12 Ways To Support Your Non-binary Friend

Coming out as nonbinary can be hard not only for the person coming out, but also for their friends.

"Non-binary or genderqueer is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍—‌identities that are outside the gender binary." - Wikipedia

Simply put, neither male nor female. Often times when someone comes out as nonbinary they will change their name and maybe even their appearance. This isn't always the case however, you can look very feminine and still identify as nonbinary or look very masculine and still identify as nonbinary. 

via HRC

If you know someone who has just come out as nonbinary and you want to be there to support them, here are 12 ways to support your nonbinary friend. 

1. Use Their Preferred Name

One of the most important things to someone who is nonbinary is their name. To some, their name changes their whole identity, it makes them who they are. Changing your name is a big step even for friends and family of the person changing their name.

The biggest way to support your nonbinary friend is to use their preferred name. This may seem like an obvious answer, but it's just that important. Using a person's dead name (previous name) can be very detrimental to that person's mental health.

If you accidentally mess up, correct yourself and move on. Try not to make a big deal about your mess-ups because, if you're not deadnaming them on purpose, you aren't intentionally trying to hurt your friend so just continue on with what you were saying and learn for next time. 

2. Use Their Preferred Pronouns

Another way to support your nonbinary friend is to use their preferred pronouns. Again, this may seem obvious, but this is also extremely important. Just like their name, their pronouns (he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.) are often something that anchors them to who they are.

Using incorrect pronouns can be somewhat like deadnaming in that it's harmful to their mental health. Again, if you mess up, which you most likely will (even I've messed up several times), correct yourself and move on. Don't make a big deal out of apologizing, just continue on with your conversation and learn for next time. 

3. Correct Other's Mistakes

Correcting someone else who is using the incorrect name or pronouns for your friend is also an important way to be supportive. This shows that you truly care about their identity. Not only correcting yourself but making sure that others know the correct name and pronouns for your friend is a supportive sign for your friend though it may seem like no big deal.

Some nonbinary people (me included) are too scared or shy to correct others on their pronouns so when a friend does it for them it truly shows that they care.

4. Be There for Them

Yet another obvious way to support your friend is to be there for them. Many nonbinary people experience gender dysphoria which is distress related to their physical body compared to their gender identity.

Just like transgender people (nonbinary is actually under the umbrella term for transgender as well), some nonbinary people don't feel comfortable with their bodies. Being in a female body or a male body, though they identify as neither female nor male, may be quite uncomfortable for some nonbinary people.

If you notice that your friend is feeling down or if they come to you asking for support, try your best to be there. It may be hard to give advice since you might not know exactly what they're feeling, but just being there to listen to them makes a difference. 

5. Use Gender-Neutral Terms

Instead of saying things like "ladies and gentlemen" or even "hey, guys" try saying terms like "everyone," "pals," "y'all," etc. Some nonbinary people are not comfortable with gendered sayings like "guy" or "bro" even if you aren't meaning it to be gendered. If this is the case then do your best to avoid those words. If your friend doesn't say anything when you say words like that, it may be nice to ask them how they feel about it because some people are scared to speak up even to their friends. 

6. Don't Treat Them Different

Though they might have a new name, they are still the same person they were before. Don't treat them as though they are an entirely different person. The person who've been friends for however long is still there but is simply their true self now. 

7. Don't Chastise Them if They Change Their Mind

Some nonbinary people may come to realize that they are indeed male or female and not nonbinary. This is completely ok. Gender is a weird and fluid thing. Saying something like "it was just a phase" can be very hurtful to them even if you are joking.

Many nonbinary people who do indeed identify as nonbinary find themselves questioning whether they are lying to themselves or not. If your friend talks to you about this tell them that they are valid. Even if they decide that they aren't nonbinary, they were and still are valid.

Most times, if someone is doubting that they are nonbinary or thinking that they are lying to themselves it means that they are indeed nonbinary. 

8. Make Sure They are Safe

Unfortunately, not everyone has a supportive family when it comes to coming out as nonbinary or sometimes they are too scared to come out to their family. If they ask that you call them by their birth name when around their parents or other certain people then you should do so.

This may sound like an unsupportive action, but you may also not be aware of the situation your friend is in. If they request that you use their birth name the most supportive way in this situation is to do just that. 

9. Say Your Pronouns When Introducing Yourself

Saying your pronouns can be a very good way to encourage your friend to say their own pronouns when introducing themselves as well.

As for me, I am very shy and do not tend to tell others my pronouns. If I heard my friend tell others their pronouns then that would give me the confidence to do the same. 

10. Don't Tell Others Their Birth Name

If you are talking about your nonbinary friend to someone and they ask you what their birth name is you should say that it does not matter because it really doesn't. Their "real" name is the name that they prefer to use and that's all that people really need to know. 

11. Don't Tell Others Their Birth Gender

Also, when talking about your nonbinary friend, you don't have to say whether they were born a boy or a girl because that also does not matter. It's not important whether their body is physically male or female because that has nothing to do with their gender. 

12. One Other Way to Support Your Friend

Ask them. Ask them how you can support them. If you really want to be a good and supportive friend then the best way is to directly ask them if you really are not sure. Your friend will appreciate this sign of support.

All of these ways to support your nonbinary friend is coming directly from someone who is nonbinary. The last two, actually, were from my sister. She told me that she was talking to a boy about her family and he happened to ask what my birth name was. To this, she responded with, "It doesn't matter." He also asked what gender I was born as to which he got the same response.

I previously had not thought of those two as being ways to support your friend but hearing my sister tell me that made me feel like she was really supporting me and my identity. 

All in all, the best way to support your nonbinary friend is to use their preferred pronouns, use their preferred name, and don't treat them any differently. Your friend is still your friend though they may have changed their name. 

Nonbinary creative writer who wants to change the world.

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