Elliot Page, and Eight Non Binary Celebrities

Elliot Page

Elliot Page (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb)

The Hard Candy, Juno, Inception and X-Men film star, Tales of the City and Umbrella Academy TV star and Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominee came out as trans on 1st December 2020. Announcing his new name as Elliot and his pronouns as both he/him and they/them, Page became front page news and received an outpouring of love and support from fans and backlash from bigots.

While most headlines reported that they had come out as non binary, they only mentioned being trans and that they use both he/him and they/them pronouns. Coming out can be a terrifying process which takes a while, so they may clarify their gender in the upcoming months or be content without a precise label of man, non binary etc. Either way, Here are eight famous people who are specifically non binary.

Asia Kate Dillon

Asia Kate Dillon (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

The John Wick 3 film star and Orange is the New Black TV star also plays the non binary character Taylor in Billions. They say it was a coincidence, but a fortunate one, as the character being played by a real non binary person is significant. They took pronouns off of their online presence in 2015, saying it felt really good to. It wasn’t until reading into the character for Billions, however, that they found the language to really explain who they are. Likewise, having a clearly non binary character in a mainstream programme is fantastic representation.

Tommy Dorfman

Tommy Dorfman (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/VF20/WireImage)

The Thirteen Reasons Why and Jane the Virgin TV star came out as non binary in November 2017. They told online magazine Refinery29 in an interview about clothing and its importance. They referred to a childhood of seeing clothes as costume and hating the idea that clothing is gendered. While it didn’t come up in the interview, they posted a comment on the article to reassure readers that they have no preference for he/him, she/her or they/them pronouns.

Brigitte Lundy-Payne

Brigette Lundy-Paine (Photo by Ryan Emberley/amfAR/Getty Images)

The Atypical TV star and Bombshell and Bill and Ted Face the Music film star came out in an Instagram post on 7th November 2019. As well as saying that they’re non binary, they say they’ve always felt partially a girl, partially a boy and partially neither of those. The use they/them pronouns and the same name, shortened to Brig (or Briiiiiiiiiig, on Instagram).

Indya Moore

Indya Moore (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic)

Before playing Angel Evangelista in Pose, they were a model who worked for Dior and Gucci, in New York Fashion Week and has been featured in Vogue España. She clarified in a tweet in September 2019, saying she is non binary and femme, and that agender fits too. At that point, they said their pronouns were they/them, but as of December 2020, her twitter bio lists both they/them and she/her.

Her role in Pose is a vitally important one, as the programme is groundbreaking in its sheer number of trans characters and the fact that most of them are played by trans actors.

Amandla Stenberg

Amandla Stenberg (Photo from Hello! magazine)

The Hunger Games and The Hate U Give film star, and BET Award and Teen Choice Award winner came out as non binary in March 2016. In a Tumblr post, they talked about intersectional feminism and posed the question of how they can claim a movement for women without feeling like one all the time. In another post, in April 2016, they clarified that while she/her does not upset or offend them, they prefer they/them pronouns.

Rebecca Sugar

Rebecca Sugar (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for ReedPOP)

The Steven Universe creator told NPR’s 1A that she is a non binary woman, which is to say she is isn’t entirely a woman but is okay being seen as one, but she is in herself non binary. She made the crystal gems non binary characters who look female both as representation and as a way to express her gender experience.
As another programme with central characters who are not cisgender, Steven Universe is important representation. As a children’s cartoon, it is especially important for showing children gender diversity is normal and positive.

Bex Taylor-Klaus

Bex Taylor-Klaus (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)

The TV star from The Killing, Scream and Thirteen Reasons Why, came out as non binary in July 2018. Saying that they had already come out as trans non binary to a room full of people that day, and that it was time to do it on twitter, too. They also used the word enby for themself, a noun for non binary person along the same meaning as girl and boy, but not a word that all non binary people use.

Jonathan Van Ness

Jonathan Van Ness (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

JVN is a hairdresser, the grooming expert on Queer Eye and the host of Gay of Thrones. He identifies as gay and gender non conforming as well as non binary. He has been femme since childhood, loving skirts, scarves, nail polish and other things which made him the target of hatred. He uses he/him pronouns and his male-assumed birthname, although he has said he doesn’t consider she/her or they/them to be the wrong pronouns either. While many see the concept of androgyny as a lack of gendered traits, Van Ness happily mixes skirts and a beard in a presentation style sometimes known as genderfuck.

Bonus Round!

While RuPaul has a terrible track record on trans topics, a surprising number of the drag queens who have competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race are non binary or otherwise not men or women.

