The hour of young people who break the borders of the binary gender: "I know who I am"

He, she, she... Martí Sabaté, 16, doesn't really care what pronouns others use to mention him, but he is clear that he doesn't identify as a man or a woman. Kiwi (15) is not called that way on her ID, but he prefers to be referred to by this chosen name, although not everyone does. For Alba it is "really conflicting" to be told that she is a woman. "Because I'm not, simply," she says at her 27 years. Gray (22) has just finished Social Work at the University of Vigo and assures that although her parents "still have a hard time" understanding who she is, one of the first things they told her is "that the important thing is that she be happy ".

They are people identified as non-binary, a spectrum of identities that are usually included in the trans umbrella and that are outside the usual dualism. They do not feel like men or women or fluctuate between the two, they have assumed the neutral pronoun they and seek to be recognized by the environment that surrounds them. What they embody is disruptive for a world that divides everything into male or female, they are the subject of debate even in the feminist movement and are still alien and incomprehensible to a large part of the population, but the reality is that non-binary identity resonates increasingly stronger in Generation Z, that of those born between 1994 and 2010.

There are four other non-binary people in Kiwi's class. "First I realized that I liked girls, but no one had explained to me that you simply can't have a gender," she emphasizes, using male and female pronouns interchangeably. Ella with elle she does not feel represented, although she uses it naturally to talk about others, but she does prefer a neutral name. Part of her environment continues to wear the one she was given at birth, something that "sometimes" bothers her because "she is quite feminine". Those who do call her Kiwi are her friends or her drawing teacher, who on the first day of class asked if anyone wanted to be treated differently from how she appeared on the card. "It's how I feel best," she says.

For Alba, 12 years older and born in a town in Pontevedra, the experience resonates with her. "It has been quite complex, when I was little I looked in the mirror and did not recognize myself, there has always been something that did not fit until in 2015 I found the non-binary, it was a liberation because it makes me suffer that they categorize me as a woman, "he agrees. Martí, for his part, describes as "relief" to understand "that there was this possibility" after a childhood "full of doubts", of feeling that "something did not add up" in that of "being a boy". "It's clear that you can be a man and not respond to gender stereotypes, but I don't feel identified there," says this young man from Barcelona.

Non-binary youth is still a huge minority. According to a study by the Barcelona Public Health Agency, 1.9% of secondary school students identify themselves in this way. However, those close to them note that these identities are becoming more common. "Imaginaries have changed and opening up this spectrum gives the option of placing oneself there, something that ten or 15 years ago was not such a real and viable option. They are people for whom the assigned gender generates discomfort, it is not their place and it is oppressing them and they begin a process of breaking with it," says Elena Longares, head of Cruïlles in Barcelona, ​​the accompaniment service for young LGTBI+ people at the Center Jove d'Atenció a les Sexualitats (CJAS).

The experience he has with those who attend the service is that "they are usually clear that they are trans, how they want to be referred to and how to relate to the world. Society gives you only two options and when they start to investigate, a spectrum opens up for them enormous and from then on they may not be constricted", says Longares. Bárbara Sáenz and Ruth Arriero, who form Serise Sexología and go around the classrooms giving sex education workshops, describe a double story: "There are those who identify as non-binary people and describe a very deep and very personal feeling and those who oppose the mandates of gender and do not fall into any category".

Among the few data on the subject, it stands out the latest 2020 report from the Youth Institute, in which, as a novelty, young people were asked where they placed themselves on a scale in which a 10 identified with a "100% male or female" person. Although the terms are not the ones commonly used to refer to gender identity, this was the point of the question. The results indicated that 25%, one in four of those under 30 years of age, do not identify 100% with one or another category. Longares believes that in this figure there will not only be non-binary people, but also those who "question traditional gender roles, stereotypes or expressions" and are outside duality.

Ana Ojea, promoter of the LGTBI support group of the IES Politécnico de Vigo, calls it "the great revolution" to refer to a "rupture and a questioning of gender as a binary" that she believes "is growing very fast" among young people. The group currently consists of about 30 students and about seven are non-binary. "Adolescence is a time of full search and many conceive identity as something less watertight and monolithic than before and gender as a continuum, although sometimes they don't know where to place themselves," adds the teacher, who one of the issues she works with students is trying to "reduce the levels of pressure they sometimes feel to find a way to name themselves".

This is exactly what young people like Kiwi or Martí, who have not reached the age of majority, describe when asked about their identity: "I know I'm not a man, but I don't feel like a woman either. Gender is a social construct and I think that identity can change, it's quite fluid, you may not always be at the same point and it's not always the same as what it says on your ID, it's something personal, just like who likes boys, girls or both" Kiwi says. Martí delves into the same approach: "The idea that has been standardized is that of a man or a woman and that is the end of the matter, but it is not like that," he points out.

If the experiences of the youth coincide with the diagnosis of the experts, it is that each process is unique and there is no imposed roadmap. There are non-binary people who can make decisions about physical appearance, hair, clothing...what is known as gender expression. Or not. Others will choose neutral names that they feel more comfortable with, preferring to use the pronoun elle. Or not. And some may feel rejection or discomfort with parts of their body and others may not. Bárbara Sáenz, from Serise Sexología, explains that there are "many ways of living it depending on one's own self-discovery" and bets, above all, on "not generalizing".

Already in the first year of the degree, Gray accepted the protocol for trans people of the University of Vigo, which allows students to modify their name on the lists even if they have not done so in the Civil Registry. This is how, little by little, her classmates found out about her. In 2020 she took another step and, already 20 years old, she modified it in the DNI, something that can be done without the need to provide any report. What is currently subject to medical requirements is sex modification, something that the future 'trans law' that will soon begin to process the Congressplans to reverse to make it depend solely on the will of the person.

The rule, approved by the Government in the second round last week, finally left out people like these young people, who were covered in some way in the first draft of the Ministry of Equality: it allowed to omit the mention of sex in official documents and mandated the Executive so that in a year it would evaluate the possibilities of recognizing the non-binary gender. Grey, who uses the pronouns she and she, does not give much importance to the fact that sex appears on her ID, but she does demand that "all realities be included in an LGTBI law" because "the fact that we are named is a way of existing."

How society looks at them, perceives them and names them is another of the questions that crosses them. And, for this reason, they are in full crusade against gender roles and stereotypes that associate colors, shapes, manners or styles to each one. "It's complex because they come to tell you how you're going to be non-binary by dressing like this, for example in a dress. It goes further, we insist on categorizing what we see depending on whether it's a boy or a girl, but this is an experience internal," says Alba. Gray confesses that there are those who do not know where to locate her or how to address her because she varies "between a feminine and a masculine expression", something that he believes shows "to what extent society is built on a binary social code".

But, in addition, non-binary youth often have to deal with environments that sometimes reject them or do not understand them. Ojea assures that the non-binary students in the institute "run into quite a lot of family resistance at the level of accompaniment and understanding". Alba's parents "are still assimilating it", but the young woman believes that to a certain extent "it is understandable" because "there are hardly any references yet", while Kiwi, at 15, observes a generational gap that is highly conditioned by access to social networks, where "you find a lot of information and answers".

However, despite the resistance, none of them give up on themselves. "It is not normalized and there are comments that trivialize and even ridicule our identity, but I know who I am," says Martí. Kiwi does not reject the term non-binary, but only says so if asked, he prefers not to put any label on himself. "What I've seen that usually happens is that it becomes part of your personality, even if you don't want to. And, of course, I prefer that people don't see me based on that, I prefer that they see me as Kiwi, who likes likes to draw, music and participate in the feminist purple point of the institute", ditch.

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