Genderqueer celebrities in all of their non-binary finery
BY DANIELLE MUSTARDE
“Some people find they don’t feel comfortable thinking of themselves as simply either male or female,” explains the wonderfully accessible scottishtrans.org. “Instead they feel that their gender identity is more complicated to describe. Some may identify their gender as right in the middle between male and female, while others may feel mainly male but not 100% male (or vice-versa, not feel 100% female). Alternatively, they may entirely reject defining their gender in terms of male and female in any way.”
The explainer continues: “As their gender does not conform to traditional, western ideas of gender as binary, they can be considered to be non-binary people”.
This piece is a celebration of our non-binary or “enby” (that’s slang for non-binary) friends. If you’re still learning about what it means to identify as non-binary or genderqueer? Welcome. Let us introduce you to just some of the most recognisable non-binary faces popping up on our telly boxes and laptop screens right now. This is what non-binary looks like – at least, in our small corner of the world.
Asia Kate Dillon
Actor Asia Kate Dillon, 35, is probably best known for their role as Taylor Mason in Showtime’s Billions – the first ever non-binary role to feature in an American television series. Notably, Dillon also starred as Brandy Epps in Orange Is The New Black. “Non-binary is a term used by some people, myself included, who feel that their gender identity falls outside the tradition boxes of man or woman,” they told ABC News. “When I got to the script for Billions and the character breakdown said female and non-binary, a little light bulb went off in my head… I did a bit of research and discovered that female is an assigned sex and non-binary is in reference to gender identity and those are two different things. It finally helped me put language to a feeling that I’d had my entire life.” When asked about the importance of visibility, the actor added: “Sometimes you have to see the thing to know that it exists.” Amen, Asia.
Non-binary intersex activist and filmmaker Pidgeon Pagonis, 34, was the person behind the twitterstorm-worthy #intersexstories hashtag which got traction all over the the world on Intersex Awareness Day back in 2015. Pagonis, who’s since created the film A Normal Girl, also featured on the groundbreaking Gender Revolution cover of National Geographic in January 2017. “People don’t read me as either male or female,” Pagonis, who prefers the non-binary pronouns they/them, told NBC News in an interview celebrating their activism. Speaking to the British Council about language and identity in 2019, Pagonis explained: “When you’re a fish with no school, it’s scary. But when you find that word to identify, you find your school. I am intersex. I am not binary in my biology or my gender.” (NB: Not all intersex people identify as non-binary).
Atypical actor and King Princess style-a-like Brigette Lundy Paine came out on Instagram in 2019 when they wrote (alongside a choice photo of a cat): “I’m non-binary, always felt a lil bit boy, lil bit girl, lil bit neither. using they/them as of late n it feels right.” The 25-year-old star continued: “scary af to come out n been rly putting this off. But I feel I owe it to myself and to all of us who struggle w gender. If you’re NB comment and celebrate yourself! u r beautiful and u r whole.” Others in the community did indeed comment with replies including: “WE’RE HERE WE’RE CUTE AND WE’RE HUMAN !!!” / “That’s fantastic. Be yourself. much respect” / “Epic epic epic” / and “Excuse me what pronouns do you go by so i can rant about how fabulous you are to ppl.” Lovely stuff.
Queen of cool, Monáe, 34, recently retweeted a GIF of a non-binary character from Steven Universe (hello again) featuring the caption, “Are you a boy or girl? I’m an experience” with the accompanying comment: “There is absolutely nothing better than living outside the gender binary,” written by the original tweeter. Within the retweet, Monáe added the hashtag “#IAmNonbinary” as well as a Saturn emoji. Though, as writer and activist Travis Alabanza wisely wrote, “that tweet, could be seen as coming out, but without much else, we should not make assumptions.” Either way, whether a coming-out, a declaration or a show of support, it’s all good stuff and as Alabanza concluded, “for Janelle to use the word non-binary cannot be underestimated”, particularly so in a space that can often seem pretty damn white.
Jonathan Van Ness
Speaking to Out Magazine last year, Queer Eye sweetheart Van Ness, 32, said: “I’m gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman… Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I’m here for it. I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It’s this social construct that I don’t really feel like I fit into the way I used to.” On visibility, JVN added: “Social media has changed so much in terms of visibility. I just want to show people that you can change your circumstances, you can just make your own lane.” Yasss, JVN.
