We talked to two non-binary people in Kenya and asked them things that they have been asked before that they found offensive, triggering or annoying. Here are some of the things they said that you should not ask non-binary people:
Being non-binary is seen as a trend/fad
Being non-binary is viewed as something that started in the West and Africans picked it up on the internet. The internet has allowed us to get visibility but we did not start on the internet. Our identity is not seen as legitimate even though non-binary people have been in existence for centuries.
- Non-binary is not a real identity
People are constantly telling me that I will change my mind to either being a transgender person or cisgender. My identity is seen as a phase. This leads to discrimination and our issues are not prioritized.
- You’re just confused and need to pick a side
People are still stuck on the two binary genders. It leads to people harassing, insulting and discriminating against non-binary people. Deviating from gender binary also leads to people trying to correct us, a sort of conversion therapy.
- Non-binary folks are not trans
I consider myself trans. However, as a non-binary person I get told that I am appropriating trans issues to appear cool. The assumption that non-binary folks are not trans erases non-binary trans people.
Some people think that being trans is only moving from one binary gender to another and therefore moving ‘from one gender to the middle’ is not being trans.
Some people even think we are a ‘special category of woman’.
In a community that is obsessed with the gender binary, non-binary people confuse people. When people cannot label you or put you in a box where they can label you, it escalates to violence.
- Using Pronoun ‘They’ is not grammatically correct
People tell me: “You’re a singular person. Why are you using ‘they’ which is plural?”
‘They’ has been used as a gender-neutral pronoun in English. (Note: in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, ‘They’ is recognized as a singular pronoun for non-binary people).
Initially, ‘man’ and pronoun ‘he’ used to be a gender-neutral reference and pronoun respectively, such as in the Bible.
- Identifying as non-binary throws women under the bus
As non-binary people, we have been accused of preventing women from getting their rights and taking back women’s fight for equality.
People say that instead of us reclaiming womanhood we are subscribing to the patriarchal notion that womanhood is less (and that is why we are ‘escaping’ it and ‘creating’ a whole other gender.)
- Questions about whether I am on hormones or if I have had surgeries
Cisgender people do not get asked such personal questions by strangers. No one walks to a cisgender man to ask them “have you been circumcised?”
How well do you know the person before you start asking them such personal questions? Unless one is my partner, they should not ask such questions.
The questions are often intended to put you in another box since ideally such information will not help a stranger in any way.
- Being called madam/rembo/mamaa
I feel offended when someone refers to me like that because those are names affiliated with women and I am not a woman.
It makes me feel judged since they see me and clock me as a woman.
- You pretend to be a man and yet at the end of the month you still have periods
It is annoying because some of us wish not to have periods due to dysphoria and we do not want to be constantly reminded of that functionality in our bodies.
- You cannot make women pregnant
Talking about how we sex, especially fingering and how we cannot make our partners pregnant or even satisfy them.
It is none of your business what I do in my bedroom.
There are several other ways that people can get pregnant and not all non-binary people want children.
(Not all non-binary folks date women too)
- You need a good dick to make you a woman
I felt my identity was violated. It makes me feel unsafe because I do not know if they might follow me and rape me.
- People claim you are confused for identifying as non-binary
People think I want to be a man. Being non-binary does not mean that we want to be men. It is an identity on its own.
There are more than just two genders.
I am not confused. I know myself.
Learn about gender. Expand your knowledge. Do not just jump into conclusions
- Being constantly misgendered
People are always using the wrong pronouns. It is offensive.
I correct a person once and tell them, then they still use it. It is disrespectful.
- Assuming that non-binary people are ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’
Not all non-binary people are attracted to people of the same sex or the gender they were assigned at birth.
- Why do you want ‘men’s’ clothing?
I went to the market to get a shirt once, and the vendor opted to show me ‘women’s blouses. I insisted that I wanted a shirt and she asked, ‘mbona unataka nguo za wanaume na wewe ni mwanamke” (why do you want men’s clothing when you are a woman?)
It is a common experience and it always feels invalidating.
I know what I want. I wear what I find comfortable and it should not be an issue.