A college student finds themselves by finding the term "non-binary".
by joie knouse
While seeking to define their sexuality, Mya Burns slid into
depression and dysphoria after a roommate's transphobic
boyfriend repeatedly vilified people who didn’t identify with
their assigned gender.
At the time, Burns, 19, was questioning where they fit on the
gender and sexual compendium until their research allowed
them to determine their gender as non-binary.
“The more I looked at the words ‘non-binary’ and ‘gender
non-conforming’ and did more research into people's
experience finding their identity, it was like ‘maybe that is
me,’ and then I was like, ‘oh, wait, that is me,’” said Burns,
a student at Point Park University.
Burns is an example of the modern age of gender identity where more and more people are learning that they don’t fit into a binary box, but are taking a more fluid approach to gender where people can find their identity outside of the box.
Being non-binary means that you are neither male nor female, but rather an identity between the two binaries. People like Burns who identify as non-binary often step away from gendered pronouns and want to be addressed by “they” and “them.”
“I think that I always interpreted non-binary as synonymous with androgynous, but it explains that it's just someone who doesn’t fit inside of the binary or fits somewhere in between the two binary identities,” said Burns.
Austin Wolyniec, 21, met Burns in high school marching band when they still identified as a female. Wolyniec and Burns have been together for four years and recently got engaged. When Burns told Wolyniec about their transition, he fully supports their identity but continues to use “she” and “her” pronouns with Burns’ permission.
“I have loved her for so long already that it didn’t make me see her any different. If anything, it made me love her twice as much because it meant that she was comfortable coming out to me, which she didn’t even do with her closest family at that time,” said Wolyniec of Erie, PA.
Burns officially came out as non-binary to their closest friends and relatives last year. The first person they told was their best friend, Mya Pici.
“I remember at some point when they were dealing with a lot of issues with their old roommates, they officially said it,” said Pici, a student at Point Park University. “But it had been a thing that was coming up for a while.”
Burns’ friend, Katie LaBelle, is one of the first people they came out to as being non- binary.
“It wasn’t really that big of a change for me because they had always been one of my best friends. I just wanted them to tell me what makes them most comfortable. I had to correct myself a lot because I would accidentally use the wrong pronouns every once in a while, but now it’s just second nature to use ‘they’ and ‘them,’” said LaBelle of Punxsutawney, PA.
While Burns is openly non-binary at school and with their friends, they haven’t and don’t plan to come out to their parents.
“I'm technically not out to my family. They don’t really have an online presence and even though my mom follows me on Twitter, she doesn’t get it, she doesn’t know what I am talking about. For me, my parents just aren’t going to really get it, and it isn’t causing me any more grief to not come out to them,” said Burns.
Still, in their transition, Burns is continuing to try to become more educated on what non-binary means, so that they can fully come to terms with their identity.
“I don’t know what my end goal is in terms of my gender identity and gender expression. Somedays, I'll wear something and I'll be like ‘this makes me feel good in my gender identity and I feel super great,’ and then I can wear the same outfit a different day and it can make me feel super gross and like it isn’t the way I want to be perceived,” said Burns.
Keywords: Gender, Non-Binary, Binary, Identity, Pronouns, Sexuality, Transition, University, Student
Joie Knouse is an aspiring photojournalist in her second year at Point Park University
Mya Pici (right), best friend of Mya Burns (left) is the first person Burns came out as non-binary to.
Mya Burns, a student at Point Park University, who identifies as non-binary.