My 12 year old, Sol, is non binary. That means they don’t identify as a boy or a girl. The gender roles and societal norms around gender simply don’t make sense to them. They use they/them pronouns. They prefer to use unisex toilets, so that they don’t have to choose a gender identity that does not fit, simply to go to the toilet. They dress, often, fairly androgynously. They have a classically queer haircut. They are proudly, and bravely, one hundred percent true to themselves.
But sometimes there isn’t a unisex toilet available. In which case Sol uses the toilet of the gender they were assigned at birth, and has to brace themselves for the backlash. Inevitably someone, somewhere, will tell them they are in the wrong toilet. You might never have thought of this as an issue, but in the queer community it’s known as bathroom policing, and it’s deeply distressing.
Think about it. You are in the toilet that your chromosomes and genitalia say you should be in, but it’s already deeply distressing for you because your heart knows this is not who you are. Then some busybody demands to know why you are in the WRONG toilet. You know you’re in the wrong toilet, but there isn’t a right one for you to use! And how are you supposed to prove to that busybody that it’s ok for you to be here? It’s generally not considered socially acceptable to flash either your chromosomes or your genitalia in order to assert your right to be in a space.
After the umpteenth incident like this, my problem solving, FIX THE DAMNED PROBLEM urge became overwhelming. It’s not ok for my child to have to have these conversations, but since we can’t eradicate busybodies who like to bathroom police, how can we make it easier? How can we educate the bullies (because that’s what they are, I’m afraid), without causing confrontation and further distress for a child who simply wants to be able to go to the loo in peace?
And that’s how the Non Binary Business Card was born. Pride Flag on one side, Non Binary flag on the other, they avoid the need for confrontational conversations, but provide education in a gentle, and hopefully lasting way.
The text on the non binary side says: I am non-binary. That means I am not a girl, or a boy. I’m just myself. I use they/them pronouns.
And on the pride side it says:
You can support non-binary and trans folk:
- DON’T gender segregate.
- DO provide gender neutral options in all things – bathrooms, clothing, activities, etc.
- DON’T insist there are only two genders.
- DO respect people’s identity.
- DON’T mis-gender or assume you know someone’s gender unless they have told you.
- DO ask people their preferred pronouns.
I’m not saying the problem is solved, exactly, But at least when Sol is confronted by someone who doesn’t get it, they can simply hand them a card and walk away. They have a safe, non-confrontational strategy that they can use to exit the situation.
I wish they didn’t need one. I wish all public toilets were unisex, and that people didn’t feel a burning need to inquire about the state of other people’s genitalia. But given that we have to live in this imperfect and intolerant world, this seems like something constructive we can do.
Please share this far and wide, and encourage LGBTIQ kids (and adults!) to create their own versions of these cards to address their own needs. Sol and I share these under a Creative Commons Non Commercial Attribution license, which means we encourage you to use it, adapt it, and share it (acknowledging us as the authors) but not to make money from it.