Column: Escaping the binary

Sean Quinn, Writer

From an early age, mainstream gender stereotypes never resonated with me. I did not enjoy sports, the color blue or any of what society deemed “masculine.” My overall state of mind leaned more feminine, but I did not feel completely female. I felt somewhere in the middle for years. It caused anger and depression within me or something along those lines, but I finally grew to understand it and now accept it.

I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t this transgender?” Well you’re partially right, I do not identify with the gender I was assigned at birth, but I am not transgender in the sense that I am a man who wants to transition to a woman. For some people, gender is more complicated than that; for some, it escapes the binary of only male or female, and does not conform to conventional ideas of what gender is.  I am a non-binary gender.

Sean Quinn ’22 wearing non-binary flag. Credit: Richard Quinn, used with permission.

When one is non-binary it means they do not fall under the realm of either gender. This is the opposite of cisgender, which is when one identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.

However, gender is different for everyone, especially non-binary people. For me, I tend to easily identify and empathize with women. I have more female friends, even if this sounds like a stereotype, I identify with more female characteristics. For instance, I feel comfortable expressing my emotions, I relate to more female musicians and read more female authors. And while my mind leans more feminine, I am perfectly fine having been born male. I like the idea of being with men as a man, not with men as a woman. 

The term non-binary means different things to different people as well. It is frequently used as an umbrella term for people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, such as gender fluid, bigender and genderqueer.

This is the second time I have come out. Originally I came out as gay, which I still am, but was under the illusion my gender was male. Although I have always known I am not male, it wasn’t until I was 14 when I realized I was non-binary. I remember reading Virginia Woolf’s masterpieces, specifically “Orlando”, the tale of a person who inhabits multiple genders–it was then I realized there were more options to an individual.  

Being non-binary is growing more and more common. Around 35% of trans people are non-binary, and the numbers are only growing due to people becoming increasingly more accepting. Additionally, plenty of research has gone into the study of gender escaping the realm of binary, what scientists have come to understand is that gender is a spectrum. Different identities, like agender even are starting to be validated.

It is important to remember that there is more to the LGBTQ+ community than gay cis men. Let us shed light on those whose voices have been quieter than the rest. 43% of trans people have attempted suicide and ⅔ report recent self-harm; this supports the conjecture that underrepresentation and lack of feeling understood can cause widespread harm. Many people have suffered from feeling trapped by gender, and it is time to end this feeling and escape the binary, for gender itself can be viewed as a mere social construct. In the words of Virginia Woolf, “It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple: one must be a woman manly, or a man womanly.”

What do you think?