We come screaming out of our mother’s womb pink, covered in goo and not entirely sure what is going on. So when we are given an assigned gender at birth, our baby selves just kinda go with it. But, what if you don’t feel that your assigned gender is who you are? What if you feel like you don’t fit into either of society’s traditional gender concepts. Well, you just might be non-binary. We caught up with non-binary YouTube influencer, Ashley Wylde to unpack what it means to be non-binary.
More young people are exploring their identity, taking the time to discover who they are. So if you don’t fit into traditional gender roles, don’t worry, you’re not weird. Ashley is a good example. “I am so normal, like people think trans and non-binary people are these eccentric, attention seeking, dramatic folk. But I’m really normal.”
Sure, Ashley is a little different; she is a YouTuber with a huge subscription list and talks heavily about gender, identity and has also given a TedX talk. But, like you or me, she has a full time job, she has a dog, she lives in a house with her partner, she cooks, all the normal things that an adult at the age of 25 does.
Ashley was assigned female at birth, and uses female pronouns. But, she identifies as genderqueer or non-binary. What this means is that her internal experience in her head, does not match what she understands to be the experience of a woman or a man. So, Ashley feels that neither of the binary genders apply to her, and as such, identifies as non-binary.
Ashley prefers female pronouns but because she dresses a certain way, she is often mistakenly addressed with the wrong pronouns. The misuse of pronouns is something non-binary people experience every day. Ashley feels that there are two main ways a non-binary person can be misgendered.
“Being called male and addressed as ‘sir, buddy, pal, Mr.’ whatever it is, that happens every single day. I am misgendered that I’m male, very, very often. I’m very tall and I think that’s one of the reasons, and obviously that I have short hair.”
It can’t be easy finally feeling comfortable in your skin and finding the pronouns that sit right with you, only to be constantly misgendered because you don't traditionally look like what society thinks you should look like.
The second way a non-binary person can be misgendered is by people not being receptive to having that conversation. Generally people don’t factor non-binary identities into their conception of gender. Maybe they have never heard of it. Maybe they’ve heard of it, but haven’t given it much thought. And, as Ashley says “People are likely to assume that you identify as one or the other binary gender, unless you talk to them about that.”
Ashley has been misgendered throughout her life, whether it happened during her college years when professors would ask for the opinions of the men and women in the class, but overlook the non-binary, or in public bathrooms with set genders, the frustration is the same.
“If there were just places to pee instead of women’s and men’s bathrooms, that would be a huge step in making an individual’s life as a non-binary person smoother and more participatory.”
And as Ashley is in the public eye, she often gets abuse online from people who don’t understand what non-binary is, “I get comments like, ‘You’re born a boy, you’re a boy. Stop fighting it.’ And it’s like, you literally have no clue what you’re talking about, but you are so insistent on commenting on my experience.”
You probably wouldn’t expect to be policed within the LGBT community, but, at times members of the LGBT community can be rather rigid on aspects of the LGBT experience. It’s unexpected, you’d imagine that members of the LGBT community would celebrate each colour of the flag, and each symbol of gender, but that isn’t always the case.
Ashley, for example, is often faced with people within the community telling her how women or lesbians should behave. Sometimes, people don’t understand what non-binary is, they think it is weird. But like we said earlier, being different doesn’t make you weird. It makes you, you. And the LGBT community should be pushing for everyone’s experience to be validated. It is too easy to push a person’s experience to the side because it doesn’t fit in with your own personal narrative. We all need to drive for more representation of every spectrum of the LGBT community.
And Ashley is doing just that. In fact, she is one of the people stepping up and opening a dialogue on what gender is today.
Ashley’s YouTube tag series, The Gender Tag Project, was created in 2015 and has since passed 1,000 video contributions. Centered around 10 questions that are general enough that people of all gender identities can respond to them, it operates like a YouTube tag video, so that everyone is responding to the same prompts and it creates a playlist.
With questions covering a range of topics such as pronouns, clothing, haircuts, body hair, combined with specific questions about dysphoria and misgendering, Ashley has created an open conversation that everyone can feel comfortable contributing to.
“I also want it to be something that anybody and everybody can contribute to, because it highlights the fact that while gender might be central to my experience, I’m not the only type of person for whom gender exists. Everyone has a relationship with gender, even if you have not thought about it before.”
So if you feel a burning passion to learn more about what non-binary is, or if you read this and went, ‘Hey, that’s kinda like how I feel.’, then check out Ashley’s Gender Tag Project. You won’t be disappointed.