Ever since I began to identify as someone who fits outside the gender binary, that is, not male or female, I’ve run into countless issues. From having my preferred name and pronouns disregarded, to not having a place to pee in the library, things people typically take for granted are an everyday hassle for me.
However, not everyone understands why that is. Last week, when I was talking to a friend about the new gender-neutral bathrooms in Hicks, she asked why I didn’t just use the gendered bathroom I felt most comfortable in. Since our campus is pretty liberal, she didn’t think others would mind.
While I have had countless “Oh’s” in surprise and people turning around to check the sign after they see me washing my hands to prove that people don’t think I belong there, that is not the only problem with that statement. I want to point out a common misconception about non-binary people: that we “feel more comfortable” with one binary gender over another.
This is completely false.
While I do tend to use the women’s bathroom and play on a women’s ultimate team, that doesn’t mean I’m content with my choices. Every time I am forced to “pick” a binary gender, I feel anything but comfortable.
Whether it’s hanging with a bunch of male-identified people who know I’m not a boy, or talking with female-identified people who assume I’m still a girl, I feel trapped remembering everything I’m not, and everything people expect me to be.
While gendering groups can be empowering and successful, especially for women’s groups, it is not inclusive to people who identify outside the binary. Some of these spaces are so strictly gendered that even binary transgender people feel uncomfortable.
To begin to remedy this injustice, I think all Student Organizations, and administration members who strongly believe that gendered-spaces can accommodate gender non-conforming individuals rethink their logic, because I am living proof that they do not.
So the next time you see a gendered space, think about why it’s gendered within the binary. Then, ask if the exclusion of trans-identified people validates the importance of those spaces being gendered.
Hopefully, this will make campus a more inclusive, and less uncomfortable, place for non-binary students like me.