There Is No Third Way: Non-binary People On How They Were Forced To Decide

A life 2022

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There Is No Third Way: Non-binary People On How They Were Forced To Decide
There Is No Third Way: Non-binary People On How They Were Forced To Decide

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Video: Raising 'Theybies': Letting Kids Choose Their Gender | NBC News 2022, December

For a long time an idea that there are only two genders, they did not even question it. Now researchers propose to consider gender as a system of coordinates: for example, people who do not define themselves unambiguously as “man” or “woman” can be considered non-binary. We asked several non-binary people to tell their story of finding their identity.

interview: Ayman Eckford


Emma Kolyada

uses the pronoun "she"

I am no longer a teenager, so some questions are simply not asked to me due to my age and status. It all comes down to gender expression: I feel uncomfortable when people attribute to me qualities related to my gender. In this case, I can say that I am a non-binary person. At the same time, when I talk about my non-binary, in response, people at best roll their eyes, and at worst they can say that it is "fashionable" now. "Look at you - what kind of non-binary are you?"

The most difficult thing is to explain that I am not a woman or a man, but both, plus something else. Anatomy has nothing to do with it, and my psyche is all right. This has been the case since early childhood: I combine several genders, like different instruments in an orchestra - there is no competition, there are alternative options for self-expression. Everything is harmonious inside, outside too. I am lucky that I do not need to make external accents - I am still different, no matter what I wear.

Everyone reacts differently to talk of non-binary. Someone continues with curiosity or sympathy: "Oh my God, how difficult it is for you to live." Someone sarcastically may doubt my mental health, call, or just brush it off, saying that it's all "Western stuff." You get very tired of it. Even if it is possible to explain that I am non-binary, it is impossible to get away from stereotypes. It is difficult to find the right clothes and shoes, it is difficult to adapt the timbre of the voice, intonation, gait, and so on, in order to avoid sidelong glances. But the hardest thing is to break through the wall of rejection, because it is easier for people to see one gender, not several.


uses the pronoun "he"


I live in St. Petersburg. If we talk about local customs, then it was more difficult not with non-binary, but with transgender in general (the word “non-binary” is a collective term for different identities that do not fit into the binary gender system; for example, agender, bigender, gender fluid, and others. Some non-binary people consider themselves to be transgender people, others do not - it is always a question of a person's self-identification. Approx. ed.). I prefer to be spoken of as masculine, but strangers rarely mistake me for a "young man." If this happens, then they often correct themselves: "Oh, girl, I'm sorry!" People, of course, find it easier to classify others in one of two categories, but it annoys and tires me.

Over the past couple of years, I have worked for three Russian IT companies. The first one was big, and no one really remembered that I was "he" - and I never corrected anyone. I was later fired and told that there were no complaints about my work, but people cannot understand how to contact me, and therefore I do not fit into the team. Nobody told me this personally, but it turns out that the HR department was told about it. I was amazed that when they were fired, they used the wording “gender identity” and did not hesitate to openly name the reason.

The second company was just hell. I didn't stutter about non-binary, and I didn't want to open my soul: there was a lot of stress, so there was simply no time for queerness. But even then I decided that if everyone behaves so aggressively, I will defend what I consider to be true for myself. If you let one person say "she" about you, that person will say "she" to someone else, and off you go - everyone will get confused.And since people need to be sure to choose - "she" or "he" - they would rather choose the pronoun "she" based on their appearance. Therefore, despite the fatigue, I tried to correct people and defended my right to be faithfully converted. There were attacks in the spirit of: “If you want to be talked about like that, then why don't you look …?”; "Why are you behaving …?" and so on. I saw that there are people who are particularly aggressive towards me precisely because I do not want to define myself, I do not try to fit in, I do not particularly limit myself in matters of presenting my personality.

The third company impressed with its unconditional acceptance. I don’t know what it’s connected with, because I didn’t notice any educational work there. I think a lot depends on the atmosphere in general. If management encourages attacks, they will. And if the atmosphere is calm, then maybe you are lucky. I go to the men's room, absolutely everyone talks about me in a masculine way, and no one asks questions. I don’t know what they think deep down, but I don’t care. Although, at the same time, HRs are poorly informed - for example, they do not know that in Russia you can change your passport gender.

