en English

Streamer and essayist, @TheymerSophie returns for a second episode of the GenderGP Podcast in which they talk to Dr Helen and Marianne about what it really means to be non-binary. Together they discuss the idea that there is so much more to gender than just man and woman. They also explore how we, as a society can adapt to make it easier as more people come out, through our use of language and our understanding.

If you have any questions related to what it means to be non-binary get in touch and we will invite TheymerSophie back on to answer them. Just drop us an email via our Help Centre.

If you have been affected by any of the topics discussed in our podcast, and would like to get in touch, please contact us via the Help Centre. You can also contact us on social media where you will find us at @GenderGP on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

We are always happy to accept ideas for future shows, so if there is something in particular you would like us to discuss, or a specific guest you would love to hear from, let us know. Your feedback is really important to us. If you could take a minute or two to leave us a rating and a review for the podcast on your favourite podcast app, it will help others to discover us.

 

Links:

Follow TheymerSophie on Twitter
Support TheymerSophie on Patreon
TheymerSophie’s YouTube coming out video
Owen Jones meets Judith Butler – video
Whipping girl by Julia Serano

 

Find out more about non-binary identities

 

The GenderGP Podcast

Exploring the binary with @Theymer Sophie

 

Hello, this is Dr Helen Webberley. Welcome to our GenderGP Podcast, where we will be discussing some of the issues affecting the trans and non-binary community in the world today, together with my co-host Marianne Oakes, a trans woman herself, and our head of therapy.

 

Dr Helen Webberley:
Marianne and I are with Sophie here today. Sophie is the nonbinary games player. If I can introduce them as that. And when we were doing, Sophie, when we were doing that weekend of the fundraiser, I blundered several times in my pronouns, in my name. And then there was a member of the GenderGP team who joined, I blended with their pronouns and I’m just like, how can I do this publicly live on stream that’s trying to help trans youth? And so I said, Sophie, please come and kind of teach me more about what it means to be nonbinary. And Marianne you’re with me as well as always. And, you know, I’ve heard you say in the past and indeed to Sophie that you, you feel that your gender is more binary. Even though it’s the opposite end of the one that everyone thought when you were born. So really, I’m really interested to learn today. And if you don’t mind Sophie, just chuck some challenging questions towards you that we get asked all the time, but I don’t know the answers to, because I don’t, I don’t understand it fully enough. So if that’s okay, if that’s okay,

TheymerSophie:
If it’s okay, I’d just like to jump in and say that what you’re referring to on the stream. I just want to open out with something that I think is really important. And it’s something that Marianne said in our last discussion, which was that people are very offended by being told they’ve done something. And in many cases that’s a lot more offended than anyone is by the thing that was done. The thing that you’re describing there, you know, you used the wrong pronouns for a member of staff on the stream, and they said, oh, it’s this one. And you said, oh, sorry. And we just carried on. And that’s really the normal situation. I just want to, the strongest possible thing I can say, like to open out is that for anyone who’s listening, who maybe you don’t know trans people in your real life, like maybe you, maybe you just know one or a couple, you know it’s, it’s not a big deal. It’s not, it’s not a big deal. People, people just don’t want to be, you know, aggressively harassed. People that want to, you know–we, we know the difference, right? We all, we all know. I don’t mean we trans people. I mean, everyone, we know the difference between someone going she, oops, I meant they, you know, and somebody and somebody aggressively, deliberately, doing something. That’s all I wanted to say.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Thank you. Thank you. You explained that well, and you’re kind. Sophie, if we could start right at the beginning, for somebody who, who might not even know what binary means, what is, what is it, what is binary? What is non binary? Is there any other bits? Is it binary or not? Give it in your words.

