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'I'm non-binary: Here's what I've learned'

You might have heard the term non-binary. People use it when they don't fit into the categories of female or male.

Caitlin Benedict came out as non-binary last year. But as they've found, it doesn't mean they know all the answers straight away. In fact, they had so many questions, they decided to make a podcast about it.

Here, they share what they've learned so far.

You don’t have to have it all figured out

When I first realised I wasn't a woman, this little ball of hot dread nestled itself in my stomach: I must be a trans man. Or at the very least, I must be really confused. I was so sure I should wait until I had considered every question and come up with some sort of firm answer that I could confidently stand behind for the rest of my life. The dread ball grew and grew as I contemplated the new person I might become.

That was my first big mistake. Because the second I just started talking – to my partner, to my friends – about the thoughts I was having, the dread ball went away.

Everyone messes up

My friend and co-presenter Amrou talks about how hard it is for some people to get their heads around using "they" and "them" for us, rather than "he" or "her". They once told me about the time someone had said to them, "Excuse me, he uses they/them pronouns.” How I laughed at the irony. Of course I wouldn't do anything like that, I thought: I am a perfect woke non-binary person. But literally a week later, I fumbled over someone's pronouns and said to Amrou, “Oh, does he use 'they'?”

Being non-binary doesn’t make you suddenly immune from doing silly, offensive things

Being non-binary doesn't make you suddenly immune from doing silly, offensive things. But I've learned from having people trip over themselves to apologise (with a 15 minute backstory that feels a lot like an excuse sometimes) for calling me "she" instead of "they". The best thing you can do is say sorry and then just get on with it.

Glitter eyeshadow is for everyone

When I came out as non-binary, I did a big spring clean. Years and years of makeup supplies, nail polish, jewellery, dresses and skirts came out of closets (metaphorical and literal, oh ho ho) and went into bags. Some bags were passed on to friends, some went to charity shops, and some things, like the six-year-old liquid eyeliner I was hoarding for some reason, went to the bin.

It felt amazing. I felt cleansed. I kept a few little bits of makeup: the eyebrow stuff that makes my eyebrows even darker and bushier than they come naturally, but also a little pot of pale brown shimmery eye shadow. I hadn't even bought it. It was given to me by a friend. I kept it but I didn’t wear it. How could anyone take me seriously as a non-binary person with my girly face AND girly eyeshadow on top of that?

I brought this up with Jamie Windust, editor of FRUITCAKE magazine, when Amrou and I got to speak with them for the podcast. "Why would it be gendered?" they said. I was embarrassed. Of course there are conventions – makeup is for girls, rejecting all skincare until you look like you’ve lived in the Arctic all winter is for boys. But those conventions feel so restrictive, so pointless. I am learning not to think about them. Instead, I'm trying to make every decision based on how I feel and what I think.

Caitlin's still learning. You can join them as they ask more questions and find more answers in NB on BBC Sounds.