In the LGBT community, I've seen incredible changes since around 2015. Everything has changed - from the questions "What is the difference between transsexuality and transgenderness?" people have gotten to the point where educational brochures always write about non-binary, materials about transgender include non-binary, I also feel accepted at events. But the “LGBT community” is a broad concept. I feel there is a consensus in the collectives formed around Exit and Action, for example, a general acceptance of non-binary. But if we just talk about a random set of people, you can hear a lot of disarming things in a conversation. But this should change over time.



uses the pronoun "she"

I realized that I was not binary at a time when the concept of gender was poorly known not only in Russia, but also in the West. It was in the early eighties, I was an ordinary four-year-old Kaliningrad boy, and my name was Anton. In my childhood, it was considered a shame to be a girl; in the garden, girls were at enmity with guys and exchanged insults. There was no worse shame for a boy than being compared to a girl. Parents scared, they say, if you cry and be capricious, we will congratulate you not on February 23, but on March 8. Once on March 8, my grandmother came to us and gave me a can of apple juice, and I, deciding that this was a punishment, threw it off the table and smashed it. Perhaps this event was a trigger that helped me realize the unnaturalness of this whole situation. Although this began to weigh on me much earlier. It's terrible when you are denied half of your feelings and limited your range of interests just because you are of the one and not the other sex. I liked the "girly" games, women's clothing, how girls talk, how they react to different events, how they express emotions.

It is important to say here that I am autistic (I realized this too as an adult) and didn’t fit into any team normally, I was always lost, I didn’t know how to react in the simplest situations. Therefore, I am used to observing other children and studying their reactions. And the more I watched, the more I realized that I like to behave like a girl, to feel like a girl, to feel the world around me, as girls feel it. In the end, I made the decision to be a girl in secret.

For the next decades, I lived, as it is now called, “in the closet,” periodically opening the door and demonstrating one or the other trait that was usually attributed to women in order to test the reaction of society. In our school years, the word "n ***** s" was just a curse, like "bastard", and no one knew the context of its use until the Soviet Union collapsed. That was when I first heard about LGBT people and their struggle.Despite the general contemptuous reaction, jokes and homophobia that quickly filled Russian culture in response to the emergence of open gays and lesbians in the media space, these people quickly began to command deep respect in me. I admired their courage and ability to oppose themselves to society, their ability to fight for the way of life that they consider right for themselves, and not to succumb to pressure, their desire to declare themselves and break stereotypes.

I was not so brave, I laughed with everyone at jokes about gays and called them derogatory words. But, despite this, she did not abandon attempts to convince others: she constantly emphasized the courage of LGBT people, said that this was not a disease or a pathology, which caused the outrage of friends and parents. By the way, I was the only one in the whole school who had different friends, and I was proud to play with girls. Although usually adults thought that I was just a guy who started to be interested in the "opposite sex" early. I didn't try to argue with that because it gave me a sense of security. I was a child in whom there was a lot of boyish and girlish at the same time: I wore long hair, but had little interest in clothes, loved melodramas and women's magazines, but preferred outdoor games, adored technical devices, automatic doors, electronics, but I cooked food myself and was also proud of it … I have never parted with the thought that I feel like a girl.

I didn't like the guys, until a certain age I even felt physical rejection, touching a man. But I didn't show interest in very feminine girls either. Most of all I was excited about brutal women, in which there must have been some kind of masculinity, often they were lesbians and bisexuals. The first time I liked the touch of a man was when I was already over thirty. This was an employee of the advertising agency where I worked, he was an installer, a former military man, very brutal looking, in which there was not even a hint of androgyny. Hairy hands and excited me, I touched them accidentally when we hung the sign, then again, and again. We did not develop an intimate relationship, but I remembered this new feeling for the rest of my life. Then I fell in love with guys only twice, I am still more interested in women.

I found love after twenty. This was my classmate, a woman, and she was always far from the LGBT topic. As I realized later, when we began to live together, she also hid a lot from another gender, but she was ashamed of this and did not want to admit it in herself. She has facial hair in other places where women usually do not have, traditionally "masculine" traits - but the longer we live together, the more we help each other to open up. We are in a monogamous marriage, we have a child. I like to satisfy her orally, as a woman satisfies a woman, I feel an orgasm with her. It is difficult to explain, and this feeling is much stronger than the feeling of "traditional" sex. It is generally accepted that people with a typically male biology have few erogenous zones, but this is not the case with me: I have them in the most typically “female” places and affection is much more important to me than to her. I really experienced an orgasm when I realized I was a woman and when my half accepted it. I love it when she calls me by a woman's name.

