14th July is International Non-Binary People’s Day, the aim of which is to raise awareness of the diversity of gender identity, to highlight the harm caused by the discrimination faced by non-binary people, and to encourage everyone to be more inclusive in their language and actions. The date of this important day is no coincidence – it falls exactly halfway between International Women’s Day on 8th March and International Men’s Day on 19th November. Awareness of the issues faced by non-binary people is growing, but there is still a long way to go. Here’s why the health experts at Waterside Clinic hope that International Non-Binary People’s Day 2024 will increase people’s understanding…

What does it mean to be non-binary?

Non-binary people do not identify exclusively as male or female. For some, that means they see their identity as being ‘fluid’, encompassing parts of both male and female, and this can change over time. Others identify as being completely outside the confines of the traditional definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female’.

How are the rights of non-binary people currently recognised in the UK?

Unfortunately, non-binary people are not currently recognised under UK law. Instead, individuals are recognised as being either male or female, based on the information stated on their birth certificate.

Whilst some progress has been made in other legal areas relating to the LGBTQI+ community, more needs to be done to recognise the needs of non-binary people. For example, according to the Gender Recognition Act 2004, individuals can apply to the Gender Recognition Panel for a change of gender – after receiving a diagnosis of gender dysphoria by at least two health professionals and after living as the gender they wish to show on all their legal documents. Crucially, however this only allows for a legal change of gender from male to female or female to male.

Discrimination faced by non-binary people

One of the most common forms of discrimination faced by non-binary people is the incorrect use of preferred gender pronouns. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found almost all non-binary people had experienced discrimination in the workplace, such as being misgendered by colleagues.

The impact of this on an individual should not be underestimated. We know from studies involving transgender individuals that there is a strong association between misgendering and anxiety, depression, and stress.

Tension over which bathrooms non-binary people should and should not use and confusion over filling in forms that only list ‘male’ or ‘female’ as options add to the pressures and prejudices faced by non-binary people on a daily basis.

Everyone has a part to play

Whether you identify as non-binary or you simply want to be the best ally you can be, we can all play our part to create a more inclusive society.

• When speaking to individuals, be respectful of their pronouns. Many non-binary people prefer to be referred to as ‘their / they / them’. It may take a little getting used to at first, but if you make a mistake ensure you acknowledge it, correct it and move on.
• Normalise the practice of sharing preferred pronouns by sharing your own – in person or in your email footer or social media. It doesn’t matter if you identify as non-binary or not, by sharing your pronouns you are helping ensure everyone’s pronouns are acknowledged and respected, and it helps to move us away from making assumptions based on appearances.
• Make an effort to use more inclusive language in everyday life. For example, instead of referring to‘ ladies and gentlemen’ refer to ‘everyone present’.
• Call out examples of discrimination whenever and wherever you encounter them and help create a better future for all.

A message from Waterside Clinic’s Dr C Chong (he/his/him)

“We live in a society that tends to recognise only two genders. Yet there are cultures and societies around the world that have recognised and celebrated the existence of non-binary identities for millennia, so this is not a passing trend. Of course, I hope that we will one day live in a society here that fully embraces and celebrates the rich diversity of human experiences. But even if people do not fully understand the non-binary genders, we can all still be supportive and respectful of non-binary people. Share your own pronouns when introducing yourselves, and use the name a person asks you to use – these sound like basic tips but so often overlooked, yet a powerful way to show that you’re an ally.”

Welcome to Waterside Clinic – our supportive team is here to help you

Waterside Clinic is proud to specialise in supportive transgender and non-binary care. If you would like to find out more about our services, get in touch with our friendly team on 0131 202 5314, or email us on hello@waterside.clinic. Whatever you’ve faced in the past, we’re here to help you on your way to a happier future.