Learn 4 Change

Greetings beautiful humans!


If you’re new to the blog, hello!  I’m so glad you decided to join our BRAVE family.  If you’ve been excitedly awaiting the next installment of my series, welcome back!  I hope you enjoyed the suspense.  Today’s episode of Unpacking Words, a Learn 4 Change series about the power of words, is brought to you by me, Sarah, AKA BRAVE’s AmeriCorps VISTA member.


Have you ever heard of the gender binary?  It’s the idea that there are 2 inherent, distinct, complementary genders.  You’ve probably heard of them: woman and man.  There are many norms associated with these, such as the passive femininity of women and the aggressive masculinity of men.  Women are fragile and men are tough.  Women work in the home and men make the money.  Women have long hair and men have short hair.  Women like pink and men like blue.  I could go on and on, but my point is that these are all based on stereotypes.  They put humans into boxes that we didn’t ask for.  But, here at BRAVE, we like to think outside the box.  If gender is binary, what happens when you think outside that box?




This is today’s word to unpack, and it is a word very near and dear to my heart because, my friends, I identify outside the gender binary!  To me, this means that I don’t see myself as a woman even though I exist in a female body, but I also don’t see myself as a man.  I am comfy in the wonderful, ambiguous space in the middle where humans can just exist as humans.


Let’s break it down even further.


If the gender binary is black and white, then nonbinary is gray.  I think it’s important to note that there are infinite shades of gray, as there are infinite gender identities.  Everyone experiences gender in their own unique way, whether you identify as a woman, a man, or neither.  Some humans even identify with both!  But, that is a hella queer conversation for another time because gender is such a complex experience outside of a spectrum from woman to man.  For now, let’s just focus on gray as an umbrella for all outside of the binary.  Existing outside the binary means I am somewhere distinct from black and white, but I am also made up of both black and white.  For example, I am distinct because I don’t vibe with being a “woman” or a “man;” I vibe with being a human.  Like gray, I am my own unique shade compared to black or white.  But, I am made up of both because because I take my idea of being a human from the social norms associated with being a “woman” and being a “man.”  Like the color gray, my expression is a blend of the binary.  I have short hair with an undercut, but I wear skin-tight jeans from the “women’s” department.  I spend my free time at martial arts, but I still enjoy being addressed as “Sarah,” a very traditionally-gendered name.


Could I just be a tomboy?


To me, this word implies a masculine woman or girl, and I do not identify with either.  Many people think of feminine-presenting girls, who happen to be athletic, as tomboys.  This term is problematic in itself when talking about binary genders because it constrains the idea of “girl” as a young human that presents 100% traditionally feminine all the time.  But, that is a feminist conversation for another time because there is so much more to gender identity and gender expression.  I think I am masculine for a female, but I think one has to vibe with (i.e. identify as) being a girl or woman to be a tomboy.  “Tomboy” is very much about how someone looks on the outside (i.e. expresses their gender), while “nonbinary” is more of an internal feeling about identity that may or may not permeate into how they physically appear.


The words in this post are all thoughts from my perspective based on my experiences.  Nonbinary is a powerful word because it gives humans who exist outside the gender binary a community to relate to and a word to describe how we feel.  The beauty of it comes from it being so fluid and meaning different things to different humans.  It also, in itself, challenges us to stop thinking about people as “one or the other.”  It provides us a space to just...be.




Here are some small things you can do to make a big difference for gender-inclusivity:


  1. Awareness: Check out Riley for more about being nonbinary and just to hear from another awesome human about her unique experience with gender!

  2. Accountability: In BRAVE, we use “humans” and “y’all” as gender-inclusive language instead of “guys” or “ladies and gentlemen.”  I challenge you to start noticing the gendered language that is prevalent in everyday life.  Are you up for the challenge?

  3. Reflection: Think about your own experiences.  What does gender mean to you?  What do you think about the word “tomboy?”

  4. Communication: Have a conversation with a buddy about your reflections.  One of the best ways to create change is to listen to other humans and absorb different perspectives.  Nothing says bonding like sharing your questions and thoughts about existence!


You can do it.  I’m with you and I believe in you.


Stay awesome,


Meaghan Davis