I became Katya after I had to change my account on a social network due to a conflict with a person who was persecuting our family. At first, I just wanted to register a fictitious name, but then suddenly I thought: why don't I start writing and speaking like a woman? I already had this experience: in computer games I have always been for female characters, I registered on forums under female nicknames. But then I decided to start a new virtual life completely as a woman. I chose a name that suits me - probably because I adore Kat Von D, and I just like it.To indicate that I am a non-binary intersex, I had to use a VPN, since the social network under the pressure of Russian laws allows residents of Russia to choose only male or female.

A complete, non-virtual coming-out happened in my life only a year ago, although I tried to do it before. The problem was that most of my friends don't even know what gender is. For example, I told my parents about non-binary, probably three times, but they just ignored it. And then they suddenly heard - probably because I began to braid my hair. My father had a nervous breakdown, my mother later said that he could not calm down for several days.

The scythe also became an important step for me: after that I finally stopped hiding and began to openly tell others that I was not a boy or a girl, but something else. Most often this causes surprise and misunderstanding, but never aggression. Soon after that, I began to paint my nails - from that moment I began to fully accept myself. It's strange, but thanks to such a trifle, life has changed dramatically. Interestingly, I feel that people began to accept me just like that better - and the point is not in appearance, but in the fact that I have become open and real. Outwardly, I am often mistaken simply for a rocker: a braid, a beard, tunnels in the ears, sometimes painted nails. But if they ask me, I always say who I really am.

After some time, my father tried to make complaints, even began to insult, frightened that, through my fault, the child would have problems at school. But then he calmed down and now communicates with us completely normally, avoiding these conversations. And a new stage has begun for me. I am sincerely happy when I find people like me, when we get to know each other. I am glad when I see the son of children with LGBT symbols at school. I try to change the attitude of others to this topic. My child now has a very close friend and an equally close girlfriend - friendship with both can develop into a deeper relationship, and I am ready to support them in this. I will try to do everything so that my son does not have to live in a state where a boy must be a boy and a girl must be a girl.



uses the pronoun "she"

"Mom, mom, the boy went into the girl's!" - loudly shouts a girl of about four, seeing me in the women's toilet. I look androgynous and feel outside of the M / F binary, so I have a lot of similar “toilet” stories. Children perfectly reflect what is happening in society: if a person is not too similar, conventionally, a woman, then a person is a man. There is no third.

In fact, there are not two, not three, but many genders. For example, I call myself an agender or gender neutral person. If I had to decide and choose from the letters M or F, I would choose H - neutral. I feel like myself when people on the street can't read my gender. To make me more comfortable in society, I officially changed my surname and first name to gender-neutral and gave up my patronymic (oh, those endings "-vna" and "-vich"). When I received the new documents, I thought: God, if I had known earlier that this was possible, at the age of eighteen I would have become happier.

From the age of five I felt that there were inconsistencies between the real me and the expectations of me. At the matinee in kindergarten, I wanted to be not a snowflake, but Pinocchio. I never wore a school uniform, and rubbed my jeans to holes. Time passed, and after learning about trans people, I thought that maybe I was a trans * guy. But no, I imagined myself after the transition to the male role, and my heart sank. At the age of thirty, I realized that it is not necessary to choose and that you can be a sunshine in the world of pistils and stamens.

It makes no difference to me in which pronoun they say about me - "she" or "he". Both options do not suit me completely, I have no preference, and therefore I do not correct people who turn to me in one way or another. But about myself I speak in the feminine gender - in the appearance and promotion of the “feminine” my feminism is expressed.Feminism as opposed to violence, power and unjust hierarchies means a lot to me.

In recent years, I somehow fell out of the binary of everyday life, I do not remember the differences at all - I perceive my body and the bodies of others outside the floor, I forgot how I was supposed to speak, look, walk from childhood. It became much freer. That is what I live now. My grandmother calls me universal - she's eighty-three, but she uses a gender-neutral version of my name, as I ask her. And if my grandmother was able to accept me, then do others have a choice?

PHOTOS: artjazz - (1, 2, 3)

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