My friend just came out as non-binary but I don’t think this has come from a good place.
Don’t challenge her on this, says our elder. Being a good friend means supporting her as she explores her identity.
So for as long as I can remember, my friend group has always been very supportive when it comes to gender and sexuality in expression. After all, three out of the four of us are pan or gay, so we are all pretty accepting. But recently, my friend just came out as non-binary (meaning they don’t identify with gender). Usually, I wouldn’t mind. Like whatever, cool, I know plenty of nonbinary people, and I have never had a problem with it before. The problem is that I don’t think this self find that she has has come from a good place. She comes from a really messed up home, that is very abusive, for her entire life she has gotten the short end of the stick because she is a woman. From how she has phrased it, being a woman seemed like the cause of most of her problems. Which is why when she came out with this gender thing, I was wary. She’s never had dysphoria before, she dresses like a woman, she just wants to be referred to as they/them. I feel that this has come from hate and hurt, and I don’t wanna support that. I don’t want her to be ashamed of being a woman. I don’t wanna support her on her hate of this gender because of her parents. I want to talk to her about it, but I don’t want to come off rude like I don’t believe in this identity of hers. I’m unsure of what to do.
You’re a very good friend. And it’s clear you have the best of intentions. But while I admire and respect your wanting your friend to be her true self (and not be ashamed of being a woman), I think you have to be careful of assuming that you know better than she what her authentic gender identity is. Particularly since she comes from an abusive home where her choices have been routinely disrespected. You, after all, are someone she trusts and relies on for support. So if you go ahead and challenge her on this, it could further damage her already fragile self-esteem.
But this doesn’t mean you just have to stand by and do nothing. You can help your friend by listening to her — and then listening some more. Gender is an ever-evolving core and every person’s gender journey is distinctly their own. There are no cookie-cutter ten steps to figuring out who we are. So, instead of conveying to your friend that you don’t believe she’s truly non-binary, why not get her to talk about how she came to this discovery about herself by asking her questions about her journey. You can also ask questions about how to be there for her.
A good general rule for being a good friend is: Don’t give advice about anything unless you are asked for it.
Right now, because of her history, you feel your friend may be experiencing discomfort in her body as it relates to her gender. Maybe you’re right about this, but if you say this to her, she may feel like you are accusing her of being delusional — or at least deceptive. And, of course, there’s always the possibility that you are wrong. Maybe identifying as non-binary truly does correspond with your friend’s internal sense of who she is. She could choose to dress as a woman, after all, and still be non-binary.
Finding congruence is an ongoing process throughout each of our lives as we continue to grow and gain insight into ourselves. It is most often found through exploration. For some, finding congruence is fairly simple; for others, like your friend, it is a much more complex process. So, my advice to you is to give her time to explore and figure herself out in her own way. This will be a lot easier for her to do if you support her on her journey.
I hope this helps. I am always here if you’d like to talk more about this. Please try to write back if you can to let me know what you decide to do and how things work out for you and your friend. I will be thinking of you both.
Letter #: 457283