This includes, but is probably not limited to:
Pandora Boxx in Season Two;
Jinkx Monsoon in Season Five;
Adore Delano, Kelly Mantle, Courtney Act and Laganja Estranja in Season Six;
Violet Chachki and Miss Fame in Season Seven;
Bob the Drag Queen in Season Eight;
Shea Coulee, Eureka O’Hara, Sasha Velour and Aja in Season Nine;
Gigi Goode and Crystal Methyd in Season Twelve;
Scarlett BoBo and Ilona Verley in Drag Race Canada;
Divina de Campo in Drag Race UK.

5 Problems Non Binary Trans People Face

1 – There’s no template

When you’re a little kid, you get told “you’re a boy/girl, this is what that means” and if at any point you say “actually, I’m a girl/boy” you have the other “this is what that means”. Whether that means you embrace your gender role or actively fight against it, you’ve still had a solid idea of what it means to be a boy or a girl since you were a little kid.

It’s not really the same when the actually is followed by “I’m not a boy or a girl”. What does it mean to be genderless? What does it mean to be a gender outside of boy and girl? Trans men and women can choose to be more masculine or feminine, to embrace gender roles for safety or fight them on principle. For non binary people, however, there’s no clear gender role at all. It’s a lot more work to make your own gendered existence without a starting point.

2 – The binary is everywhere

The other issue in trying to exist outside of the binary is that the rest of the world is completely invested in it and assigns almost every possible trait to the box marked ‘female’ or the box marked ‘male’. All clothes are either men’s or women’s with even unisex items being made in slightly different cuts or shades and sold with different labels in different sizing systems. Toilets and changing rooms are separated into male and female despite having locked door cubicles. Toys and gifts are marketed heavily for boys or girls, men or women, as though people are cookie cut outs and roughly half of the population would like basically the same things.

And those ‘things’ are everything – every hobby or interest is dividing into ‘for boys/men’ and ‘for girls/women’. TV dramas are feminine and football matches are masculine, liking clothes is feminine, liking cars is masculine… even foods are gendered, with yoghurt as feminine and meat as masculine! When everything you could think of is probably stereotyped as female or male, it’s nigh on impossible to avoid being seen as one or the other.

The only thing people seem to need to have gendered most is unfortunately other people. Politeness means shop staff call people ma’am or sir, letters are addressed to Mr or Ms Surname, and it’s almost impossible to talk about someone without using gendered language like “the man on the bus” or “she’s my dentist”.

3 – There’s no ‘passing’ or ‘stealth’

This need that people have to gender everyone affects trans people a lot. It’s called being read as a gender or ‘passing’ as a gender, and it’s the goal of many trans to be read as their gender for comfort or safety. Some trans people aim to live completely as their gender with no mention of their trans history. This is known as living ‘stealth’.

Neither of these are a real possibility for non binary people. To be non binary is basically to declare trans status, so living stealth is an impossibility; without a gender people are assigned or declared to be at birth, there is no way to live as if you were assigned or declared to be that gender since birth.

Likewise, as mentioned before, people and society have a strong need to gender everyone as male or female. People you meet day-to-day will assume you are one or the other, and read you to be one or the other; there is no being read as non binary, so there is no ‘pass’ by unnoticeable as just another non binary person.

4 – It’s ‘new’… at least to trans ‘experts’

There are trans experts. They write the books for the young and confused and for the friends and relatives of trans people, they control and plan medical transition, and they advise lawmakers and policymakers on gender issues from governmental levels down to small business and school levels. Unfortunately for non binary people, they’ve only been aware of trans men and women until recently.

This means that the resources just aren’t there. The young and confused don’t always realise there are other gender options. Non binary people struggle for ways to explain their genders to friends and relatives. People who are aware of trans people and try to avoid subconscious transphobia often have no idea non binary people and non binary genders exist.

Most serious is the ‘newness’ of non binary people to medical and law trans experts. Less research and case studies in transition paths other than classic hormones-surgeries FtM/MtF have been done, leaving non binary people who want to transition unsure of how non-surgical or non-hormonal routes will go. Only men and women are considering in law and policy, leaving non binary people out of nudity, toilet and housing rules.

5 – You’re always explaining

All of the above can lead to a tiring life for a non binary person. When they come out, their speech or letter has to include a definition of what it is that they’re coming out as. Every new person they meet means coming out again and probably explaining what that all means again. Sometimes it can even mean debating with people whether or not their very identity and existence is ‘real’ and valid.

Facebook’s change to include various gender options was newsworthy, but the majority of websites still have mandatory gender tick boxes with only male and female. This means that profile space has to include a gender explanation. Online explanation doesn’t stop there, either; people message non binary people with basic questions they could have googled and expect every answer to be in-depth and polite.