Last weekend I facilitated a caucus with my friend Joshua Allen for non-binary and gender non-conforming (people who do not identify as a man or woman or people who transgress what society regards as a man or a woman) people of color. Because GNC and non-binary people of color are so often forgotten by feminist, queer, trans, and anti-racist movements I wanted to share a couple of the points that came up from discussion.
1) Representation of gender non-conforming and non-binary people is limited and misleading. Even though people of color are more likely to identify as non-binary, the only people who are recognized as such tend to be white, masculine, and/or thin people. Due to patriarchy and transmisogyny non-binary femmes are continually erased.
2) Choosing to identify as non-binary or gender non-conforming had as much to do with our race as our gender. Many people spoke about how the gender binary was forcibly imposed on Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color through various processes of colonialism. Some felt like they could never fit in “man” or “woman” because these categories were never meant for them.
3) People talked about the trauma from being erased from one’s own peoples’ histories and communities. Part of what colonization did was made it so that there often no words in our languages and tongues to explain who we are. Often times our communities read our genders as “white,” or “academic,” even though there have always been people and experiences outside of the gender binary.
4) Many people expressed never being believed because they weren’t “trans enough.” People struggled with consistent feelings of imposter syndrome as if their experiences didn’t qualify them to claim the identity “transgender” (even though trans is supposed to be an umbrella term for everyone who identifies outside of the binary). Even though people experienced transphobic and transmisogynist violence daily, people felt pressured to modify their bodies and/or pursue medical transition in order to have other binary trans people recognize them.
5) Almost every single non-binary or gender non-conforming person of color we knew struggled with depression and suicidality. Almost everyone struggled with loneliness and isolation because so few people believe us (let alone understand us). Yet, there continues to be little to no mental and health care services that are equipped to handle our problems because we continually have to argue for the legitimacy of our experiences.
6) The crux of the violence is not just misgendering, it’s gendering to begin with.
7) Gender non-conforming and non-binary femmes often feel terrified to leave the house because they experience such intense harassment and violence. This doesn’t necessarily look like, “Hey sexy,” but rather, “What the hell is that?” People are discouraged that the trans movement hasn’t yet challenged the idea that we should have to be gender conforming in order to be safe.
8) Non binary and gender non-conforming people are experiencing extreme physical, intimate, and emotional violence, poverty, police brutality, homelessness, and other serious issues. Yet they are denied support or resources because they are not cis women or trans women.
9) In particular, Black and Indigenous femme non-binary and gender non-conforming people are experiencing lethal state violence and murder and continue to be misgendered in their deaths. There has been no conversation about all of the non-binary and gender non-conforming people who have been misgendered as trans women in their deaths even if they did not identify as such. People were concerned with who is left to grieve & resist the criminalization, violence, deportation, and murder of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous non-binary and gender non-conforming people when people do not even understand their identities.
10) How are people supposed to organize when people still consistently deny that there are more than two genders & police us into the binary?