Socialization As A Child: Binary vs Non-Binary

So, I’ve read several posts out there in the netherworld of the internet written by binary trans* people talking about socialization and assigned at birth gender. Specifically, about how cis people will assume that, for example, a trans man who was assigned female at birth knows what its like to be a woman because of how he was socialized as a child.

All of the posts I’ve read refute this as being a cissexist assumption because a trans man was always male, even as a child and even though society may have been directing female socialization at him that doesn’t mean that he was receiving it. Instead he was being socialized as male because he was identifying with and emulating male roles even as a child, he was absorbing male socialization even if it was not directed at him and ignoring female socialization because he knew himself to be male and knew which socialization was appropriate form him no matter what other people said. As a non-binary trans* person, these posts by trans men and women about people making cissexist assumptions about them based on their assigned sex at birth and corresponding socialization were enlightening because the same thing does not hold true for me. I think this is one of the places where the experiences of binary and non-binary trans people diverge.

Growing up, I was socialized as female, and I accepted that socialization. I only had two options and I didn’t identify with male roles or the adult men in my life so, hey, they must’ve been right about me when they told me I was a girl, right? It wasn’t until I got my hands on books and zines about trans* issues and gender identity, specifically stuff with a radical politic, that I had the words to describe things that I’d felt all my life. I think that’s the difference, as a binary trans person, you have access to examples of what your true gender looks like, you have access to socialization that you identify with.

However, as a non-binary trans* child all you have access to are two genders that you don’t identify with, but you are told that these are the only two genders in existence and you must be one or the other. I think this is why it took longer for me to come to a conclusion about my gender and why for me and many of my friends who are also non-binary our genders are still very much a work in progress, we didn’t know that our genders existed, because we were brought up believing in the false dichotomy of male and female. Now, we’re constructing our genders pretty much from scratch, we have few or no examples to look to for how to live out our genders, except, of course, each other.

This is one of the reasons that I feel like access to information about non-binary gender identities is so important, because I feel like I’d have continued to identify as female indefinitely, despite being uncomfortable, if I’d never become part of the radical community in my city and had conversations about gender and trans theory. Even now, I’m not entirely sure which non-binary gender fits me best, I’m still just defining myself by what I’m not. I suppose I feel as though maybe that wouldn’t be the case if I had had access to examples of non-binary identities when I was younger.


2 thoughts on “Socialization As A Child: Binary vs Non-Binary

  1. I feel even though now I am non-binary, as a child I was definitely binary trans* and would’ve been happy to grow up as such and transition fully. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, or partial hindsight or whatever. I’ve always thought that was curious.

    But not only did we not have non-binary trans role models, I at least didn’t even have androgynous, L-G-B, or remotely gender non-conforming role models, at all. Even this would’ve been nice.

    • yeah,growing up all of the adults who were central figures in my life were heterosexual and gender conforming. Its why I make an effort to talk to my little sister about gender, despite her being emphatically cis, because I want her to have that in her life, just the awareness that gender is broader than male and female.


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