TheymerSophie:
So some people will be familiar with the the old concept that men are from Mars and women, women are from Venus, right? That that’s the idea, right? That’s, that’s the binary, the gender binary, right? That men and women are these very distinct and separate concepts. And that’s, that’s inherently, I think, ties into a feminist discussion. Okay. That, you know, we know that there is kind of a treat. Men are treated as kind of a default in society, right. And then women have this kind of extra thing. That’s how, that’s how, that’s how a patriarchal society kind of treats things. If there are any men listening who, who consider that a controversial statement, run it past a woman, see what she thinks. She might find them. Right. anyway but you know and because of that, so starting with binary, trans people, right. That’s someone who was born and the doctor said, Oh, it’s a boy. And then they later, they said, no, you’re wrong about that. I’m actually, a girl. The other way around binary, trans people face transphobia, they face challenges. And it, it ties back into that central concept I’m talking about, right? That there’s, we, we do have a patriarchal society and men that are afforded some, some things, you know, some things in some sort of doors held open for them in some ways, and more than anything, this concept that they’re kind of treated as normal. And so it’s not very challenging to people nowadays anyway, for women to put on a pair of trousers. But if a man puts on a skirt, this is very challenging. We saw this blow up with Harry Styles. Some people got really upset about it. Harry Styles wore a dress in a photo shoot, suddenly it’s a big deal, right? And that ties back again, that concept of like men are normal, but if you do something more feminine, you’re doing something a bit challenging. So I’m, I’m saying all of this to lay the groundwork that we all are familiar with this concept that men are from Mars, women are from Venus, but it might not be as, just as simple as that. And it might not be just two equal things. And there’s actually more of a construction going on here before I say that, actually, you can be whatever you like, and that’s nonbinary, you know, that people might say, well, I’m not a boy and I’m not a girl. So or, you know, and, and then we get into some kind of some more stuff might take a little longer to get your head around. That’s kind of like, people can be whatever they could, they might say, I’m a girl, but nonbinary and that’s, that’s a little harder to get your head around maybe for people who’ve never heard of this concept before. But the way I encourage people to think of it, right. Just think that, think that gender is not this thing that has to do with something very inherent, right? It’s not that there’s something like so completely intrinsic that could never change and could never be understood differently. Right? And that there’s not, there’s not this, like, there’s not men, a species from Mars and women are species from Venus, they’re not so separate. Right. We’re human beings. And instead, you know, you put on a dress and makeup and, and whatever, and you’re sort of sending out a signal to people, perhaps I I’m, I’m doing like, this is femininity. And I want people to pick up on, on femininity here. Right? there, there are different things. There are different many different signifiers you can send out about your gender. You, you perform it. You show people what you’re hoping they pick up from you. And, and man, and woman are kind of these easy labels. People know what a man is and know what a woman is. So it’s easy if you’re in that neighborhood, gender, gender wise to go, well, I’m a man, however, non binary, maybe I’m he/they, whatever, personally, I’m they/them, but I don’t so much mind being called a girl or whatever, you know, it’s, I’m, I describe myself as transfeminine. I’m taking hormone replacement therapy as in I’m taking estrogen, you know like I said, it gets into some stuff that’s a little harder to understand if you’re listening and you’re mindboggled right now. That’s okay. I’m talking about the stuff I know people have a bit of a harder time grasping. The most basic thing, try to conceptualize men and women, not like cats and dogs, but like just people. And then these are labels, man, and woman. And if you’re closer to the one or the other, it might be just very easy for you to say the one or the other. And then there’s a world of possibility in between.

Dr Helen Webberley:
So I think for me, certainly that last bit explains, explains it well. And so I guess there’s a time when you remember thinking, do you know what I, neither I’m not, man, I’m not woman I am in between. And just did it cause her to be considered as simply man or simply woman? Do you know what I mean?

