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Simple ways you can be a better ally to trans and non-binary people

Cosmopolitan (UK) logo Cosmopolitan (UK) 04/06/2019 Jamie Windust
a person wearing a mask: Non-binary means you have a gender identity that doesn't fit into the typical 'male' 'female' binary. Here's everything you need to know about non binary people, and how to be better ally. © Nail It/Charlie Craggs Non-binary means you have a gender identity that doesn't fit into the typical 'male' 'female' binary. Here's everything you need to know about non binary people, and how to be better ally.

Non-binary people are still very much misunderstood. Fortunately, the power of social media has meant that in recent years, the landscape of sexuality and gender has been able to reach so many.

I identify as non-binary, and have done since 2015. My awakening with non-binary identities and the term in general came through Twitter, and its many avenues of fluidity and freedom. Twitter granted me an epiphany moment, and I was able to feel like the cogs were fitting.

How brilliant that a tiny little blue app on our phones can literally alter the way we feel about ourselves and our existence. Wild.

What does non-binary mean?

The definition from Stonewall UK describes non-binary as an “umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’”. For me, it means the ability to choose and set your own rules and parameters of where you see yourself in this melting pot we call society.

It's the key to being free of any expectations anyone wants to set on you - because do you know what? We don’t have time for them.

a person with collar shirt: Jamie discovered the term non-binary on Twitter and had an epiphany moment © @poppymarriott__ Jamie discovered the term non-binary on Twitter and had an epiphany moment

But hold up, just to throw another spanner in the works of the wonderful mechanism that is gender, there’s two really important - and different - ways in which gender should be discussed.

Gender identity explains the ways in which people self-identify. That's how we choose ourselves to identify our gender, and what we feel personally fits for us. For example, non-binary/cisgendered (not trans).

But then there’s gender expression. This is the way in which you decide to express and live as your gender identity (it's the fun bit). The best part about gender expression is that it’s a chance to completely tear the rule book apart.

Anyone can express their gender identity in any way they choose! For example, non-binary people, although their identity is outside of the binary, they can express that in a masculine, feminine, or androgynous way - basically, however they see fit. They can also be both trans and non-binary.

And, it’s really important to remember that however someone expresses their gender identity, it doesn’t negate their identity. That identity is still always 100% valid.

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A post shared by JAMIE WINDUST (@leopardprintelephant) on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:15pm PDT

The importance of being an ally

Allyship is the concept of supporting people who may face other challenges in the world that you yourself don’t face. It’s about using your privilege in a way that benefits others. In 2018 it is incredibly important. See it as a little hug that doesn’t always need to be physical.

A recent government survey on LGBTQ+ life in the UK saw life satisfaction of non-binary and trans people scored at 5.5/10 - compared to the average score of 7.7 for the UK population.

And, Stonewall’s recent LGBT in Britain report found two in five trans people, and three in 10 non-binary people had experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.

For myself and many trans and non-binary people, public prejudice is one of the main struggles we face in day-to-day life. It’s this, and the very real fear of violence, that has resulted in 76% of non-binary people actively avoiding expressing their gender identity in public.

And that’s why straight and non-trans people being proactive allies is so important.

How to be better ally

Smile!

Smiling is such an effective tool when it comes to boosting someone’s mood and showing solidarity. As someone who lives in London, I know it’s not a classic thing to do. But, if you see someone and think they might be feeling vulnerable or stressed, throw them a smile and you’ll be sure to get one back.

a close up of a logo: LGBTQ+ rainbow © Juj Winn - Getty Images LGBTQ+ rainbow

Speak out with us

For trans and non-binary people, even getting transport can be a nightmare because of public prejudice. People can use us as a form of entertainment for the duration of their journey. This can range from them taking pictures of us, laughing, talking about us, or just being plain rude.

If you see this happening and think we need help, then please speak out and call out this behaviour. Sometimes, we don’t want to speak out due to fear of violence. Having someone who can help out makes us feel more comfortable, safe and is really heart warming. I know it’s a British thing to keep quiet and put your head down, but it’s time to change that.

Use the correct pronouns

Pronouns – like he, she, and they - are really important. Just like the ways in which we self-define our gender identity, we also get to choose our own pronouns.

As a non-binary person, I use they/them pronouns. It can be hard to explain this to some people, so a great way you can make it easier for us is to just ask! Not only does it make us feel at ease and more comfortable, it flags to us that you’re a lovely human being. It’s always lovely to find another lovely human in this world.

Trans and non-binary people may sometimes choose their name, too. Research in the Journal for Adolescent Health found trans people who were allowed to use their chosen names who were able to use their chosen names reported a 65% decrease in suicide attempts compared to those who weren't. They also reported 71% less symptoms of severe depression.

So, it’s not just a small thing – it can make all the difference.

Support the work of trans and non-binary people

There are so many trans and non-binary people creating such amazing work. Some of the hardest working people I know are non-binary. People such as Travis Alabanza, a gender non-conforming person of colour.

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A post shared by Travis (@travisalabanza) on Jun 13, 2018 at 10:28am PDT

Travis uses their lived experience to create moving poetry, spoken word and theatre, is someone we all need to experience live.

Also, Fox Fisher and Owl are inspirational. They use their lived experience to inform the world of what it’s like to live as trans and non-binary, through their YouTube series MyGenderation, and through countless talks and workshops.

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A post shared by My Genderation (@mygenderation) on Jul 31, 2018 at 12:17pm PDT

Don't miss out on awesome, creative work like this.

Donate to and fundraise for LGBTQ+ charities

There are so many amazing charities doing life-saving work for trans and non-binary people. Mermaids is an incredible organisation and charity that help gender diverse, trans and non-binary young people with the beginning of their lives. It provides support to parents and schools on just how they can make the lives of young trans/gender non-conforming people easier.

a woman taking a selfie: Coming out at work | How to come out to colleagues © Sharon Mccutcheon / EyeEm - Getty Images Coming out at work | How to come out to colleagues

The Albert Kennedy Trust helps LGBTQ+ people with housing needs. 24% of the homeless youth population are LGBTQ+, and it’s The Albert Kennedy Trust who volunteer to help place these people in homes and make their lives easier.

Proactive allyship is supporting these organisations, and making sure we can help the wider LGBTQ+ community no matter what their situation is.

And finally...

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me sitting here telling you why you’re a bad person. So don’t get it twisted darling, you’re great. But, we can all just do better!

It’s not always easy to empathise and even realise what’s going on for someone who has a totally different lived experience from you. And remember, despite our flawless looks and killer attitude, we all need a little help sometimes.

MSN are empowering Women In Sport this summer. Find out more about our campaign and the charity fighting to promote the transformational and lifelong rewards of exercise for women and girls in the UK here.

Gallery: Stars who have LGBTQ kids [Wonderwall]


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