14 Jul 2021

Non-Binary Day through a lived experience lens


“You can have curves, wear male clothes, have short hair and wear make up. You are the master of yourself. Bodies are just bodies, your heart and mind are more important than aesthetics.” – Lisa

Today is International Non-Binary Day!

Non-Binary Day is a day to raise awareness around issues that affect those who identify as non-binary, celebrate the diversity of the non-binary community and acknowledge the power that comes with normalizing the fact that gender exists on a spectrum. First celebrated in 2012, International Non-Binary Day was chosen for the 14th July because it falls precisely between International Men’s Day and International Women’s Day.

The term “non-binary” refers to people whose gender is neither exclusively masculine or feminine; a gender that doesn’t fit within the traditional binary construction of male and female. Non-Binary folks may identify as both a man and women, or their gender may fall completely outside of these categories. Some identify as transgender, but others also do not. The main takeaway is that gender can be what you make of it! You don’t have to abide by constructs and stereotypes that say you have to dress, be or act a certain way – gender and identity can be fluid and knowing your self is a powerful thing that no one can take away.

It’s also important to acknowledge that non-binary people experience unique stressors when it comes to gender, sexuality and their bodies. While not all non-binary and trans people experience gender dysphoria, the research suggests that gender dysphoria can play a significant role in developing an eating disorder. Non-binary and trans people often feel pressure to meet societal body standards in order to have their gender identity validated. They may also, in the absence of affirming healthcare, engage in disordered eating behaviours to align their body with their gender identity.

We engaged with some of the non-binary members in our Lived Experience Network, Butterfly Collective, to answer a range of questions relating to gender identity and it’s impact on body image and eating disorders, as well as advice and strategies that have helped them navigate their journey to accepting and loving their true selves.

Their reflections highlight that recovery and coming to terms with your own identity are a continuous process, where support is vital. By opening up these conversations we can contribute to reducing stigma, raising awareness, and creating a society where everyone feels accepted, welcomed and supported.

Thank you to Lisa (She/her) from NSW, Michelle (she/they) from VIC, and Pow (she/they) from VIC for sharing your experiences and valuable insights.

Has your gender identity impacted your body image?

  • “I didn’t identify as non-binary until this year. My main struggle with body image was between 2012-2019 where I still identified with “woman”. My gender identity definitely pushed me into my eating disorder at the time where I pushed to conform to societal standards of feminine beauty.” – Pow
  • “It’s something I have never really thought of until recently. I have had an ED since I was 16. As a younger child I was very much a tomboy, quite often felt competitive towards males, acted/dressed very masculine etc. It wasn’t until the whole non-binary thing kind of came about that I was like “hmm I don’t really solely identify with the gender assigned with me at birth all the time. I feel fluid between masculine and feminine energies.” I never realised how this might be impacting my body image or my eating disorder and still can’t 100% say exactly how it is, but I am working with a therapist to try and work through it all. I also have a dissociative disorder where I do take on the identity of a male. It’s a bit of a mess trying to work it all out right now.”  – Michelle
  • “Yes [I had a] fear of going through puberty. Being uncomfortable with body curves/breasts. Not wanting any attention based on womanly figure. Trying to retain a children’s body to not have to face body image issues. Not wanting menstrual cycles.” – Lisa

As a non-binary person, what has been most helpful to you in navigating your body dissatisfaction or eating disorder recovery?

  • “Working on confidence in myself, finding my own personality/identity (not trying to fit into a specific label.) Wearing clothes that align with being gender neutral. It’s still a daily struggle.” – Lisa
  • “Not sure yet, I don’t feel like i’ve really navigated it. But I think having informed people in support roles, non-judgemental, and who can help you explore what it all might mean to you.” – Michelle
  • “I learnt that my body and appearance isn’t actually all the controllable. My genetics play a major role in how I look and no matter what I do (unless I got cosmetic surgery) I can’t change.” – Pow

What advice would you give people who may be currently struggling with their gender identity?

  • “You are allowed to experiment and change your mind. And you shouldn’t be scared to do so and it helps to find a supportive environment where you can express yourself. It’s also never too late to discover a new side of yourself, cliche but it’s literally better late than never.” -Pow
  • “Roll with it, my pronouns change by the day. You don’t owe anyone any explanation about it either. Do you. TRUE you!” – Michelle
  • “Don’t be afraid to be yourself – you don’t need to fit into a particular ‘label’ or ‘gender stereotype.
    Seriously consider your options before undergoing any gender transition therapy. I started transitioning and became medically and psychologically unstable. Any treatment whilst being in a malnourished state should (in my perspective) be avoided until someone can think more rationally and their body is more robust.” -Lisa

Is there anything else you would like to add about your experience as someone who identifies as non-binary?

  • “You can have curves, wear male clothes, have short hair and wear make up. You are the master of yourself. Bodies are just bodies, your heart and mind are more important than aesthetics.” – Lisa
  • “Some people/places need to update their gender options still. And I guess like people saying they don’t “get it”, like cool, it’s not really for you to get. It kind of sometimes only makes sense to the person experiencing it.” – Michelle
  • “Non-binary is not a “third-gender” it is a spectrum, and you can fall anywhere on that. There’s no way to look non-binary and you don’t have to explain yourself to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.” – Pow
Learn More

How to be an ally to the non-binary community

Q-Life: Resources for health professionals, support for LGTBQIA+ people, stories of lived experience

The Victorian Pride Centre 

More about LGTBQIA+ people and eating disorders

Writing Themselves in 4 National Report: Conducted in 2019, this is the largest ever study on the experiences, health and wellbeing of LGBTQA+ young people aged 14-21 in Australia.

Get Support

If you, or someone you care about, is experiencing an eating disorder or body image concern, reach out to our National Helpline. Our counsellors receive ongoing LGBTQIA+ training and can refer you to specialist eating disorder services closest to your area. We’re available 7 days a week, 8am-midnight (AEST).

1800 33 4673, via webchat or email support@butterfly.org.au 

Related tags: Body Image body image and gender identity gender identity LGBTQ LGBTQIA non-binary non-binary day pride