The Hate U Give star Amandla Stenberg first came out as non-binary in a Tumblr post in 2016, later sharing that she had began using they/them pronouns (something followers criticised the 21-year-old for, according to Insider magazine). In 2018, however, the actor – who famously dated genderqueer musician and veritable queer icon, King Princess – told the Washington Post she had since realised she, “didn’t need those pronouns to feel comfortable… And [that] it felt almost detrimental to those who really did need them.”
Way back when in 2014, OITNB and Batwoman’s Ruby Rose, now 33, released Break Free, a short film exploring “gender roles, Trans, and what it is like to have an identity that deviates from the status quo.” Later speaking to The Guardian, Rose confirmed the film was, “very autobiographical,” adding, “I feel like I’m a boy, but I don’t feel like I should’ve been born with different parts of my body or anything like that. I feel like it’s just all in how I dress and how I talk and how I look and feel, and that makes me happy. I really sit in a more neutral place, which I’m grateful for as well.”
Star of the wonderfully diverse US series Vida, queer Latinx actor Ser Anzoategui, 40, told meaww.com at the beginning of 2020 that, as a non-binary person, they understand first hand how difficult it is when you don’t fit the norms of society, but that they believe things are changing: “The effort is huge. I hope other communities actually listen… If we continue to progress further in this direction, there can actually be a shift in reality. It can change people’s lives and make a huge difference. There is so much more to do and we need to work hand-in-hand.” Si, por favor.
In 2018, actor Ezra Miller entered queer history after their “gender-bending” Playboy shoot, “complete with Bunny ears, fishnets and size-14 heels, all per his request”. The 27-year-old Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them star, who personally identifies as queer and sees it as “an umbrella of non-identification”, told the mag (well known for catering to a cis, straight male audience) “I’m trying to find queer beings who understand me as a queer being off the bat, and I feel like I’m married to them 25 lifetimes ago. And then they are in the squad—the polycule.” On being non-binary, Miller told Hollywood Reporter, “I don’t identify. Like, fuck that… Queer just means no, I don’t do that. I don’t identify as a man, I don’t identify as a woman. I barely identify as a human.”
In a short, roundtable video by Netflix titled What I Wish You Knew: About Being Nonbinary, the Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina actor Lachlan Watson explores what it means to be non-binary alongside fellow non-binary actors and activists, Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet), Shiva Raichandani (London School Of Bollywood) and Jacob Tobia (Author of Sissy: A Coming-Of-Gender Story). “People think of gender as a finite and objective thing that starts here and it ends here, that you go from one place to another and it’s not that. For me, it just keeps going, it’s a continuing line.” The 19-year-old continues: “My gender identity does not relate to my sexual orientation, even remotely. I identify as both non-binary and pansexual which are two very fancy ways of saying, ‘I don’t care’ [laughs]. I see through you into your soul, like… do you understand me as a person? Can you give me what I need as a person, as a soul? That’s what’s important to me.”
The rapper Roes – aka Angel Haze – is probably most famous for her song Battle Cry featuring Australian mega star, Sia. In 2016, the 28-year-old US-born artist, who also identifies as pansexual, told The Evening Standard frankly: “I sound like four people when I get written about as ‘they’. It drives me crazy. Sometimes I want to be a dick and say: ‘Call me they’, just to see how seriously people take me. But they do take me seriously so it’s not that much fun. If you call me ‘him’ or ‘her’ it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t consider myself of any sex. I consider myself an experience.”
“I identify as… something in between? Actor Bex-Taylor Klaus, 25, begins in an It Gets Better Project YouTube video. “[I identify as] something neither, something new, something old, something borrowed, something blue. I’m all my own, baby.” Continuing, Klaus, who rose to fame in The Killing, explains: “Growing up there are a lot of times where you end up ostracised and separated and feeling different and feeling secluded for your difference, especially when you’re queer, but also in general in this world… I think the entertainment community can better serve non-binary actors by understanding that non-binary is a spectrum. It is a wide variety of beautiful human beings. The entire point is that we’re not stuck in one thing. It’s not black and white, it’s not one and two, it’s 500 if you feel like it. It’s so bright and beautiful and vast…”
This article first appeared in the March 2020 issue of DIVA – grab your digital copy right here!