The loneliness of a Black non-binary soul

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CN: suicide, self-harm

Do a quick image search on the term ‘non-binary’ or ‘genderqueer’ and you’ll probably see page after page of the same thing: white, young, thin, able-bodied folks. If you’re lucky enough to have a non-binary meet happening in your area, the same thing will probably be true. But physical meetups bring home something that a search engine just can’t do: the racism, classism, ableism and general blinkered view of the world that many white non-binary people hold. To face a single oppression does not give one the inability to be oppressive to others in turn.

To socialise as a black person with other white non-binary people means having to field awkward questions that other attendees don’t get asked. It means white folks dominating the discussion. It always involves a white, Western viewpoint. Everyone is assumed to be either a student or employed in a well-paying job. At a non-binary meet I attended in Nottingham, almost 75 minutes were spent discussing workplace discrimination of non-binary people. Only one person mentioned that the race of the employee combines with this discrimination to make things even worse. At several non-binary meets in London, I have had other attendees make assumptions that I had money to spend to go to events or that I could do things for free: that I had easy access to money and/or credit. Other assumptions on the things that other folks think should be important to me also result in me feeling like I don’t belong. I’ve been the oldest, fattest person at every single meetup I’ve attended. I’m usually one of extremely few people of colour present at the monthly meetups.

I can’t deal with it anymore. I live with depression and anxiety. I live in several communities where people think someone like me is a freak that should do everyone a favour and go away already. The worst thing is that I  believe them sometimes.  Self harm and suicidal thoughts & actions are part of my lived experience. This is something I rarely get the chance to discuss with other non-binary folks at meetups; they’re too busy talking about gender neutral bathroom signs, and whether Mx is the best title to use (which is still important – it’s just not the be-all and end-all for non-binary people)

I know that there are other non-binary people of colour out there, but when a community is so unwelcoming, it’s no wonder they turn up once, only to never return. Non-binary people and groups need to address intersections of oppression. Awareness is important, but so is doing something about it. Educating yourself, making your groups a safe space, and having a zero tolerance for racism, classism, ableism and LGBT-phobia is something we can all do. Reaching out to communities of colour may take some work, but you’ll be reaching people who need a supportive space.

Coming out to myself as non-binary has helped with the body dysphoria I had for four decades. Being non-binary has helped me to feel like I haven’t failed at being a human, but coming out  has meant an awful lot of disappointment, a big dose of harassment, and an atmosphere of bigotry. So I’ve chosen to stop going to non-binary meetups. I’m done sacrificing my dignity because I’m lonely. Feeling alone at home is painful, but feeling alone in a crowd is far worse.

Words by Jacq Applebee

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4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Exclusion with our queer communities | Tirnanogender: A Journey to Androgyny

  2. Pingback: Exclusion within our queer communities | Tirnanogender: A Journey to Androgyny

  3. Thank you so much for writing this article. I am currently educating myself exactly as you speak about my stereotypes and prejudice and how standing by is as bad as actively being racist. I have felt excluded from so many spaces in the past that I know a little of the loneliness you speak. I’d love to have your input on my journey if you would be willing to help me use my privilege in some spaces to do the right things? Harry

  4. Hey Jacq

    Great piece and thanks for writing it.

    I’m a non-binary, Black Britsh of Africam descent, queer, non-monogmous person.

    TBA (Tran Bare All) has been the most welcoming of spaces for me as a non-binary person. It is very white but not exclucively. I have come across a fair amount of awareness of intersectionality and an openess about talking about mental heath issues. Also at the events l’ve gone to there’s been a mixture of body sizes.

    You’re not alone okay.

    Best wishes.

    CL xx

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