TheymerSophie:
Absolutely. So I I actually did a video about this. My main gig is YouTube. I do YouTube videos and I made a coming out video where I talked about the recontextualization process that you go through when you realize your something, right. You realize you’re gay. You realize you’re trans. You have a kind of a moment. If people have seen the movie, The Usual Suspects, there’s this montage montage at the end, the Keyser montage, where the guy’s thinking all these clues, oh, they were there all along. Oh my God. It builds up the whole picture. Oh, I get it. I get it. Right. That’s, that’s kind of what it can be like, you can kind of, you have these moments, people in the trans community, refer to them as the egg moments, because it’s like the egg before you hatched where you look back and you’re like oh, that, that really fits in. But I just hadn’t had that cracking yet. I hadn’t had that realization. I wasn’t quite there. My video is all about a lot of that stuff. My video is, you know, I, I discussed just a ton of those moments from, from my life. You know, for example from a very early age, just like being quite unusually distressed in the classroom when they were like, we’re gonna tidy up the classroom competition, boys v. girls. And I was like, but I I like all my friends are girls. I want to be on that team. I just want to be on the team with my friends. I don’t want to be on a gendered team, you know? And I look back at that one now, and it’s quite funny because it’s literally me thinking, like, I don’t want to be a gendered team. Yeah.

Dr Helen Webberley:
So Marianne does this, does this resonate with you? And some of the stories that you hear from your clients?

Marianne Oakes:
So much going through my head here. On a previous podcast we did with Sophie, I mentioned about my gender being very binary, but there are aspects of me that I would argue are very non binary. And I think I use this quite a lot when talking to people, if you saw me cutting in the grass on a Saturday afternoon, you know, you’re going to be confused. If you see me coming into the therapy room, you know, to work or do the podcasts, you’re going to be less confused. And I think the truth of the matter is I needed it. We talked at GenderGP about gender being, you know, exploring our gender and what it means to us. Right. And at the end of the day, whether we talk about labels, you know, they are just words that we kind of associate with to make it easier for ourselves to explain ourselves for the people. But for me, I think I needed to swing to the binary to then come back and work out what parts of my previous life were important to me, you know, what did I not want to leave behind? And part of me had to come away from it to about, because I was worried that it would invalidate my gender identity, that people wouldn’t believe me, that if I still like to, you know, knock furniture together in the shed, because I’ve got those key skills that somehow people would say, well, you don’t, you know, that means you’re not a woman then. So I think gender exploration, I think nonbinary is a really great space to be, to explore your gender. And some people may carry on to become more binary in either direction when they’ve explored that center space. I don’t know if that fits with what you were saying about what was going through.

TheymerSophie:
That’s absolutely it. And I’ve got several friends, honestly, who have said word for word, what you were saying about wanting to go all the way across the spectrum and explore the other side of the binary in order to then come back and figure out where they’re more comfortable with, because they feel like they need to like really stake this territory for themselves. It’s like, yeah. Okay. you know, woman, okay, man. Like, and then you can comfortably come back to where you were actually kind of sitting.

Marianne Oakes:
To I suppose for my generation as well, there was no nonbinary, you know. I don’t want to say we were forced into the binary, but that’s, they were just the two choices that we had. Nobody even mentioned anything else. But the reality is, you know, my, my taste in clothes, I like do my hair that may be considered typically girly. And as Helen and the rest of the team know I am my own brand, you know, I am my own person, but that doesn’t mean to say that that is the sum total of who I am. And I could say there are aspects, I am a musician myself. There’s no way I’m going to stand on stage in a dress singing and sounding like I could do, because I would feel uncomfortable. And it probably wouldn’t be a true reflection of who I am as a musician, if that makes sense. And, but it doesn’t make me any less female. I don’t know.

TheymerSophie:
Right. No, absolutely. I think that’s it’s funny, you say, it’s funny you bring up musicians because when you were saying to an older generation, there, there was no nonbinary. I would say the artist formerly known as Prince, who had that legal documents changed to a symbol, that they described as a fusion of the female and male symbols who presented with, you know, stubble on their face, but like flamboyant fantastic purple and the colorful. And I don’t know, I don’t, you know, I, I definitely agree. It’s something people who a lot of people haven’t heard of.

Marianne Oakes:
Yeah. I wouldn’t disagree. I mean, I grew up in the sixties, I have to say, where men were starting to grow their hair, express their gender in different ways. And then there was the new romantics, Boy George, Duran Duran, and—

TheymerSophie:
Yeah. We walking around Brixton in a dress or whatever, you know?

Marianne Oakes:
Yeah, yeah. But the language wasn’t, I suppose what I’m saying is the language, the space hadn’t been created for me.

