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June, 2019:

Why Being Non-Binary Matters

Non-binary Ruth Carter

I’m speaking to a group of lawyers this week about being non-binary. Since I’m always me, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me what question they have or have had about my non-binary experience or non-binary people in general to help me prepare.

One friend sent me a direct message and respectfully asked, “Why is a non-binary identity important to you? Why does it matter?” She went on to say that my name, gender, or pronouns wouldn’t change our relationship. (My friends know that I welcome all sincere questions. If they’re trying to be respectful and inadvertently say something wrong, I will not be offended.) It’s a valid question, and one that does not surprise me coming from a person I know to a cisgender heterosexual.

Photo by Scotty Myers Photography

Non-Binary People Exist

Being non-binary matters as much as it matters to be any other gender. Unlike men and women, I live in a society that often doesn’t acknowledge that I exist. Whenever I need to use a public bathroom or fill out a form and there are only male/female options, the message I hear is that people like me don’t deserve the same acknowledgment as men and women, that they don’t believe I exist, or that I don’t matter.

When there are only male and female facilities available, if I’m not welcome to use either option, then I’m not comfortable using any of them. Earlier this year, I attended a conference where there were only men’s and women’s bathrooms. I didn’t want the organizers to have to deal with an uncomfortable situation of someone complaining that I was in the men’s room, so we agreed that I’d use the bathroom in my hotel room. (The conference was in the same hotel where I was staying.) This worked fine until the last day, when I’d checked out of my room. I felt like an imposter using the women’s room when I needed it.

I live in a society that doesn’t even have terminology for non-binary people. There is no gender-neutral term for “sir” or “ma’am,” though I’m in favor of adoption “pe’n,” short for “person.” Most people don’t know that the non-binary alternative to Mr./Ms. is Mx. (pronounced “mix”). When my sister got pregnant, I had to pick my own title since there is no gender-neutral term for “aunt” or “uncle.” (This is a common question in the Non-Binary Gender Pride Facebook group, also what do you call a non-binary parent, significant other, spouse, or child.) My sweet nibling has aunts, uncles, guncles (gay uncles – they picked their title too), and an oggy (me). (“Oggy” rhymes with “doggy.”)

I’m Legally Non-Binary – and Still Not Recognized

I have a non-binary birth certificate. (Thank you, California!) I am legally recognized as being neither male nor female, and yet, I can’t get a driver’s license in Arizona that reflects this. The State Department will not issue me a non-binary passport. The State Department won’t even issue one to Dana Zzyym, an intersex person, even though it’s been court-ordered to do so. When I travel, I bring my passport and my birth certificate in case I have to explain why some of my tickets says non-binary and some say male or female – because not all airlines have the non-binary gender option, but I should be able to use it since I’m legally non-binary.

In most places, I can’t even walk down the street on a hot day with my shirt off like my male counterparts without the risk of getting a ticket for indecent exposure, even in California. (Arizona law says “female areolas” must be covered. I don’t think a judge would throw the case out if I went in with my birth certificate that proves I’m not female, and thus, I can’t be in violation of this law.) Thankfully, MeUndies hooked me up with a nude bralette so I can at least give the illusion of toplessness at a distance. I could also wear my nude chest binder, but I tend to overheat in that thing.

Men and women in the U.S. have never had to fight just to say they exist. Women have to fight for equality, but they’ve never had to fight to be recognized as different from men. In regard to legal rights, my friend’s question made me think:

Non-binary people are different than men and women. We often live in societies that only recognize males and females – socially and culturally. When I realized that I was non-binary, something clicked into place. Up until then, I thought I was just a weird girl. I didn’t understand why the other girls and women seemed so different than me. When I realized that I’m non-binary, it made sense why I felt like I was so different than the other girls I grew up with – because I am! And even though we’re different, and live in a binary-centric society, we still deserve the same rights and freedoms as everyone else, and to be acknowledged for who we are.

I guess that’s why being non-binary matters to me. I want to be seen as who and what I am. 

Tri Bike!

A few months ago, I took the plunge and got a triathlon bike. It was a substantial process because I went and had a proper bike fitting done.

Bike Fitting

At my first meeting with Barry the bike fitter at Cyclologic, we talked about all my past injuries, he checked my legs for strength and range of motion, and he took a some of measurements. He then put a bunch of dots on my body – one on my hip, knee, ankle, and shoulder (at least) – so it would be easier for him to take photos and measure my angles.

Then it was up on the bike measuring contraption. It was like a bike in that it had a seat, pedals, and handlebars, but there was no actual frame. He could raise and lower each component as well as move them closer or further apart to determine my ideal fit. There were cameras on two sides to shoot video and images, and the whole platform it was on could spin. There was also a special seat cover to detect how I distributed my weight on the seat.

The entire fitting took about three hours which culminated in figuring out all my measurements and then looking for a bike that fit my proportions.

The Delta Flyer on her trainer.

New Bike

At 5’4”, I’m the same height as the average woman, but because of my proportions, I’m tiny when it comes to bikes. I had to get an extra small frame. When I stand over my bike, there is less than 1 inch of clearance between the top bar of my frame and my crotch.  

