear more masculine. I have started taking steps towards coming out at work, starting with network colleagues. I changed my title on our Electronic Staff Record (ESR) from “miss” to “mx”. I have asked colleagues to start using they/them pronouns for me.
I will eventually have that conversation with my parents again, and I know that having a bigger support network around me will make things easier when I do.
This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a step. A step I would not have had the confidence to take without the support of that one colleague at work.
Happy Non-Binary Day everyone.