TheymerSophie:
A hundred percent, a hundred percent.

Marianne Oakes:
One thing I, I struggled with rightly or wrongly, I’m not going to try and defend this. The thing I struggled with when I did see these men, you know, even Bowie when he was at his most feminine, no point where doubted he was a man. Right. And I got caught up in that. That’s not me, actually. They bought, does that make sense?

TheymerSophie:
Yeah. A hundred percent. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Yeah.

Marianne Oakes:
But yeah, interestingly enough, how men can dominate that space without it being a question mark about their gender. Yeah. If, if a woman acts in a very masculine way, the, the question at the very least question, his sexuality in a derogatory way.

TheymerSophie:
Yeah, I think that, I think that’s true. There are all sorts of interesting things and people think things certainly aren’t equally done. Things certainly aren’t equally done. You know, I was saying before that, like you know, if a woman puts on trousers, that’s not seen as challenging, but if a man puts on a dress. Right. yeah. But then to put the flip side on that a man can put on a dress and do this kind of interesting expression, gender thing, and there’s no there’s, as you say, could, it could just be Harry Styles. He/him. Cis man, a hundred percent. No worries. That’s just exploring a thing. And then a woman like kind of speaks a little bit more in a meeting and they’re like, oh, lesbian.

Marianne Oakes:
Yes. It’s how can I, I’m just gonna reflect here cause I am a counselor and I have to be congruent here. You know, just having this conversation makes me feel really tense because I feel almost restricted either by my lack of knowledge or understanding or by the constraints of gender as a subject. And it just, it makes me feel tense because there’s so many aspects to my very being that I won’t say I ignore, but I sometimes feel restricted in expressing it, and I can’t be unique in that.

TheymerSophie:
Yeah. I mean, a hundred percent, I think, you know, giving people the language to discuss things is I think, an incredibly powerful tool, like in discussions of trans, like trans inclusive feminism, people often are like, well, we want to talk about the ways that the ways that women and non binary people are affected, but that’s a very clunky term. And we don’t want to say not men because that just feels weird. And then there are other times when we just go on to discuss everyone except for cis men, because of the nature of feminist discussion and not having language is so restricting and it causes this real like this tension and this frustration. If people are interested, if, if listeners are interested in some books that can maybe give you some language and some concepts to discuss things. Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble is an absolute classic. They wrote that a while ago and it’s a very seminal work and discusses about a concept I was talking about earlier, performing gender, you know, you put stuff out and people pick up on it. And that, that, that conceptualization of gender,

Marianne Oakes:
Interestingly for her to interview with Owen Jones. And Judith Butler only last week, and it was fantastic. And she pulled apart the, the legs.

TheymerSophie:
I believe Judith Butler uses they/them pronouns now.

Marianne Oakes:
Well it, it was fantastic just to hear and they did explain feminism and how inclusive of trans it can be far better than I ever could. Well, yeah. If anybody can get a hold of that video definitely worth, we should be sharing in GenderGP, if it’s possible.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Well, why don’t we add it to the bottom here and also so for you, definitely link to your, to your YouTube coming out video that you were, that you were talking about.

TheymerSophie:
I know a lot of people have found it helpful. Both trans people have found it helpful to have a self-realization and a lot of cis people have commented saying, Oh, I get it. Now I really understand. One more quick book recommendation is there’s a book called Whipping Girl by Julia Serano, which is a lot more popular in the States. I actually had it recommended by American friends. And in the preface she’s talking about in the preface of the new edition, she’s talking about what a big impact it’s had, and that I really realized how it’s not really circulated here, but it’s a very good layman’s speech explanation of a lot of trans, at least binary trans concepts, Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. It’s a really good one. Okay.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Definitely. We’ll put a link to that as well. I’m interested Marianne. I’ve been listening to you two chatting for the last 10 minutes or so, very interested. And I noticed that people who are listening okay, if you identify as nonbinary, or if you have different pronouns to the ones that you were given at birth, I just want you to notice, or I’ll rewind slightly just how easily Sophie picked Marianne up there and just, just without, without criticism, without judgment, just that, or I think they, I think they use they/them pronouns now. But carry on now. And it was just so swift and simple. And I think, I think it was so helpful. And if people out there have pronouns that keep getting wrong, learn how Sophie just did that because it was swift. I’m not telling off, I’m not explaining myself.