The upside of needing an extra small bike is that I was able to get a good deal on one from last season. They only had the “guy color” left – black with red. (The “girl color” was peach and gray.) The moment I saw a picture of it, I knew I was going to call her the “Delta Flyer” because it reminded me of the uniforms on Star Trek: Voyager.

First Ride = First Fall

My first ride on my triathlon bike was the first time I rode with my feet clipped to the pedals. In the weeks leading up to getting my new bike, I paid close attention when I was training on my mountain bike to see which foot I push off of to start riding and which foot I put down when I come to a stoplight. It turns out, I do everything the opposite on my triathlon bike.

On my first ride, I clipped in my right foot, pushed off with my left, went about two feet, and fell over, with my right foot still attached to the pedal. I couldn’t keep the bike moving forward while trying to clip in my left foot. Once I switched to doing everything with my right foot, I was fine.

Switching from a mountain bike to a road bike was like changing my shoes from sneakers to ice skates – all my weight was balanced over skinny tires! It took awhile to get use to keeping my balance on a lighter bike and narrower tires.

Now that it’s warmer, most of my rides are on the trainer, a device that turns my bike into a stationary bike. On the upside, I don’t have to worry about traffic or having to stop at lights. On the downside, it’s pretty boring. I always watch movies to help pass the time on my bike.

I love my tri bike. My hip is slowly adjusting to riding in the “aero” position. I only ride in the aero position about 10% of the time, but hopefully that will increase, and I’ll be able to take full advantage of the benefits of my bike in races.

Prepping for Plastic-Free July – Part 2

It’s less than a month away from Plastic-Free July – a month where I will try to avoid single-use plastics in my life. Some people suggested that I stock up on products that contain plastic so I won’t have to buy them during July, but that goes against the purpose of doing this challenge. In fact, I’m doing the opposite this month: Whenever I run out of something that comes in plastic, I will try to replace it with a plastic-free product.

Looking around the house, I can see some products for which I’ll have to find a plastic-free alternative:

Frozen Foods: I regularly buy frozen spinach and berries for smoothies, and other frozen vegetables for meal prepping. I’ll have to switch to fresh veggies and fruit when I run out of them. I’ll probably switch to spinach and/or kale for my smoothies. I don’t know if berries will be in season at the farmer’s market. I’m sure I can’t get plastic-free ones at the store. I may have to switch to other fruits like mangos. I’ve never seen non-frozen peas in the store, so I’ll likely switch to broccoli and green beans for my green veggies.

Bread: The Whole Foods near my office has non-packaged bread in its bakery section. Einstein’s will likely be my go-to place for bagels. I’ll also look for plastic-free bread when I hit the farmer’s markets. I’ve considered baking my own bread, but it’s hot in Arizona in the summer. The last thing I want to do is add excess heat to the inside of my home.

Paper Towels: My last roll of paper towels is on the dispenser in the kitchen. When I use the last one, I’m switching over to multipurpose washable cloth towels instead. I bought a pack of 12. We’ll see if I need more than that to last me until I do laundry on the weekend.

Face Soap: I use an exfoliating face soap that comes in a squeezy plastic tube. I’ll use regular soap on my face (that comes in paper or no packaging), and I wonder if I’ll notice a difference. I’ve seen recipes for scrubs I can use if I need it.

Moisturizer: I’ve used the same moisturizer for over two decades. I love it. It’s a great product. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I run out. I plan to call the parent company to ask if they have any products that come in glass. The recipes I’ve seen for lotion, so far, all have to be refrigerated, which isn’t convenient when I travel. We’ll see what happens.

Lip Balm: I’m addicted to lip balm. I usually have in my bag and/or pocket, in my desk at work, and 2-3 on various counters and tables throughout my home. They’re all plastic tubes. I have until my current stash runs out to find a lip balms that come in a metal tin or a paper tube. I just have to find a quality one that works for me.  

Trash Can Liners: I don’t compost (yet) so sometimes my kitchen trash can be wet from coffee grounds and bits from fruits and veggies. Usually, I line my trash bin with a plastic shopping bag. (At least, I’m reusing them.) As alternatives, I could try using paper shopping bags as a liner or lining the can with newspaper. If neither of those work, I may have to forego a liner and wash the bin after I take out the trash each time.  

Unfortunately, there are few necessary non-negotiable items in my life that only that come in plastic:

  • Prescription Medications: We are all better people because I take meds. I am looking into a charity that repurposes the plastic bottles from medications and vitamins.
  • Sunscreen: I’m not going to get skin cancer while saving the planet. I use a “reef-conscious formula” that comes in a metal spray can, but it has plastic in the dispenser and lid.
  • Contact Lenses and Solution: Besides laser eye surgery, I don’t think there’s a plastic-free alternative to lenses and solution. I’m sure there are recipes for making your own contact solution, but given that these products literally go in my eyes, I’m sticking with ophthalmologist-approved and prescribed products.

I’ve been working towards Plastic-Free July for almost a year now. You can read about earlier preparations in Preparing for Plastic-Free July – Part 1* and the zero-waste and low-waste substitutes* I’ve already made in my life. (* Note: Both of these posts contain affiliate links.)

Is anyone else trying Plastic-Free July?