Being Non-Binary and a Trans Guy Isn’t a Contradiction

When we think about non-binary folks, we often think about agender, neutrois, or “gender neutral” people who do not identify with the categories of man or woman in any conceivable way.

Those folks are real, and absolutely deserve visibility and validation.

But I also think this is a very limited understanding of what it means to be non-binary. If we only think about non-binary identities on these terms, we fail to encompass the diversity of this community and the radical ways of doing (or not doing) gender.

Non-binary is defined as someone who does not identify exclusively as masculine or feminine (thus apart from a cisnormative binary). This can actually include quite a number of people and (a)genders.

But we forget sometimes that non-binary can encompass more than just someone who disowns the binary altogether – it can include someone who reclaims it for their own ends, expression, or performance.

For me, I am a very femme and genderqueer trans guy, who occupies masculinity and femininity and androgyny in a pretty equal and eclectic measure.

My non-binary identity is important to me – but so is my identity as a trans guy. They are totally inseparable.

My experience of my gender is fluid and moving, non-linear, queer. So while I do identify as a trans guy, my masculinity and my body are experienced through a very queer and non-binary lens.

In other words, I can be a trans guy and be non-binary simultaneously.

I do not exist in an exclusively masculine, binary space. I can embrace all the queer, femme, glittery, tender, and alien parts of my gender while simultaneously honoring the masculine identity that they are wrapped up in.

And I would argue that if we held more space for folks identifying as men or women to queer their gender and expression, we might find that non-binary community exists in more places and in more ways than we’d ever thought possible.

I don’t believe that being non-binary is about rejecting the binary out of hand for every single person. For some of us, it’s taking back the binary from oppressive and rigid social norms and breaking down those expectations.

I think that there is a way to take what is meaningful, resonant, or beautiful about what we’ve uncovered within the binary and take back what’s rightfully ours, making it our own.

For me, there are elements of being a “trans guy” that speak to my experiences – but it’s not quite enough to hold all the other queer, femme, and fluid aspects that make me who I am.

Non-binary, for many of us, is a placeholder because nothing else could contain us.

And at the end of the day, who’s to say that there aren’t men and women that are so queer, so infinite that they need that space held for them, too?

We should talk about the power dynamics and privileges embedded in how aligned someone is with the binary, sure. But that’s a very different conversation from the ones I’m being asked to have.

I have found a certain amount of skepticism of my non-binary identity since I started claiming “trans guy” as an identity as well. Many folks felt these categories were at odds, and that I shouldn’t call myself a non-binary writer or seek to represent the community if it wasn’t my experience.

But I believe that non-binary is a spectrum of experiences that can be held by people of many (a)genders, and that we can make room for all of those experiences without stepping all over each other or denying someone a label that really resonates with them.

If non-binary is to mean “not exclusively masculine or feminine,” we should be open to the possibility that anyone of any gender – especially in a binary system in which few, if any truly fit – might find themselves looking for language that gives them permission to be who they are.

And really, we should always be cautious and self-critical if our skepticism of someone’s truth is turning into identity policing. Denying someone the right to identify as non-binary is simply upholding the binary and imposing it onto someone else.

As non-binary, isn’t the imposition of that binary the last thing we want to be participating in?

I don’t believe that non-binary men or non-binary women are contradictions at all. If anything, it’s an indication that people are catching on.

The binary, on absolute terms, serves very few – and at least for me, being non-binary is about making room for every part of myself. I’m not surprised that others feel that way, too.

10 thoughts on “Being Non-Binary and a Trans Guy Isn’t a Contradiction

  1. bobcabkings says:

    Sam, I’m sure you are going to get some arguments (apparently, already have done) about what you say here, but not from me. The basic logic is sound. After all, if a person born with one sort of genital parts or the other can be non-binary, fluid, straight, gay, bi, or undecided, there is no reason I can see that a trans person can’t do the same. There may exist some few people so completely masculine or feminine that they are incapable of empathy with the other, but the vast majority of humans fall somewhere (at any given moment, in any given situation or relationship) on the spectrum between the (perhaps, mythical) pure expression of the poles. Thanks for writing this. You are educating (including me) on aspects of the complexity of these questions that I as a straight guy of an elder generation have not given a lot of thought before, reblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  2. eagoodlife says:

    Reblogged this on The Life Of Von and commented:
    Sam writes – “The binary, on absolute terms, serves very few – and at least for me, being non-binary is about making room for every part of myself. I’m not surprised that others feel that way, too.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pax Ahimsa Gethen says:

    I’ve had difficulty explaining and justifying my identity too, being both agender and a trans male. For me it’s not about expression, it’s about acknowledging that I feel much better in a body fueled by testosterone than estrogen, and feel strongly that I should have been born with cis male-typical genitals, while simultaneously rejecting the social expectations of manhood that are attached to that kind of body.

    I sometimes refer to myself as a “trans guy” as shorthand when I don’t have the time or energy to explain non-binary gender identity, and in public I’m content to be read as simply male in a society that insists on gendering all strangers into one of two boxes. But “agender trans male” is my true and correct identity, or at least the most accurate label I’m able to come up with at this stage of my transition and understanding of gender.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. germainedelarch says:

    Reblogged this on life writ large and commented:
    As I progress in my journey, because it’s always a journey, without end, this is something I’ve been grappling with wordlessly. And Sam just put it into words for me.

    The further I go, and the more the testosterone masculinises me, the more I’ve been concerned with maintaining my non-binary, queer identity while being read as a cis man. The idea that Sam argues for here – that we can be both trans men or trans women AND non-binary, is something that resonates and enables me to assert my undeniable non-binari-ness, and my undeniable masculinisation.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sam Dylan Finch says:

    Do you realize you’re identity policing? You can be curious about how this works but you cannot dictate someone else’s identity. Nor should you be insulting about it, telling me non-binary people exist as if (1) I am not one and (2) as if I haven’t done work in this community and am not surrounded by non-binary people in my everyday life.

    I actually do understand the difference between gender identity and expression and have written about it, and that’s not what I’m referring to.

    Non-binary means not exclusively masculine or feminine, thus existing outside of cisnormative definitions of man and woman.

    So someone could identify, like myself, as having many elements of masculinity, femininity, androgyny, and choose to use the words that best fit.

    In my case, I am on testosterone, FTM transgender, and identify as a trans guy — but also feel there are EQUALLY VALID parts of my gender that are femme and queer.

    So my experience of being a trans guy on testosterone is still impacted by the OTHER COMPONENTS of my identity — not expression — that are femme and queer.

    Thus a non-binary experience of masculinity.

    Many people identify this way. And it’s not an affront to non-binary people who identify as agender, demigirl, demiguy — please recognize that non-binary is an umbrella term and fluid in its definition, and that it doesn’t serve you or the trans community to tell other people how they should or shouldn’t articulate their gender.

    I don’t need to “take into consideration” that there are non-binary people, because I am a non-binary person, I am in community with non-binary people, and I have done advocacy work for a long time. This is not news to me and it’s condescending to suggest I have no idea what I’m talking about.

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