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“A deep acknowledgement of how expansive I can be"

Archie Bongiovanni

October 30th, 2023

Non-binary members of Feeld reflect on the many ways they understand themselves and their community.

We asked, you answered: in honor of Non-Binary Awareness Week Feeld reached out to our non-binary members to surface their own stories and experiences. Their answers range from the playful to the serious, from sincere to irreverent, sometimes all at once in the same reply—in other words, the answers below reflect how varied and fluid it is to be non-binary at all. To be non-binary is more than just to be defined by a label: it is a way of being in the world and a mode of connection, frequently in flux and always open to discovery. Read what Feeld members have shared with us, as inspiration and celebration alike. 

What does being non-binary mean to you?

That I can rest in the fact that even though our language is mostly binary, nature isn't.

I think the irony here is that a lot of folks like me who are non-binary are just trying to figure that out. This is a journey, y'know?

My self exists beyond the arbitrarily assigned limitations of gender. I paint my life with the whole spectrum of color, not a limited palette.

That I don’t move through the world with only two options of ways to be, that I live in a less socially constructed space conducive to natural fluidity within gender.

For me, it means that my gender expression is ephemeral and unique to my body and my expression. My mullet is just as non-binary as my chest and hips. It’s self-love and acceptance in its truest form.

I'm very definitely not a man or woman. I'm agender and feel positively allergic to gender. And I'm very happy being free of it.

Existing in authentic defiance of the policing of our bodies and identities.

Very much a "what even the fuck is a gender" vibe.

Fission and fusion of gender.

Non-binary for me is about accepting myself without expectations of how to perform in a gender-specific way. This conscious un-learning is allowing me to be the most authentic self I've ever known.

Finally finding a word to describe how I feel—neither nor, sometimes both.

Being non-binary to me means that while I feel kinship with aspects of manhood or womanhood, I don't feel kinship wholly with either. I am not a man or woman. My body, mind, and existence are not innately gendered.

It means I'm not a woman or a man. I'm just a hot hairy silly thing.

This is a difficult question to answer. It’s like asking what does brown hair or an affinity for chocolate mean to me. My identity is a package deal. Being non-binary means having an expansive gender while being asked to answer reductive questions.

For me, it’s less about not feeling constrained to one gender expression and more about giving myself permission to express myself in whatever way I want without shame of doing it wrong by someone else’s standards.

It means living in my truth, regardless of how it makes other people feel inconvenienced or if they don't even believe it's real. My truth is my truth and there's no one that can define that for me that isn't me.

It means being myself; and being known for who I am rather than who another person decides I am "supposed" to be. It means being free of roles/expectations/scripts/narratives that do not, and never have fitted me. It means being attracted to or connecting with others based on character, mind, intention, and who they have chosen to become as people.

The freedom to exist as I am. Leave the binary to code/computers.

It feels like a deep acknowledgement of how expansive I can be.

It means removing expectations that I should dress, act, or love a certain way because of what my body looks like.

I'm like if a man and a woman had a baby. I'm both and neither. I'm a polygon in the face of a straight line

A rejection of the white supremacist prison imposed on my body.

The liberty to be vague and undefined.

Being hot.

So many binary systems construct our world. Has embracing your identity made you challenge other binaries?

Absolutely. Binaristic thinking obscures the infinite diversity of existence, and can easily be weaponized to exclude, exploit, and erase. My agender-ness has helped me challenge the binaries of culture/nature, human/animal, abled/disabled and other supremacist constructs.

I work in medicine, which is predicated on a gender binary. Being present for my patients as an openly non-binary doctor shows them that there is a place for their gender identity here, and they can be understood and cared for with sensitivity and understanding.

I'm going to have to say no, just because I don't think I've thought of the world in a binary fashion to begin with. Life's too messy, complicated, and dramatic for that.

Yes! I often try to think outside of black and white structures. It helps me see the gray area and silver linings. It’s also helped me understand that two opposing things can exist at once, like loving someone and accepting the best choice is distance. I’ve always appreciated the in-between, like twilight skies after sunset and just before sunrise.

Yes. Binaries are usually just the edges of infinite spectrums.

It’s made me challenge essentially everything about myself. I’ve had to ask myself—is this really me? Or a version of myself that I am performing for someone else’s benefit?

I don’t think that was the progression; I think my lack of rigid thinking led to my realization that I was non-binary.

Yes. When I'm faced with a binary argument, I'm more inclined towards suggesting "why not both, or neither?"

A big development in my life is challenging the binary of friend vs. partner. Working through things like non-monogamy, polyamory, and relationship anarchy has allowed me to grow my relationships in a much more organic fashion. Relationships shift, change, and start and end, and that's okay—I don't want to expect one role from someone and vice-versa

ABSOLUTELY!! I literally question everything now. It’s how I spend most of my sleepless nights, lol.

Omg, yes, literally all of them, lol. It's so beneficial for my mental health to deconstruct binary thinking everywhere it does not serve me

Being non-binary meant looking at myself as a collection of elements, not some sort of preset, fabricated being. That helped me view relationships outside of a binary--there's no need to force a platonic/romantic divide on connections in my life, because any relationship can contain an infinite variation of elements that are traditionally seen as being strictly platonic or romantic!

I think it has made me challenge the traditional relationship binary, hence on Feeld (hehe).

As a classical singer, I exist in an insanely gendered field of work. It has been quite a challenge to be fully recognized by people within my field, especially because so much of gigging revolves around religious spaces.

