RELEASED: July 15, 2021
A youth coalition working to improve LGBTIQSB acceptance in northern New South Wales and on Gold Coast is calling on the community to learn more about non-binary people on International Non-Binary Day – July 14.
19-year-old Bee*, who lives on the Queensland-New South Wales border and identifies as non-binary, is part of that youth-led coalition, the Q*Network, run through headspace, the national body supporting youth mental health and the leading social justice organisation, Social Futures.
Bee says most people do not understand the term ‘non-binary’, used by people who do not identify as male or female, but instead often see their gender as a spectrum.
Bee was bullied at school and seen as not ‘feminine enough’ and developed anxiety after spending three years trying to ‘be a girl’.
“I never felt like a girl, but because of the bullying I tried to get a very feminine look, then in my final school years I tried to cover myself up more and more because I just didn’t feel like a girl,” Bee said.
Anxiety and poor health in Year 12 led Bee to drop out of school last year, but Bee says the decision to come out as ‘non-binary’ feels good and Bee now wants to study writing.
However, Bee still suffers social anxiety, because so few people understand what non-binary means.
“On International Non-Binary Day, my main message would be to try to understand people who are non-binary, try to understand the pro-nouns they prefer [often they/them] and talk to them if you don’t understand,” Bee said.
“But respect the people you meet, for example if they are a cashier on a cash register with a name tag that lists their pronouns as they/them or someone is waiting you at a table with a name tag with those pronouns, this individual is gender neutral.
“Personally, I’m happy when someone says ‘Hello mate’ to me, because anyone can be a mate and it expresses warmth and acceptance.”
Bee was born and grew up in a small town in northern New South Wales, a few kilometres from the Queensland border.
“I first questioned my gender in Year 8,” Bee said.
“I was about 14, and at the time and I had really short hair, and, it was a class with only a couple of girls and the other girl said, ‘I can’t believe I’m the only girly in here’ and in the middle of this class this one boy at the back said, ‘Yeah, that’s because she’s a transgender’ referring to me, and I just froze and said, ‘No, I’m a girl’, but at that point I did ask myself, ‘Am I?’
“Then I knew nothing about the LBGT community, all I knew was that one of my friends thought she was bi-sexual. That was everything I knew.
“The next step for me was to make myself look more feminine because people were bullying me. I didn’t look like a girl, so I tried to make myself look like a girl. This lasted from when I was 14 to when I was 17.
“I think those three years of trying to be really feminine added to or maybe caused my anxiety. I was trying to look in a certain way that I wasn’t comfortable with. I didn’t like wearing skirts. I was never comfortable. I kept wearing shorts underneath my skirts, to feel a bit more comfortable.
“I had also started spending more time online learning more about the LGBTIQSB community and I discovered that term, ‘non-binary’, so I learnt more and more about it and I thought ok, I like that.
“In my mid-teens I really didn’t know what my gender was, I had only just figured out my sexuality. At first, I just used the term ‘non-binary’ online to test it out.
“In my hometown I only told two people – my best friend’s sister. She was really good and then she talked to my best friend and explained it to her. And I told my other friend, we did a lot of art things together. She was very positive and understood, but I was ashamed to come out to the other people in my group. She helped me out with it.
“I didn’t complete Year 12. I also had health issues. I have neurofibromatosis, a condition that causes benign tumours to grow in my body, and other complications. Neurofibromatosis causes me a lot of pain. I was in pain all the time in Year 12 as well as suffering a lot of anxiety.
“After I dropped out of school, I stayed home. I didn’t get out of the house, so I was in a depressed state. I was down and lonely and didn’t want to do anything. Working out my gender I had disconnected from other young people.
“I decided at the end of 2019 to go non-binary. It felt good, but it also felt weird because I wasn’t out to a lot of people. I am now out, and my friends know and my mum and dad. My preferred pronoun is they/them.
“I still suffer anxiety especially in public places – I get really anxious. I struggle to make friends because of previous bad experiences at school and also from being bullied a lot.
“I’ve joined the Q*Network – a youth-driven network of young people working to provide safety, support, acceptance and celebration for LGBTIQAP+ young people in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.
“The Q-network has helped me a lot, especially as I can find out what’s happening in the community and express my concerns. We catch up online once a month. I also follow quite a few LGBT community groups on Facebook.
“I still live in a small town. Because my town is small, it’s so much harder to find people who are like me. I also have a back operation coming up soon but after that I will look for work. My dream is to study creative writing and tell stories – become a storyteller.”
*Bee is happy to share their story however has not used their real name as this material will be shared on social media and may attract negative comments from people not respectful of the choice to identify as non-binary.
Media inquiries: Christine Tondorf | Communications and Media Lead | 0427 556 892 | [email protected]