Updated: Dec 9, 2021
As part of our #Queer365 campaign, we asked some non-binary team members at We Create Space about their own gender identity and non-conformity and how it influences the way they show up in the world as powerful Queer Leaders.
Non-binary is an umbrella term for anyone whose gender doesn’t align with our current understanding of the gender binary. Whilst it’s definitely not a new thing, increasing acceptance has allowed for people to explore gender in a way they never have before - a recent study by the Trevor Project found that 1 in 4 LGBT youth now identify as non-binary.
This new acceptance means that there are more and more people expressing their true gender identities every day - but what’s so special about being non-binary? We decided to talk to a few of our amazing queer leaders about how being non-binary helps them in their professional lives, and we started to see some common themes.
Staying true to their identity no matter what.
Non-binary people have their own entirely unique sense of gender - which means that there are thousands of layered stories and perspectives within the non-binary community. Each non-binary person has refused to be labelled or put in a box by an inherently gendered society, despite the pressure and discrimination that is too often faced by those who identify outside normative boundaries. This self belief, conviction in carving out ones own identity and self-assurance are all attributes that make for a great queer leader.
“My own sense of gender is one of freedom. It has taken a long time, but I have transcended parameters and hindrances that restrict some people’s gender identity. The complete and individual nature of how I interact with my own gender identity is exciting. Like all non-binary identities, it is unique to me, and I hold it very close to my heart.” - Ben Pechey
“I am non-binary, and to me, that means I do not identify within the gender binary as male or female. My identity is also very personal to me, so it really doesn't matter what anyone else knows or thinks about me. What matters is my own understanding of my identity.” - Jason Kwan
“I am not choosing to be non-binary. I AM non-binary. Rather than gender fluid, I see myself as gender free. I am free of the trappings that come with how society has defined "man" and "woman". I don't see myself in either or as a compilation of both - I see myself as me, a human being...It is incredibly freeing to stop trying to pretend I fit in the societal constructs of gender, and just exist in this world as me.” - Bachul Koul
Using adversity as a source of power.
Whilst it’s “incredibly freeing” to exist in the world as their true self, non-binary people are still part of a marginalised group. Like all marginalised communities, they have had to push and fight to make space for themselves and their identities, facing inevitable hardships, and for many - painful trauma because of it. These experiences mean that non-binary people have a mighty sense of resilience, and an inner power than can help bolster them as community leaders in both professional and personal environments.
“The trials of being me for many years made it nearly impossible to see a future for myself. Now I can use that as my strength, and it gives me the insights, empathy and compassion that I use every day across my business endeavours. The other side of this is so positive, which comes from the lack of boundaries that I place on myself...This emotional freedom allows me to make intuitive decisions, which have led to many exciting things both professionally and creatively.” - Ben Pechey
“I guess being non-binary has influenced my work both positively and negatively - in the positive respect, I’ve been able to speak openly and honestly about who I am, how I feel about myself… And on the negative side, I find it has lost me work, or people are disrespectful in my pronouns or just in their consideration, and I can see people who don’t understand or feel uncomfortable.“ - Coco
“Identifying as non-binary was a gateway to re-examining my past and events that I needed to process to become more fully realised in my self and understanding my identity. These processes are dually mechanised through my art work, my personal development and healing from the damages caused by the gender binary.” - Lo Lo No
“We want to belong with people who share common values and interests, but so much of the world is gendered, it can be hard to find spaces where we fit in. If more people in the world could just think as to whether or not something really has to be gendered, they can help create a world in which we are not excluded.” - Bachul Koul
Being part of an ever-evolving community.
Due to individual circumstances, we may not all realise it, but our society is extremely hard to navigate when you identify outside of the gender binary. Non-binary people have learned to adapt to non-gender neutral spaces whilst staying true to their identities, and that’s in part thanks to being part of the wider LGBTQ+ community. Such a diverse and dynamic network enables non-binary leaders to continually learn, evolve, surrounded by a plethora of perspectives and stories. This positions them as ideal leaders who are sensitive to the dynamics around them and able to react accordingly, who are open to change and are incredibly flexible.
“I often talk about the fact that we are not monoliths in our life. We always need to rely on others for support, advice and education. The community allows me the space to grow, learn and blossom each and every day. It also leaves me the room to help others do this too. This reciprocal energy is so nourishing, and it has provided me with a sure-footed feeling when it comes to my work.” - Ben Pechey
“I think no matter where I get to in my career or what I achieve, the community of LGBTIQA+ folk around me will always remind me of the fluidity and change that comes along with being human. Some consider me a "Queer Leader" but honestly, I like to think I'm ever-evolving just like the community that surrounds me. ” - Ki Griffin
“Being a part of the non-binary & trans community have helped me evolve as a queer leader by giving me a platform of honestly & transparency. To be able to project the importance of being true to yourself, and how I have so many people around me who get me and how I feel.” - Coco
Thinking and existing "outside the box".
