In Zee’s opinion, non-binary people are humans that do not identify with the social construct of gender binary. Some can be gender fluid and feel male somedays, female others, both or even none of the two. They sometimes identify with the letter ‘neutrois’, and believe society confines and restricts people into living as one of the two binary genders, instead of validating and accepting their true gender identity.
What does it mean to be non-binary ?
When we are kids, we learn that there is a binary - female and male. But then as we grow up, some of us realize that we don't identify as neither of them or both of them or something else. Our gender identity (how people understand themselves) is our internal sense of as male, female, or another gender. A person is non-binary if their gender identity is something other than male or female. There are many different identities such as bigender (someone who has two genders), genderfluid (someone whose gender moves around, either along the female-male binary or outside of it), just to name two.
In my case, I’m “neutrois” which means that I am neither male nor female. I’m just human. Non-binary people usually just want to be a person, and not be constrained by society in any way.
How was your experience growing up?
I never felt good with the way I had to act for society. I was raised in a traditional family and there were things that we had to do. Biologically, I was born a girl, and in my traditional family I had to wear dresses and act like a girl. I had to follow the codes. I never felt good with that, but I played along for a while until I just couldn’t do it anymore, it wasn't me. I needed to come out - like a bird from an egg. And now if I had to go back home and wear heals for example, I feel like it's someone else but it's not me. It doesn’t bring back good memories. I remember trying my best to look the part, trying to convince myself that it was normal, but it wasn’t. That was the moment when I realized that I had to listen to my inner voice and follow my heart. I thought “I don’t care what society wants, I want to be myself!”.
When did you come out?
I was 23 when I started searching what non-binary meant. Back in the time, non-binary wasn’t a thing in Europe, it wasn't known. We weren’t educated on the topic. I had never heard of it before and didn’t know it even existed. Once I was well informed, I finally put a name to how I felt and came out as ‘neutrois’.
How do you introduce yourself to people?
Well, I say “hello, I’m Zee” and usually they would say "hello Zee" and then they would start genderizing me as a “she” because I have a thin voice and a small stature. I usually correct them and say that I’m not a “she”. They ask me if I’m a “he” and if I’m transitioning. To which I answer that I’m neither a “he” nor a “she” I’m just me. I’m human, just like you. I give them my pronouns hoping that they’ll apply them.
I always wonder why it counts so much to be something? As if we can't all have a nice conversation no matter the tone of my voice, or my stature - you don't need to know what's in my pants, no one needs to know, that's my business.
People often say that I’m crazy. Not everyone is open to the idea of just being human. I do understand that we are educated with this idea of binary but even once you explain who you are, many people only see it from one perspective. To me that’s the worst feeling. You're explaining that there is more than the binary but they don't want to open their eyes and look.
Many people say: “that's not real, you're not real, that's not a thing. There are only two genders, accept what you are, you were born as one- just accept it.” And I'll explain that in fact, in the third month of a pregnancy, humans don't have a gender, they don't have sexual organs and yet we exist. First there was a human, and then that human grew up into being something that is perceived as society in a way that might not be right. You never chose to be who you are. If you identify with your gender at birth, great. But some people, like myself, don’t, and society must listen to us too.
One of the issues non-binary people encounter is when having to go to a public bathroom. Which bathroom would you go to?
I don’t follow norms. I usually go wherever there’s a free bathroom. Obviously I end up shocking those who see me. If I go to the “women’s” bathroom their first reaction is to be shocked and it takes them a second till they understand that they are in the right bathroom.
If I go to the the “men’s” bathroom the reaction is a bit different. They usually act amused by my presence and that’s cool. Either way, I just do what feels right for me, which is to use whichever bathroom is closest.
On average are people understanding and supportive?
Unfortunately not always. I do put myself in other people’s shoes and of course it’s not always easy to understand and that is perfectly fine but I try to educate as many people as I can. Sometimes I am lucky and they would understand me right away. These are the people who would tell me: “thanks for explaining. You just gave me something to think about.” You cannot imagine how much I appreciate the people who are ready to listen and think about it.
Unfortunately I have had many instances when people in my country (Romania) tell me: "no way! That's not a thing! That's not real. You can't be real! It's just male or female. It can't be in between, both or neither! You're crazy. You don't exist as a human like that. You have to be something, you have to choose!”.
To which I always answer : “Yes, it does exist ! I'm here and I exist!”.
Sometimes they ask me how I pee... That's crazy because you don't need to be either of them to pee in a certain way. It’s really frustrating and invalidating but hopefully society will change with time once we get the word out and show that we exist.
How can we be respectful and more supportive of non-binary people?
First I would say to try not to make assumptions about people’s gender. If someone tells you they’re neither a girl, nor a boy, just ask them how they identify. It's that simple. Ask them their pronouns and try to use them accordingly. It shows that you care about them and you welcome them as they are. It's important to know that you care. It reflects that you want to be as respectful and understanding as possible. I understand it’s not easy because we haven’t been educated to think this way nor to use pronouns such as “ze, zir, them or they” but I assure you that when someone adapts the language appropriately and uses the correct pronouns it’s a very warm feeling and I’m grateful for whenever that happens for me (which isn’t often).
What would you want people to remember about non-binary people?
We, who do not identify with the gender binary, are not doing any harm to anyone by being who we are. We are not doing anything wrong. We just want to be ourselves, take that mask off, and express who we feel like we should be from inside out.
We are just human beings, like everybody else, who deserve respect and to be treated equally.
Many non-binary people are scared of coming out because they fear rejection. What would you say to them?
I would say to that person that as long as you are not hurting anyone, that you're a peaceful human being and are positively contributing to society in any way, just be who you want to be.
It's important for you to be yourself. Stop listening to people who degrade you, stop doing whatever others expect of you. Stop doing what they want you to do, or being who they want you to be. Do what feels right and follow your heart’s instructions. I know it’s easier said than done, but it will allow you to be authentic. Be kind, be nice but be you. Be what you feel like you want to be. That’s the secret and key takeaway. If you are trying to be what society expects from you, you're never going to find yourself, you're never going to be happy, and that's the saddest thing you'll can go through.
There is only one version of you so live life as fully as possible. People will appreciate you for being you. And don't worry about friends, they are going to come, you are not alone.
There are a lot of us out there.