Psychological health

Non-Binary Microaggressions: Everyday Interactions That Harm

This week (July 10, 2022) was Non-Bilateral Awareness Week. My husband is non-binary, and navigating the world with them* has helped me notice the many mundane ways that non-binary and gender-nonconforming people experience isolation, exclusion, hostility, and violence in the world. I want to help others understand how they can avoid harm and move into ways that provide positive, affirming interactions for the non-binary people in your life—whether or not they tell you about their non-binary identity.

For example, this week in the Senate testimony about Dobbs Case, Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley Dr.. good bridges She used the term “persons with the ability to conceive” in her testimony and explained to Senator Holly that language that excludes trans and non-binary people is violent because it denies their existence.

I agree with her arguments and there is significant research supporting minority stress experienced by transgender and non-binary people in the United States and the negative effects this has on their health (Budge et al 2020; Frost et al 2019; Hatchel et al 2019; Tebe and Moradi 2016). Part of this pressure comes from daily microaggressions, which in the case of non-binary people are everyday acts that reinforce bisexuality, also referred to as cisnormativity (McBride 2021; Nadal et al 2011; Solorzano et al 2001). I’ll go over four examples of non-binary microaggressions and how to fix them including:

  1. and fill out forms
  2. Participate in recreational sports
  3. Shopping and dining
  4. staring

1. Fill out the forms

problem: Filling out forms feels like an everyday occurrence. Whether we are completing doctor’s office forms, filling out a customer service survey, or signing up for a new account online, we are asked to select our “gender” or our “gender” and are often given only two options. This erasure of trans and non-binary identities does real harm – it tells you that you don’t exist or that your identity is unrecognizable.

Possible solution: First determine if your organization needs to know each person’s legal gender or gender identity and why. If you need her for legal reasons, ask for her legal gender. If you need it for social reasons, ask the person’s pronouns. All you need to know is how to process them properly, not the complex layers behind their bodies, their identity and where they are in the process of transformation. If you don’t really need any of this information, then do not ask Or give the option to “decline status” or “unsubscribe”.

2. Recreational sports

problem: There are many opportunities for people to participate in fun rides, fundraisers, and recreational sports leagues. These opportunities provide community, connection, and healthy ways to connect your body to the world. However, many of these events divide participants into two groups and give prizes only to men and women. As such, non-binary people do not get a chance to be recognized and are forced to choose a category that does not suit them if they want to participate.

Possible solution: Assuming there are no prizes or grand prizes, consider that there are no gender categories. If you want to identify outstanding athletes by gender and/or age, consider adding a category for all genders and letting people sign up for the category they’d like to compete in. If there are significant awards associated with their status, consider asking people to submit legal documents (passport, driver’s license, etc.) that confirm the gender category for men and women, but do not require an all-gender category ID.

3. Shopping and dining

problem: When interacting with service personnel in stores and restaurants, they usually address you as “ladies/gentlemen” or “ma’am/sir”. While I realize this is an attempt at politeness, this does harm to non-binary or non-gender people because you have to make assumptions about a person’s gender to use such terms.

Possible solution: Practice using gender-neutral terms when addressing clients. Some examples include: “How are you today?” “Have you two decided what to ask for?” “Have you been helped?” “Which dressing room would you feel most comfortable using today?” In the classroom, teachers have moved away from addressing their students as “boys and girls” and saying “scientists,” “friends,” “learners,” or my favorite, “they are friends and men.” If you know this person isn’t bi you could also consider using the gender-neutral honorific “Mx”. Instead of ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’

4. Staring

problem: Being in public and looking at people. These glances are not friendly glances or fleeting eye contact; They are so full of ugly aversion and curiosity that they say, “What be You?” My husband constantly stares at restaurants, public transportation, the grocery store—most public places. This stare is followed by thrusts, gestures, and couples raising their necks. This has resulted in restaurants leaving restaurants short, and canceling plans to avoid potential annoyance.

possible solution: Do not stare. Stare rude. Staring and pointing is more blunt. a point.

There are many examples I can give, including finding a safe place public toilet or having to pass TSA when flying. I hope the examples and suggestions in this post give you new ways to think about how you (and any organization you work with or lead) interact with people in your world. Let’s celebrate gender diversity together and create more positive spaces that welcome non-binary people.

*My husband uses their/their pronouns. Other gender-neutral pronouns People use can include ze/zim, xe/xim, and sie/hir.

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