Congratulations! You’ve realized an important aspect of yourself and your identity. Pat yourself on the back for taking one step closer to understanding who you are.
But while you know who you are, other people don’t. You have to tell them, which brings us to the scary world of coming out — especially coming out as non-binary.
Wipe that genderless sweat off your forehead, my friend. I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about coming out as non-binary and make the process a little easier.
Step #1) Decide How You’re Going to Do It
Are you going to call your whole family into the living room all serious-like? Will you text your best friend? Will you come up with a song and dance to perform in front of the school?
Find whatever method makes you the most comfortable. Coming out is a time for you to tell people who you are, so how you come out to people should reflect who you are as well.
Anything goes, from telling a joke to hiring a messenger pigeon to deliver the truth of your gender identity written on a scroll.
(While it’s ultimately your decision, major props if you go all out.)
Once you’ve decided the best way to come out to people, next comes who to actually tell.
Step #2) Take Stock of Who You Can Tell Easily
Your friends. Your family. Heck, even the people you met on the internet. With whom can you entrust the truth of your gender identity?
Preferably, these are people who already understand what a non-binary identity is. When you come out to them, they’ll accept you for who you are and you can move on.
If it’s your first time coming out, you want to be met with love and support rather than anger, as the latter can easily scare you back into the closet.
Starting small, perhaps in a comment of a YouTube video with a non-binary positive following. Ash Hardell would be a great place to start, as with Ashley Wylde.
Get in the habit of coming out as non-binary and use the positive feedback to propel you forward. Besides, all the positivity from your first few rounds of people can keep your resolve high if you’re ever met with resistance (which I hope you don’t encounter!)
Step #3) Practice What You’re Going to Say
Come up with an analogy to make things easier. This is what I’ve always told people:
“Imagine this: We’re in a world where people with blonde hair can only use one bathroom, and people with red hair can only use the other bathroom.
And I’m sitting here, with black hair, not knowing what to do.
That’s how I feel being non-binary. Gender feels as arbitrary as telling people what to do based on their hair color. I just want to live (and pee) in peace. I’m neither blonde nor redhead, man nor woman. I am simply me.”
Create analogies to help people understand your identity. Cisgender people rarely question their gender, but they probably feel ill at ease with some gender roles.
Pull on that common experience of disliking being told what to do based on gender. It will help people understand that your gender involves neither male nor female roles, and it’s a new way of existing in a gendered world.
Step #4) Prepare for Questions
If you have lots of queer friends, there’s a high chance they already know what a non-binary identity is, saving you the time of having to explain it. If you’re coming out to your parents or non-queer folks, though, they’ll probably have some questions.
It would be in your best interest to answer them. Yes, it can be exhausting and emotionally taxing. Yes, it would be easier to tell people to Google it themselves.
But, people would understand the non-binary aspect the best when it comes from someone they know — you. Besides, there are lots of anti-non-binary websites on the internet, so that person could get sucked down harmful rhetoric and take even longer to reeducate.
Be patient and open-minded, but also communicate with people when a question is hurtful. For example, “Why can’t you just be normal?” is something I’ve experienced. Yes it’s a question, and it wasn’t even said very condescendingly. But it still hurt, and so rather than explaining it, I just told the person that’s a harmful question and didn’t need to explain why I am the way I am. I just am.
Don’t let people eat up all your time and energy. Answer a few of their questions but have sources on hand to send to them when you’re done talking about your identity (like allaboutgender.com). Prepare for questions, yes, but you don’t have to prepare to be exhausted.
Step #5) Take Tips From Others
“It’s a way to express myself knowing there are no boundaries. Knowing that I didn’t identify as a woman, and knowing that I therefore didn’t have to identify as a man and float wherever I wanted on the spectrum was a lot of freedom for me.” — Dane Calabro, they/them
If you’re still stressing about coming out as non-binary, take tips from people who have already gone through that process.
Coming Out to Your Parents as Non-Binary
For example, there is this video from the YouTube channel Circle A Tattoo, where they describe how they came out to their parents and other general tips for coming out as non-binary, such as:
If your parents don’t know much about transgender or non-binary people, expose them to some friendly articles about those people. You can gauge how they would react to you from their reaction to those articles.