I came out the other day. Not as gay, straight, or trans. I came out as non-binary - on the Internet. I don’t plan on telling my friends or family, either. None of them need to know. I haven’t changed my looks, either. I dress the same, smell the same, eat and drink the same, and make love the same way as before. It’s just that I now do so with a difference.
What is the difference? It’s that I finally — after 46 years of inhabiting a planet defined not by gender norms but by biological life itself— taught myself to be free of the limits of bipolar thinking and embraced a base-3, ternary logic instead. Instead of a world of zeroes and ones, of fixed digits and black-or-white decisions about self-identifying as “male” or “female,” “masculine,” or “feminine,” or even as a hybrid cross (“trans”) of the two, I inhabit a world of trits, instead. A trit in the computing world is the ternary equivalent of a bit. It is a fundamental unit of information that may take any of three distinct states. That is what being non means to me. I identify as a separate state of being that will no longer fit into a binary conception of human identity. And such a state of being is more easily imagined on the Internet — for the time being — than in the real world.
This is why my mother never needs to know I’m non. Nor my brothers, sisters, or ex-classmates either. How could they even tell the difference unless I were somehow to indicate it with an external symbol or aesthetic choice that I do not wish to make? The most important part of being gender non-binary to me is that I get to name myself differently. I can be Mx. Brett Winters and no longer check boxes on job applications that make me queasy when I still have to do so. I can be a “they” rather than a “he” or “she.” I can be a collective. And that feels like freedom, to me.
The truth is that I do not expect to face any sort of backlash against my decision to come out as non. I won’t be likely to face discrimination over my choice of lifestyle the way that others did and still do. My act is not one of moral courage, but of meaning. It is an epistemological risk that brings me to brink of sanity as I try to figure out what it means, practically speaking, to live in world dominated by men and women rather than by people like me. I am an alien other in ways that scratch at the fabric of sentient life itself. It’s not about biology or biochemistry. It’s about being. Because in a world where more and more of us come out as non and live our romantic and sexual lives accordingly, there may well no longer be a human race as we now know it. And that is just not the sort of thing I’d like to talk to my mom about over the dinner table. Better do it on social media, where nobody knows who I really am, anyway. It’s safer that way — for us all.