Binary Trans People Have A Real Problem Including Non-Binary People — It’s Long Since Past Time That We Addressed This
Something struck me the other day while I was writing. I found myself having to go back every so often to correct ‘trans people’ to ‘trans and non-binary people’. Yet, the inclusion of non-binary people within my activism and writing should be automatic and — depending on how I’m writing — it is.
I have two ways of writing. Either I’ll write ‘In Voice — the way that I’m writing now — or I’ll write in more neutral and factual tones as I did with article showing the comparisons between the McCarthy witch hunts and the tactics of fear and terror employed by the GC hate movement.
When I’m writing In Voice my inclusion of non-binary people in what I write just happens. This hardly a surprise — it’s not like I’d leave myself out of my own activism.
Yet I’m not writing In Voice suddenly I lose that inclusivity even though I’m still the same person fighting for exactly the same things as I am when I write In Voice.
So why does it happen?
Like most people who write in a more neutral way than their own voice, I draw my inspiration from the writings of others, doing so unconsciously most of the time. My writing is shaped by the writing of others and that in turn means that unless I’m very careful my own writing reflects and amplifies the biases, exclusion, and omissions of other writers.
And so I found myself asking the question, ‘Is my unconscious omission of non-binary people in my writing a reflection of the omission of non-binary people from the writing of other activists?’
Like most non-binary and trans activists I read about issues affecting non-binary and trans people from trans and non-binary authors. And it’s a reality that the most successful community and activist writers on trans and non-binary matters tend to be binary, trans, white, cis-passing women.
That’s not the fault of the writers. It’s a phenomenon created by a predominately white, cisnormative society that promotes the work of those it deems acceptable over those it deems to be too “freakish” to be considered seriously.
Although this reality isn’t the fault of the writers, it does still lie upon them to ensure that their activism is as inclusive as possible.
Yet do they? The sad and simple truth is that binary trans activists and writers seem to have a problem remembering that their activism should include the majority of the community — non-binary people — not just the 48% of the community that are binary trans people.
I started researching the actual numbers on this and it shocked me. I took a random sample of the more successful activists within the community using the following criteria:
- Twitter posts and threads were not included
- Number of articles published greater than 20
- The articles could be found using a search engine
- The articles written were specifically on trans and non-binary matters
- The articles could be read without the need for payment, even if only a limited number of articles can be read
- The articles aren’t locked behind a Members Only site, or area of a site
- That the articles weren’t specific to binary trans people, e.g, trans women rather than trans women and trans femmes, etc
- That the articles didn’t simply contain the word ‘trans’ where the word occurs only in the context of a name, e.g. “Trans Pride”, or as part of a framework term, e.g. ‘anti-trans’
- An article was only counted once using the criteria that it was either inclusive of non-binary people or wasn’t
and then compared the number of articles that omitted non-binary people against the number of articles written that was inclusive of non-binary people.
This is what I found:
- In one case there were 17% of articles published that were inclusive of non-binary people, 83% that omitted us.
- In another only 22.5% of published articles were inclusive of non-binary people, 77.5% that were not.
- In another case only 10% of articles were inclusive of non-binary people, 90% omitted us.
I imagine there will be people who say, “But when they say trans they also mean non-binary people as well”. But to be honest, that’s not good enough.
Leaving aside that not all non-binary people identify as trans, it’s far too often a case that there are binary trans people who — as happened recently — deride or refuse the accept the legitimacy of the existence of non-binary people, or consider us lesser than ‘genuine trans people’, or a road-block for binary trans people having human rights or access to health care, or being able to access them in a timely manner.
Of course, the failure to talk about and include non-binary people within their writing isn’t a deliberate choice of most binary trans authors and activists. Rather it’s the result of unconscious bias, a thing that we all struggle with in one form or another.
But that failure doesn’t have to continue.
I know that most activists, including prominent writers, don’t consciously consider non-binary people to not be genuine; they don’t consider us to be lesser trans people, but the omission of including the term “non-binary” within their articles when we should be included leaves a space within the larger communal discussion that will get filled by those who are seek to try and erase the acceptance of the existence of non-binary people.
I’m no angel on this either. When I first started writing (which is as it is now, predominantly on Twitter), I failed a lot of the time to include non-binary people within my writing. Even now I’ll still do it, although I’m a lot better than I was. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of work to do tackling the unconscious bias that means I too often end up not campaigning or recognising myself or other non-binary people within my activism.
There will be binary trans writers who feel attacked by this. That’s not the point of this article. This a plea for binary trans people to be better at being more inclusive of non-binary people within your activism.
I’ll end this article by noting that I’m under no illusion about my own failures in similar areas as a writer. There’s vast areas of exclusion or lack of recognition in my writing. Part of that is simply because I’m not in a position to write with authority on what it’s like to be a GRT non-binary or trans person, or to be a Black non-binary or trans person, or a non-binary or trans person of colour.
But at the same time that’s no excuse for me not to approach and ask if there’s viewpoints they would want reflected in an article I’m planning on writing, quotes that they would want included. And that’s something that I need to get considerably better at.