It is a love story straight out of a Hollywood script, two teenagers fall in love in a high school classroom. Go off to different universities but manage to keep the love alive despite the distance. There are first kisses, challenges and months without seeing each other.
Veronica blushes slightly when she talks about those early days, “it’s my first relationship and it’s still going, I have been very lucky”.
A first love as powerful, exciting and novel as any other. Except for one thing, one half of this partnership identifies as non-binary.
The term non-binary can be described as a person who does not identify with being neither male or female. As Veronica describes it, “if gender is a spectrum with man and woman on the other side, it means you are off the line.”
Veronica’s partner Alex was born a female and for the first year of their relationship, both girls resembled most teenage girls, complete with long hair. However, after a year Veronica sensed a change in her partner. “It developed in the first year that we were dating when they cut their hair off, they really came into themselves.”
Alex’s decision to present themselves as non-binary happened when both had moved to different Universities, giving them the fresh start that they needed. The freedom to be who they wanted to be, gave them both a blank slate, letting go of expectations that held them back in their hometown.
For Alex, it was an exciting time, by finding the term non-binary they had finally found a word to describe themselves and a way to help others understand. “You no longer have to feel like you’re hiding things, you don’t have to be forced into a box.”
Veronica describes the transition process as something very positive. “I knew they were struggling with finding who they were. To see them find a word that describes them and to be able to find their identity it was amazing to see. They were so much happier.”
The love between Veronica and Alex is one that has proved to be unconditional. Alex worried that Veronica would no longer be attracted to them anymore due to being non-binary, the opposite proved to be true. Veronica made clear that she would support Alex no matter what they would decide to call themselves.
“It would never be an issue. If they would turn around and say, I’m a trans man, I will stop calling myself a lesbian anymore. Be whoever you want to be, and I’ll support you because that’s what I chose to do when we met each other.”
While their relationship was never negatively affected throughout the process Veronica confides that the outward perception hasn’t always been easy. “In general, there is a lot of transphobia in the world, it’s not easy. People do find it hard to deconstruct the idea that they’ve had of man and woman. People are so adamant that that’s how it is.
It’s not always been like that, there are a lot of indigenous cultures all over the world that accepts a third gender, it is not a new thing. People can get very angry when they are told otherwise.”
It is for this reason that neither Veronica or Alex have told their parents about Alex identifying as non-binary. “My parents are not going to understand the whole gender thing. It is not the easiest thing to explain to someone when they have not heard about it. It is a big part of our lives and it would be difficult if they would not get it.”
Veronica understands that for people the term non-binary can be daunting or puzzling. Some confuse being non-binary as a stepping stone for being transgender. While both refer to individuals not being happy with the gender they were given at birth, non-binary revolves around not identifying with either.
Furthermore, there is a big spectrum. While some choose to dress as gender neutral as possible other’s still use gender-specific pronouns. The non-binary label gives an individual absolute freedom to present and identify themselves in whatever way they seem fit.
“A lot of people have a lot anger I don’t understand. It does not affect their life.” When mentioning negative reactions to gender-neutral bathrooms Veronica bursts out:” why are they actively against gender-neutral bathrooms, you have them in your house?”
Pointing out that having gender-neutral options offer individuals an option. “If there are only two options and you don’t like either of them, what do you do?”
When asked what Veronica would say to anyone struggling with their gender identity, she stressed that it will always get better. “There’s always people there to support you. If they don’t understand it immediately, they will someday.”
The problem of being misunderstood is something many people face in the non-binary community. “If there is something you don’t understand, read about. If someone would came to me with a question about it, ‘what does it mean can you explain it to me’? Anyone would be happy to explain. It is through education that it gets better”.
* Names have been changed