Articles / Categorization / Verbal Hygiene

Breaking down the binary/non-binary binary

Side-by-side close-up images of the author presenting as feminine and masculine.

Sometimes I’ll ask self-appointed trans “community leaders” – who act like they’re speaking for all trans people – to let the world know that non-transitioners exist, and we have needs, and they’ll bust out something like, “oh yes, and nonbinary people too!” (Last year it was “genderqueer people too!” Sometimes now they add “genderfluid.”) It makes me feel like Elwood Blues when the bartender tells him, “We’ve got both kinds! We’ve got Country and Western!”


The thing is, I’m not really nonbinary – at least not in the sense that “my spirit truly lies somewhere in between,” as B. Scott so eloquently put it. My ideas of “guy” and “woman” are fairly non-traditional: I’m a guy who cries and cooks and earns less than my wife and stays home with the kid. When I want to be a woman, I want to be a smart, thoughtful woman.

But I don’t want to be in between. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! It just doesn’t capture how I personally feel about myself. I want to be a guy, except when I want to be a woman. I want to look like a woman, except when I want to look like a guy.

Do I look non-binary to you?
Do I look non-binary to you?

I’m not genderqueer: my performance of either gender is not intended to provoke or challenge. I’m not agender. I’m not a “closeted trans woman” in ciscritical-not-cisphobic’s attempt to pigeonhole us. I’m not a member of a “third sex,” and I don’t want to be. And no, “genderfluid” doesn’t work for me, either. (Updated 2020: I’ve made my peace with “genderfluid.”)

I am transgender. I have the same feelings and beliefs as a lot of trans people who have successfully transitioned. There is one difference: I chose not to transition. Trans, but not transitioning. Why can’t they say that?