Non-binary: listen and learn

"Pride Flag.

At Howard Kennedy, inclusion and diversity is a key part of our personality. We are proud to celebrate our LGBTQ+ colleagues. June 2021 is our Pride Awareness Month. It's an opportunity for us to learn and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, as well as hopefully educate and inform others. In a series of articles, we will be educating on each initialism that makes up LGBTQ+. 

What is non-binary?
We assume that most people, including those who are transgender either identify as male or female. However, some people don't fit into these categories and instead they have a gender that incorporates elements of being a man or a woman. Also, there are people who don't identify with any gender and others, whose gender may change over time based on how they feel.
There are many terms to describe people who do not affiliate with either a male or female gender. Non-binary being one of the most common, there are other terms which include genderqueer, agender and bigender. These terms don't all mean exactly the same thing, however all of them explain how people might feel if they do not see themselves as predominantly male or female.

What you see only tells part of the story
Thanks to the wider conversations about mental health, we have all learned that you can't judge how someone is feeling just by looking at them.  It is quite possible that someone who looks like they are 'doing fine' might be struggling beneath the surface with deep anxiety, depression or unbearable grief. 
Similarly, many traditionally think about gender as a binary label for a person's anatomy (male or female), but gender is much more multi-faceted than that.  
Anatomy (female-ness, male-ness) is only one expression of gender and expression (masculinity, femininity) and identity (woman-ness, man-ness) are all different facets of the umbrella label that is 'gender'.    
In the context of personal pronouns, anyone who identifies themselves as she/her may typically identify as female, feminine or a woman and anyone who identifies themselves as he/him may identify as male, masculine or a man. The point here is that each of which may have nothing to do with the anatomical gender that person was born with.
A person who prefers to be referred to as they/them may not identify themselves as exclusively male or female in any one facet of that gender. They may feel a complete absence of gender, a mix of masculinity and femininity or something else entirely. They may consider themselves to be agender, genderfluid or gender-neutral, for example, all of which are sub-sets which fall within the umbrella term 'non-binary'.

Do put a label on it
Being non-binary is not straightforward to bring up in conversation. It is also not yet understood or accepted by everyone.  Using personal pronouns, even as a non-binary person, is a subtle and helpful signal to others that you understand the fluidity of gender and the importance of creating inclusivity for those that identify as non-binary. 
Every non-binary person is on a different journey, has a different experience and may identify with a different sub-set than that which you may have come across before. The best way to learn is to have the conversations, and each of us expressly identifying and using our own personal pronouns (they/them, she/her, he/him) helps to create the safe and inclusive environments in which to have those conversations. 
If you haven't started using your personal pronouns yet, then you can start today. After learning about non-binary pronouns and understanding why they are used, you will always have a sensitivity and understanding of how to ensure the language you use is inclusive to everyone, including those who are non-binary.

This article was written by Nada Jarnaz (Partner in Real Estate)



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