Why are non-binary people easily offended

Non-binary"But you look like a man to me!"

Damoun is sitting in a bar with friends when another woman joins the group. Damoun doesn't know her, but has a bad feeling. She presents her new, short haircut. In the middle of the conversation, she looks at Damoun and says that she now feels like a toxic man. A man who could rule the world. She stares at Damoun and repeats these sentences. Damoun is just silent.

A few minutes later she turns to Damoun again: "Let's ask the only man in the group," she says.
When Damoun introduced himself to her at the beginning, Damoun expressed the wish to be addressed in a gender neutral manner. But she ignores the request.
At that moment Damoun replies, “How dare you call me a man? Ever since you came here, I feel like I'm being attacked by you. I don't identify as a man. ”She replies,“ Oh, but you look like a man to me! ”

Damoun is non-binary and sees himself neither as a man nor as a woman. Damoun previously felt as if he were bound by the gender given at birth, and the release from these bindings is an ongoing process that began about two years ago.

"Please don't disregard my own identity," Damoun says to the woman. She responds by saying, "You keep saying these things, but the world outside of your bubble sees you as a man."

As long as you don't listen to people like Damoun, that will never change. Anyone could change their perspective and the way they see the world. Damoun spoke in an interview with netzpolitik.org about restrictive stereotypes, the use of non-binary pronouns, discrimination, racism and activism on the other hand.

Break up stereotypes

Damoun was born in Tehran, has now lived outside of Iran for almost ten years and has since lived in Dubai, Cyprus and Turkey and occasionally worked as an English and French teacher. Damoun is currently studying digital media culture at the Babelsberg Film University and is also working at She Said in Berlin, Germany's first queer and intersectional feminist bookstore with a focus on BIPoC (black, indigenous people and people-of-color), female and queer authors .

Damoun's work aims to break up the stereotypical image of refugees and present their diverse life experiences. "We need more visibility for our stories in order to make the various concerns heard!" Appeals Damoun and tries to increase the visibility of their concerns together with other refugees through various media with art and other forms of activism. Most of the time, however, the hard work of many refugees, according to Damoun's description, goes unnoticed and unrecognized because the media are still concentrating too much on the clichéd image.

Activism is heard

Damoun is also part of the Voices4 Berlin team. The collective campaigns for the rights of LGBTQIA +, in short for: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans *, queer, intersex and asexual. The collective is linked to other groups in New York, London and one for underage queer people. Before the pandemic, Voices4 Berlin mainly met and organized demos. Since Corona, they have been meeting digitally and also organizing protests online.

One of the many campaigns Damoun took part in took place in spring 2020: A Moroccan Instagram influencer made a homophobic post that quickly gained wide reach. Shortly before the first lockdown in Morocco, she wrote about Grindr, a popular dating app for gay, bisexual and trans * men. She asked her followers to create fake profiles in order to find people they knew on Grindr.

People took screenshots, outed Grindr users, and exposed them publicly. Several gay men then lost their homes after their families kicked them out. Homosexuality is illegal in Morocco and gays can be sentenced to lengthy imprisonment for their sexual orientation. Dating apps like Grindr exist in Morocco, but in cases where homosexual people reveal their sexual orientation publicly, incarceration is the consequence. Voices4 Berlin communicated together with the other global collectives and they organized temporary stays, meals and further support for the victims of the mob.

From micro-aggression to discrimination

In the interview, Damoun talks about discriminatory experiences in connection with gender-specific stereotypes and racism. On days when Damoun wears make-up and looks androgynous, Damoun tends to be more friendly on the part of white cis-sex women, while Damoun often hears discriminatory comments or insults from cis-men. Just recently, Damoun described a situation in which a cis man cursed Damoun with the word "fagot" while working in the bookstore. Damoun experiences verbal violence superficially analogously - this is also due to the fact that Damoun's Instagram profile is already set to private for self-protection.

In a study by the German Youth Institute, scientists questioned queer young people and found out that Internet platforms are both at the same time for them: an important part of networking and a place where discrimination takes place. On the one hand, they can appear there “in some cases more authentically than is possible in real life”, and at the same time almost half reported insults and abuse.

Damoun doesn't take this type of event too much to heart: “These men who attack me are uncomfortable in their own skin while suppressing their true identities and desires. So when you see a visibly queer person, it triggers exactly these men because they are not celebrating their true selves and seeing that I live in my own true colors. They are jealous of me and that gives me the feeling of being a winner: in. "

However, when Damoun looks stereotypically masculine, cis women are often cool, dismissive, and disrespectful towards Damoun. For example, they walk past Damoun at a great distance or change seats when Damoun sits across from them on the train. Damoun fears that this is due to the darker hair and skin color, the dark full beard and racist prejudices against migrants: within a dominantly white, western society.

"The gender is a colorful spectrum, it is not a black and white construct."

“Gender is a religious and social construct,” continues Damoun. "Take a look at some of the indigenous tribes in the past, for example: they did not have gender-specific dress codes and social roles because they did not live under the limited, narrow definitions of the pre-defined norms and standards of our society today."

Damoun goes on to describe that a gender-inconsistent person can come from anywhere within the gender spectrum. Humans can be non-binary with no androgynous or physical characteristics. At the same time, gender identity is not intertwined with sexual orientation.

Gender-neutral language use shows respect and requires mindfulness. But how exactly does it work? If you are talking about several people at the same time, gender-sensitive language is now relatively established. When talking about a person, the appropriate pronouns are used. You don't necessarily see the gender of a person and in case of doubt you have to ask politely about it.

Even if the use of gender-sensitive language continues to gain acceptance, we still receive regular comments on this topic to this day. Our explanation of why we use gender-sensitive language is now a year old, but many readers seem to be stuck with the topic. The more often you address this issue and sensitize people to it, the sooner the new language usage can establish itself. Personal experiences like Damoun's can create empathy through deeper insights.

In English-language literature, the pronoun “they” has been used in a gender-neutral form for many centuries, for example when the gender of a character in a novel is not to be revealed. Therefore, it is a little less complicated to adapt the use of the pronouns “they / them / their” in daily use of the English language for people who identify themselves outside the gender-binary guidelines.

When talking about Damoun in English, one would always use the gender-neutral pronouns "them / them / their". In German Damoun does not prefer pronouns, so the name is used instead of a pronoun.

Damoun speaks not only fluent German and English, but also Persian, French and some Turkish. By default, Persian and Turkish are gender-neutral languages ​​in which gender-specific pronouns do not exist at all.

"To be non-binary is a liberation of the self."

I asked Damoun what the word non-binary means for Damoun. The answer was full of positive energy: “To me, being non-binary means embracing ambiguity. To bathe in the freedom of all the possibilities a body can be. I choose to see my gender as a being that doesn't exist because of me or for me, but through me. By presenting it the way I want to, without owing anyone androgyny. To be non-binary is a liberation of the self. "

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About the author


Mascha is an intern with us from November 2020 to January 2021. She completed her bachelor's degree in digital media culture at the Babelsberg Film University and is currently doing a second bachelor's degree in digital humanities at the University of Leipzig. She is superficially interested in feminism, political activism, social movements and surveillance.
Published 02/15/2021 at 3:42 PM