Marianne Oakes:
Corrected my ignorance without offense and without a challenge,

TheymerSophie:
I have to say, I do believe this is the common state. I, I sincerely believe people much, much, much more often yeah, act that way. Just this big thing. Let’s carry on. Carry on. I believe this narrative of trans offenses a little overblown, to put it mildly.

Dr Helen Webberley:
I’m interested. I want to, what I’d love is I reckon that out there, there will be parents of young people who were assigned male at birth, who want to try wearing the feminine stuff if I may. So you talked about it, skirts, makeup and things like that. So it’s easier for if you’re assigned female at birth and one sticks a pair of trousers on and not wear makeup and have short hair, it’s easier than, than if you’re assigned male at birth and you just want to try it out. So have you got any advice for young people who want to try it out and also for their parents who will be scared for them, or who may be scared for them?

TheymerSophie:
Yeah, it’s, it’s a tricky one. I mean, I’m not a parent and I didn’t begin my, my open transition until I was living away from home. So it’s not speaking from my personal experience, but I certainly know a lot of other people who, for whom it’s their experience, I guess. The thing is, okay. The first and most important thing is your kid is trans. Like your kid is trans that’s that’s just, let’s just get that one down and just think about that. Like, think about that really hard. No ifs, no buts, no coconuts. It’s your child is transgender. Don’t try to turn it any other way in your head. That’s what I’d say to parents. Your kid is going to come out as trans now with the supportive family and environment who helped them or later, after a long time of really just, just a bad time, just self struggle, just feeling held back. Okay. If you try and push back on them, that’s the choice for you? The choice, that’s the fundamental choice for you don’t view it any different way. But if, yeah, if you, but then when you are being supportive and you, and you want to help out (unclear 22:53) I guess, is what that, you know it’s not like more supportiveness, more supportiveness of your child is gonna keep helping. You’re not going to push them into a dangerous situation. You’re more likely to push them into a dangerous situation. If they’re doing something you don’t know about, cause you’ve kind of expressed a negative reaction. People also will seek out, they will seek out spaces that feel safer for them, spaces that feel welcoming. You know, and if you want for that to be your home, there are things you can do. They’re there, you know. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to say that vaguely it’s just to be positive and supportive. If you want to make sure that they stay in with that, you know, stay, stay in with that same group of friends and that, that’s all good. You know, you can have a chat to other parents. Maybe that’s an idea, you know, say like, you know, this is going on for warning. Let’s just try and make a really positive environment. But then also if you just see, and this is not a negative reflection, people like to find a like, right. If your child is looking for queer spaces, trans spaces, that’s not a bad thing. That’s not certainly not any kind of indoctrination or anything scary like this. It’s finding a safe place. It’s not a tragedy if they move away from some other friends and towards some new friends, that’s okay. That is the thing that we, we will naturally do to help ourselves. And yeah, just, just the more supportiveness I think is, is the biggest message I can say. Because ultimately, you know, the struggle of being a parent, you can’t stop your kid, you know, you know, just look the wrong way when they cross the road, any sorts of things, you know, you have to come to terms with like they are who they are and they’ll take the decisions they’ll take. And the world is a scary place and that’s just the struggle of a parent, right? Don’t let that make you try to hold them back because you’ll only worsen than your relationship with your child and make them feel bad be supportive and then that’s the best thing you can do.

