20 Apr 2019

'NB': life beyond the binary

From The Podcast Hour, 12:45 pm on 20 April 2019

People use the term 'non-binary' to describe themselves when they don't identify as completely male or completely female. It's part of a growing recognition that somebody's gender identity isn't just fixed at birth- black or white....pink or blue. It's more fluid than that. And it's you and not society who gets to decide who you are, and what you want to be called.

'NB' offers a first-person account of what living as a non-binary person feels like.

Caitlin Benedict's an Australian radio producer living in London who came out to themself as non-binary last year. But they really want to tell their parents back home in Oz. So in NB, Caitlin and their friend Amrou explore some of the questions and feelings and uncertainties about being non-binary...from the language and the gendered pronouns we use, to clothing, and how you feel about your body.  

NB square logo (Supplied)

NB square logo (Supplied) Photo: Supplied

Amrou has been out for a while, they’re a writer, performer and aquarium enthusiast who describes almost everything as ‘iconic’.

“Being non-binary for me is such a constant questioning of my gender and my sexuality and my world that I feel like in a way you can’t really have your shit together as someone non-binary because you’re constantly questioning and interrogating yourself  - and I still have a lot of questions.”

Amrou is Caitlin’s friend and mentor.

“I refer to Amrou as them, rather than he or she. If you’ve not met anyone who uses gender neutral pronouns before, you’ll get used to it,” says Caitlin.

“About five minutes into the first conversation I ever had with Amrou, I knew I wanted to go through this process with them beside me, coming out, making a podcast – they’re kind of the same thing.”

Caitlin says they have a lot of questions about being non-binary and with a really long wait for therapy, they decided to make a podcast.

“I think I’ve always been non-binary,” say Amrou, “I just didn’t know I had tools in society to express it.”

Caitlin says up to the age of 11 or 12, gender and sexuality didn’t really factor into their thinking.

“Everyone at the age of ten is just a blob of a human,” they say.

“All of these little external messages about gender that are so binary start infiltrating their way into your mind, so I don’t even think I clocked that I was femming up when I was in my early adolescence and then dismantling all of that stuff over the last couple of years.”

When they got a haircut and suddenly had short hair, something happened, it started a thought process.

Caitlin Benedict (left) and Amrou Al-Kadhi of NB (Supplied)

Caitlin Benedict (left) and Amrou Al-Kadhi of NB (Supplied) Photo: Tricia Yourkevich 2014

In terms of coming out to their family – they haven’t had the conversation yet.

There plan is they’re going to play the few episode of the podcast to their parents and then have a conversation with their dad.

Amrou grew up between Dubai and Bahrain.

“It was just a really gendered society in the fact that there were men’s areas in the mosque and women’s areas in the mosque, men did this, and women had these kinds of jobs, it’s really imbedded in where I was from.”

They thought they had to do things that boys needed to do.

In Episode 1 of 'NB' called 'Realising' with Caitlin and Amrou they visit the Museum of Transology in Brighton to meet curator EJ Scott.

“He bounces on the balls of his feet and gives us the warmest welcome to the museum," says Caitlin.

EJ says exhibitions play a really important role in opening people’s minds.

He says museums are places where you learn about life, where you learn about the place you live in.

"It’s a space that teaches you who you are in the scheme of things. It means these kids that are already thinking about this stuff have an opportunity to be true to themselves at a younger age but it also means that people are starting to see themselves in the museum’s collection in a way that they haven’t been included before.”

He says ultimately, gender will be like getting a haircut – it will be no big thing.

“No one will even think about it, we’re making progress, but actually I think we’ll look back in a hundred years time and go ‘they were really old fashioned’.”

NB is presented by Caitlin Benedict and Amrou Al-Kadhi, and produced by Caitlin Benedict, Arlie Adlington and Georgia Catt for the BBC.