There is no one way to be non-binary. The mainstream media tends to portray non-binary people in only one facet - as completely androgynous, with no gender identifiers. But non-binary people don’t always fit into that niche - in fact, they rarely do. Non-binary identities are completely unique to each individual, and so non-binary people present their gender expression and visual identity in a way that shows off their innate creativity. This ability to think laterally and with ingenuity lends itself brilliantly to other areas. Imagination and innovation are brilliant tools for any community and are particularly valuable assets for leaders in the workplace.
"My binary-disrupting androgyny is a challenge to others and yet I do not tone down my appearance to make others feel comfortable - my goal is quite the opposite, to make the uncomfortable un-ignorable and reframe it with people in "power", so people that don't have the emotional/mental/physical safety might experience a world that's a little more affirming." - Jade Fraser
“Forget what you know. That is so important to remember. So much of my work is having to deconstruct perceptions about our community. I have to work to reduce stereotyping and miscommunications. So I would ask people to stop assuming they can distill non-binary into a soundbite.” - Ben Pechey
“People need to know it isn’t a trend, it isn’t a fashion statement, it’s not being a tomboy - It’s a feeling, a moment, a lifetime. It’s basically the difference between life & death, people don’t choose to feel different.” - Coco
“Non-binary is not one thing and doesn't have an assignment of aesthetics or behaviours. Not all identities are always seen and therefore aren't to be judged on appearances or have behaviours and performances expected of them.” - Lo Lo No
All of the non-binary speakers we spoke to for this article have worked with We Create Space on our self-empowerment workshops and webinars, and we have programmes carefully crafted to encourage and amplify these traits in trans and non-binary people, helping them thrive as queer leaders - like our “Who am I?” virtual retreat designs specifically for trans and queer people. We also offer bespoke webinars dedicated to teaching queer history and terminology to allies, like “Gender Identity 101”. If you hadn’t already guessed, we are incredibly passionate about cultivating and improving the visibility, diversity and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in professional spaces. We already work successfully with businesses and organisations across multiple sectors to deliver this. Our comprehensive offer of bespoke webinars and workshops explores topics that have proven to empower, enrich and drive positive change. Our work is facilitated and delivered by the rich mix of 80+ LGBTQIA+ professionals, practitioners, activists, creatives and change makers that form the We Create Space collective - including this article’s contributors.
You can find out more about all our tailored corporate solutions here.
Bachul Koul (they/them) Bachul Koul works for global executive search and leadership advisory firm, Egon Zehnder and is a passionate social justice and DEI practitioner. In 2019, Bachul wrote an article titled, "An inclusive customer experience for non-binary people is necessary".
Ben is a writer, public speaker and diversity & inclusion specialist. They’re an LGBT+ advocate and fashion icon on social media, and with each post they aim to increase visibility of the queer community and educate others. They also are the creator of The Happy Place podcast. They are also one of We Create Space’s speakers, and we were lucky enough to talk to them about creativity and risk earlier this year.
Coco is a mental health activist, poet writer, and is the voice behind Talk To Coco, a space designed to encourage openness and dialogue about mental health. They’re also a speaker for We Create Space, and had an eye-opening interview with us earlier this year, which you can find here.
Ki Griffin is an actor, DJ and proud intersex and non-binary advocate. They were recently part of the musical line up for UK Black Pride under their DJ handle “DJ Kisces”, and are also a trustee for IERUK (Intersex Equality Rights UK).
Jason is a queer non binary person from Hong Kong, living in East London. He's also a singer/songwriter and a youth worker at AKT, a charity supporting young LGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness across the UK.
Lo Lo No is a non-binary artist and fashion designer currently based in Margate, known for stunning portraits and insightful explorations of gender expression and identity - which you can find on their website here. They are also the long-running curator for Margate Pride. Lo Lo No has talked to us before about their creative process as part of our “Who am I?” series,
Jade is currently Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement Natura & Co. They are passionate about people and changing the world to elevate the most disadvantaged populations, by leveraging their own spheres of influence in the private and public sectors. We're overjoyed that they've agreed to be a guest speaker for our "Who am I?" Queer Leadership Programme taking place later this month,