Marianne Oakes:
Okay. Do you mind if I just start something there? I think one of the biggest problems I see with parents is where they are being supportive to saying all the right words, but they’ve not dealt with their own prejudice or their own issues with it. And they want to be seen as, you know, unconditional love. And they want to be seen as a great parent. And, and they they’ll do it, but the children do pick up on if you’re faking it, so to speak. And that then feeds in. So they will then mirror that image and they will start being nervous and then everybody’s infecting everybody else. And I think it’s really important that parents seek out help as well. That don’t think it’s your child that needs all the help. They’re working it out themselves. They’ve got (unable 26:01) brain, they’ve got, they’re like a sponge. They can take everything. And the parents, you know, I don’t want to say that they’re forgotten a part of all of this, but I think that the ones that, that, you know, it would be nice if it was easy for them to access support as well, which we do offer at GenderGP.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Yeah, of course, of course. Well, Sophie, I mean, I came on this today and I thought I’m going to maybe put this person through the paces and I’m going to really challenge them. And I’m going to ask all those questions that everyone’s always, oh, I can hear people asking and I have to sort of needed to you’ve explained it so well. And actually, I think you said just a few, a few minutes ago, you said that, you know, I said to you, if, if a youngster wants to wear a skirt or some feminine makeup, and you just would bet that that child is trans and I’m like, goodness gracious. You know, so step onto the spectrum as it were and your child is trans. And once we, once we understand that, but you don’t have to do what Marianne did and get all the way to the other end of the spectrum to be accepted in your gender, then gosh, that makes things so much easier. Doesn’t it? You know,

TheymerSophie:
It’s, again, it’s another place where it’s unequal. If you think your kid is a boy and then one day your boy says, actually I’m a girl sorry sorry. Rewind. If you think you hit as a boy and then your boy wants to start wearing dresses and skirts, it can be a pretty strong indication that that’s because of the normalization. And then how know how relatively unusual that is. On the other hand, if you think your kid is a girl and your girl’s wearing trousers, that’s, that’s not really an indication of anything, I think. But the (unclear 27:41) is they are telling you as soon as they tell you, as soon as they tell you that that’s it? No ifs, no buts. Yeah.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Amazing. and I think the other thing that you’ve really explained to me, but that’s mainly me asking you is, you know, because parents say, well, they, they learned it from their new friendship group and, you know, they joined this new friendship group and look at them all, you know, they’re all at it. You know, if only they hadn’t joined that friendship group and it’s kind of like a hang on a minute, is it cause or effect, you know, did they go and find that new friendship because that was, that was who they are. And as you said earlier, you know, they didn’t want to, they don’t want to care to classroom on the boy group. They want to clear the classroom with their friendship group. And that was much more important to them.

TheymerSophie:
Absolutely. Yeah, I think I would if, if you want me on, again, I’m very happy to come on and do some rapid fire FAQ’s, I’m, I’m very happy to do those, to do those FAQ’s, but I’m really glad to hear that I’ve explained things in a way you think will will help people understand.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Well, I’ll let you know what we’ll do. We will do what we often do, which is going ask, we’re going ask the people who, who listened to us and the community that the anyone, and say that we’ve got Sophia and we’re going to get them on again, nearly sometime, said her going to get them on again. And we’re, we’re going to give us your questions, you know, and we’ll, we’ll fire those questions at you. And you know, let’s really unpick it because you’ve, you’ve really, really helped me today. And if you help me, that means you help people that are listening and Marianne, thank you again for your candidness. And I’m interested in, you know, even at this late stage in your life and still exploring your gender.

Marianne Oakes:
It’s a journey.

Dr Helen Webberley:
You keep telling me that Marianne, you keep, you keep doing that. Next time, I’m going to explore mine. Really, really love to talk to you both. Thank you so much. I feel, I feel energized beyond belief. Thank you so much. Lovely.

Marianne Oakes:
It’s been great, thank you.

 

Thank you so much for listening. I really hope you enjoyed our program today. Please go ahead and subscribe to future episodes if you haven’t done so already. If you or anyone else has been affected by any of the things that we talked about in our podcast today and would like to contact us, please visit our Help Centre, and contact us via there. We’re very happy to accept ideas for future episodes and future guests. Do let us know if there is anything specific you’d like us to cover. You can also visit our website, gendergp.com, for a multitude of information about transgender health and wellbeing issues. You can follow us on social media, ID is @gendergp, and you can sign up to our monthly newsletter. Full details can be found in our show notes on our podcast page. Thanks for listening, and see you soon.