I'm not sure whether polyamory came first for me, but it definitely has existed alongside my non-binary identity.

They're all one and the same for me. Growing up in a gendered religious community, binary systems defined my politics, my identity as a human who believed in science and reason vs. the rigidities of a traditional worldview. Finding my research interests allowed me to reconcile not only my gender identity, but my views on spirituality and commitment to empiricism.

Human society has an obsession with binaries, while nature has no such limitation. The answer to this question is in the question itself. One can’t embrace one's own internal spectrum without realizing everything is on a spectrum.

Absolutely. I think kink is a great example. I don’t fit into the prescribed D/s binary, and just as “genderfluid” feels less true to me than “non-binary”, the term “switch” really doesn’t fit me either. A lot of people assume you must fall into one of these roles, or both at different times. But I’m happiest when transcending power dynamics altogether. There is so much more to kink than that!

As well as gender, I see relationship commitments as existing on a whole set of spectra. A relationship can be totally platonic and still as deeply committed as any traditional partnership or sexual and romantic but totally without commitment. More than that, there’s innumerable ways commitment can look. It’s not just a committed/not committed binary.

Exploring gender has helped me consider something beyond the confines of “right or wrong” in every corner of my life.

It has really made me see that there is an easier way to live that doesn't have to mean something is one part of a dichotomy. It lets me see people, objects, the world as just itself. What's odd with how the world approaches gender-neutrality is that they think it has to be bland, flavorless, without distinct features so that it can meet everyone's needs, when being genderless couldn't be further from that. We don't need "gender neutral" clothing. We want clothing to not need a designation, and it's already doing that. The fabric, the thread, the buttons: they don’t ask to be gendered. We gender the clothing and we don't have to.

I struggled in the past with fitting in no matter what. I was always trying to fit in boxes that didn't define me. The truth is people don't go in boxes. They are complex universes, constantly changing and evolving. Once I realized that, I stopped trying to fit in and found myself.

Binaries are easy for human brains to grasp because they are simple and stark. Even though our biology makes it easy to embrace binaries, that doesn't make it all that we are capable of as critically thinking humans. Simple is great for ice cream flavor choices, but simple doesn't solve large scale social problems nor does it do well to describe a human life and experience.

It has allowed me to give myself the room to grow and change my mind and unlearn across many projected binaries. I don't have to choose one gender, sexuality, partner, ice cream flavor, etc.

More of a correlation than a causation, I think. Challenging one always opens the potential of challenging others, and I’m not sure that gender was the first one I challenged.

It has helped me challenge the split between friends and romantic/sexual partners. I have been learning to embrace a full spectrum of connections with less preset expectations based on whether they are a friend or a lover/partner.

I’m polyamorous and queer, what else is there to say.

Yes. No. Maybe.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I wish somebody had told me sooner that it's OK to identify wholly as someone/something and change your mind later. You don't have to have that identity set in stone once you begin to explore it. If you feel comfortable identifying as non-binary for a while, but step into discovering that you may be trans, it's OKAY. You're not a fraud. You're not a fake. This stuff is complicated! Identity is a journey.

Just remember it’s all made up, so paint like you have a blank canvas (or whatever medium suits you). 

There’s no better dreamy feeling than when a partner uses the right pronouns to describe you, knowing that they see you for who you really are, beyond bodies and clothing choices.

I have so many close friends who are not trans or nonbinary. They tell me how much I've enriched their lives as a human being. I think being nonbinary gives a different edge, but it is by far not the most interesting thing about me. I'd love to live in a world where we were just as integrated and accepted as anyone else. I want to get on with my life and for my gender identity to be considered mundane and normal. I'm bored with talking about it, explaining it and having to advocate for myself all the time. It's exhausting, and I'm hilarious when in a good mood, and I'd love to live in a world that didn't take me out of my fun zone so bloody often!

Fluidity is the natural state of all things—the only constant is change. To inhabit transient spaces, to embrace life as an experience rather than a fixed identity, is to embrace the authentic wilderness we are taught to divorce ourselves from.

Being non-binary isn't a third gender, nor is it only an ambiguous semantic designation. Being non-binary is a kind of experience that is all about loving yourself for who you are outside the gender binary and societal expectations of who people should be.

This survey is so non-binary. It's like a person named Sock Drawer

You don't need my gender to issue me a library card. Stop asking!!!

No one owes anyone else any kind of gender presentation. I don't have to appear androgynous to be deserving of respect.

I hope this community in particular starts to move away from genital obsession and focuses more on the character and rizz of a particular person.

There are infinite ways an enby can look, and they are all valid. 

Remember that non-binary isn't just another way of saying androgynous. Sometimes a person's experience of gender is more internal than external. Non-binary people don't owe anyone a certain look, or some specific nonconformity. It becomes its own problematic "third binary" when we assume all non-binary folks must look or dress a certain way to be considered legitimate.

Be gay! Do crime.

  • Archie Bongiovanni is a comic artist and illustrator from Minneapolis. They're the creator of A Quick And Easy Guide To They/Them Pronouns, Grease Bats, History Comics: The Stonewall Riots and their newest graphic novel about four queer BFFs in their mid-thirties as their chosen family implodes, Mimosa. Archie has been featured on Autostraddle, The New Yorker and Vice. You can check out their website but they're more fun on Instagram.
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