Timesofummah.com – The Story of a Non-binary. Ten years ago, Katje van Loon blogged and called for the International Day for Non-Binary to fall right between the International Day for Women and for Men.
In her first interview, Katje told the BBC’s gender and identity reporter, Megha Mohan, why the day was important and she managed to make it happen.
There’s a meme that pops up all the time about the bird who’s been called the penguin all his life.
One day, the bird met a doctor who said, “You are not a penguin, you are what is called a swan.”
The swan was so relieved that suddenly it all made sense.
I had that swan-like moment in 2011, when I was in my mid-20s.
My grandmother just died and I was in her apartment organizing her things.
I read the Wikipedia page on gender identity. This is where I first read about “non-binary”.
In that article, I learned that there are people who feel they are in the middle, beyond the definition of women and men.
“Here I am,” I thought. “I am non-binary. My whole life has been like this. I don’t have the right words to describe my condition.”
I started to cry. I have to tell my girlfriend.
Drama was my favorite subject in high school. I enjoyed every single element, including having to clear up heavy stage props at the end of the lesson.
I was nicknamed “the strongest girl in drama class,” and was often asked to lift heavy things with my male friends.
That’s me, lifting heavy things with my male friends and often being referred to differently from other female friends. But strangely, at that time, being different from the others made me proud, not ashamed.
In some ways, I am like my mother. People call my mother a “handsome” woman, which I realized later, this nickname is an insult to women who are considered less feminine.
My mother is a single parent, lawyer and teacher. She is not like the other mothers at school. He often fixes things at home.
I am like my mother when it comes to opinions on non-traditional gender roles. But unlike my mother, my identity is outside the traditional gender.
Not only did I feel like I wasn’t a “really girly”, or taller than the average teenage girl, or that I was bigger and less feminine.
I just feel: the label “female” doesn’t suit me.
As a child, I lived outside the City of Vancouver, Canada, and then moved to Hawaii.
I spend a lot of time reading fantasy books, fiction books written by Ursula K Le Guin, among others, with characters who don’t have a definite gender identity.
At the age of 12, I started writing and creating my own fictional planets. More than a decade later, improved versions of the stories were published in a series of fictional novels.
Within these creative empires, I have played a lot with gender roles.
There are characters whose sexual characteristics vary between men and women. Writing gives me the freedom to imagine a less rigid reality.
As an older millennial generation, I grew up with the internet. In chat rooms, I find communities that talk freely about sexuality and open up as bisexual at the age of 14.
Online, then offline, the LGBT community welcomed me very well when I started to open up about my sexuality, and there I felt welcome.
Then in my 20s, I fell in love with my boyfriend, Nathan. Something I have to pay dearly for.
In my opinion, there’s no quicker way to be ostracized from the LGBT community than admitting to be bisexual, but then dating a guy.
People saw me as “straight,” someone who couldn’t understand their predicament, and suddenly the discussions and events no longer involved me.
This is referred to as the bi-erasure phenomenon, an attempt to ignore and eliminate bisexual identity, and it is actually happening.
No more invitations for me. Chat groups created without me.
In my experience, people still understand sexuality in the same way they don’t understand gender identity.
When I came across an old Wikipedia explaining my non-binary identity, Nathan was the first person I wanted to tell. But I was so scared.
So when I met him that day, I told him curtly.
“So, what’s changed?” he asked.
“I’d probably use a different pronoun,” I replied. “Or sometimes use a different name.”
He then asked if I was transgender. Am I thinking of changing physically?
I said no.
“Ok, I’ll try to remember to use any pronouns you want,” he said, “but I forget easily.”
We both laughed, relieved that the tension between us had lessened.
I explained to Nathan how growing up I felt wrongly characterized as an “other” person, and now I’ve come up with a name for my identity, which I quickly feel comfortable with.
We got engaged shortly after that conversation, and got married in 2015.
For several years I have used different pronouns to replace “she/her”.
Personally I like the pronoun “zie/zir”, which sounds soft and pleasant.
These are gender-neutral pronouns that people use online, which do not directly designate a specific gender.
For some time, I used the singular form of the pronoun “they/them”.
But after I saw its use more and more, I actually disliked it, and now I hate it.
As a writer, I take language very seriously, and I often read articles where people use the pronoun “they/them”, which makes me really confused whether they are referring to a single person or a group?
Several writers defended themselves, saying that Shakespeare used “they/them” regularly, and I replied, “There are few people who write as well as Shakespeare.”
In the end, my childhood love of fantasy writing has become a career, also a place to give birth to the world in my imagination, which is not bound by gender norms.
In my book, Stranger Skies, I wrote about a goddess who fell from heaven onto a planet that did not follow the laws of physics or biology.
He discovered that in this world, gender is fixed, you are male or female, but sexuality can be changed.
One can change their physical body through simple semi-religious ceremonies.
This allows gay couples to have biological children without medical intervention.
I love exploring concepts like these in my writing.
Then, in the same year that I confessed to being non-binary, I made a 153-word blog post about why there should be an International Day for Non-Binaries.
I propose that the day falls in July, right in the middle between International Women’s Day in March and International Men’s Day
At that time, the blog got some comments, but not too many people read.
For several years I forgot about that blog post, until one day I saw that International Non-Binary Day is officially celebrated on July 14 – the same date I suggested in my post.
The day is recognized by the Human Rights Council Stonewall, the UK Parliament’s website, and even on the dictionary.com page.
Some people mention the same reasons as on blogs, but only the Non-Binary Wikipedia page that writes my blog for inspiration.
This makes me hurt. A little confession would be nice.
Now, many things have changed in my life. I am more comfortable with myself. It doesn’t really matter to me if people call me a girl or use the pronoun “she/her”.
I used to strongly support the use of a third gender marker for identity cards such as passports or driver’s licenses, such as those held in Argentina, Australia and India – and which is being proposed in Africa.
But now I’m not too sure. Do I want data on gender minority people to be collected in a place that is easily accessible to the government? Of course not.
I don’t believe in bureaucracy. But I also understand why this is important for some people in certain countries, but not for me.
I also spend less time online now. I don’t feel comfortable with the discussions that surface on the internet, both conservative and liberal.
They both waited for the opponent to say the wrong thing. We used to call it Call Out Culture, but now it’s growing out of control – like a monster.
And this benefits no one, especially vulnerable individuals who want to be recognized but also know that they can be removed at any time if they say something wrong.
I can guess what you are thinking now. If I don’t want a new ID, and I don’t demand that you use the pronoun I want (still zie/zir), what’s the point of being non-binary? Is it important to have an International Non-Binary Day?
The answer is yes.
We can feel invisible in a world that still doesn’t fully understand who we are. So, it’s nice to have a day that acknowledges our existence.
Are we going to go out into the streets and campaign on that day? Not. But we don’t mind being given flowers.
In my opinion, mentioning as non-binary is important on an internal level. It’s important for me to define my identity with that word, and knowing who I am makes
I don’t feel good about myself.
I want people to be happy with themselves. And if having a special day helps you feel happy about yourself, that’s great.
It was the best result I wanted from a blog post I wrote 10 years ago.