An Open Letter To My Non-Binary Friends

If I’m being honest, I’m really just confused about what is happening. I want to support the great mission of equality. But I’m not sure how.


Kaia Tingley

2 years ago | 3 min read

Recently I heard through my grapevine that a family friend of ours came out as non-binary. They un-gendered their female name by using initials to make it feel more neutral.

It seemed absolutely logical from afar. This person has always had a complex relationship with themself. And conceptually, I feel like I have some understanding of the questioning of gender. But not as much of an understanding as I would like.

This is how I know.

I happened to catch a glimpse of this person at the grocery store.

I’m kind of ashamed to say that I literally turned the other way so they wouldn’t see me. I found myself completely unprepared to talk to them. I didn’t even know how to do the whole, “so what are your pronouns?” thing now.

Let me be clear. I have ZERO issues with this exploration/transition on their part. It’s their body, their life, and their pronouns. Whatever. I don’t view them as less than because they’re now non-binary.

I just didn’t know how to talk to them anymore. I’m even assuming the “them” pronoun from my own perspective, though I choose that word because it is never technically wrong.

But I felt excruciatingly uncomfortable not knowing how. This is not me consciously privileging my tender feelings above their right to identify themself however they saw fit. This is me not having a clue of how to relate to someone I used to know as a woman and is now… somewhere in the middle of the binary? Or maybe on a skew line to the binary for all I know.

So, as a caring human, I have just a few questions for you, my dear non-binary friend. And I’d really prefer not to just pop them on you when I randomly run into you at the grocery store, you know? For either of our sakes.

Q1. Are you fighting the societal gendering of your experience or the actual experience of a gender-based body?

I know everyone is different, so this is not a monolithic question. This is a question that each person should answer for themselves as an individual. I’m just looking for a smattering of perspectives from across the non-binary board.

Q2. Are you exiting the paradigm of gender, or are you trying to define yourself as a third option within the existing binary?

Again — same idea. Everyone has their own thing. What is yours?

You say you feel like a man sometimes and sometimes you feel like a woman. What does it feel like to feel like a man? What does it feel like to feel like a woman?

What does it feel like to feel like a man in a woman’s body? And vice versa? Am I feeling like a man if I manspread my body all over shared public space and speak with an obnoxiously loud voice? Am I more male if I’m in my brain, and more female if I’m in my lower cauldron?

What is the difference between the experience of gender dysphoria and a perfectly logical refusal to conform to socially constructed gender roles?

When I drop down and feel into my own poles of feminine receptivity and masculine extension, this tells me beyond the shadow of a doubt that duality is somewhat based in nature. Nature also has a state of neutrality that is neither masculine nor feminine, but rather something in the middle.

Feel too woo for you? Think about the neutral spaces in the sine wave. Think about the way vibrations cycle. Think about zero gravity at the apex of a fall. Think of the space between the inhale and the exhale. Of course, there are many points on the curve between yin, neutral, and yang.

Gender identity, therefore, seems to fall along a spectrum. It’s not an overly simplified, mutually exclusive, multiple-choice answer.

Q3. What do you hope to accomplish by claiming this as your new identity?

The easiest way to get support for your cause is to clarify your objectives. Lest I tire you through my repetition of this concept, every person is clearly unique.

But tell me what you hope to accomplish by your identification as non-binary? How do you hope the world could choose to respond?

Ok. My kids and dinner are now descending upon my attention, so for now I must run. But I really appreciate your help on this. Thanks!

Ciao! Even if I don’t know how to talk to you properly.



Created by

Kaia Tingley







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