Existing within our cisheterosexist society will always bring challenges to gender non-conforming individuals, but some are more consistent and taxing. Here’s how to be the best ally you can be and check in with your non-binary friends about how they’re coping with not being able to dress like an 18th century pirate every day.
Don’t make assumptions
“Non-binary” is an umbrella category that encompasses a rich diversity of gender presentations and experiences: Not every non-binary person is androgynous, not every non-binary person uses they/them pronouns. However, you can and should assume that your non-binary friend desperately longs to dress like an Early Modern marauder of the high seas, and is constantly dealing with the crushing reality that their world is simply not built for that. Checking in about this will make your friend feel seen.
Understand that you don’t understand
So, seafaring history greatly impacted your friend’s sartorial and gender aspirations, and now nothing could be more euphoric than donning a billowy shirt and open vest while battening down the hatches for a fast-approaching storm with the steely calm of a true boat criminal. You don’t have to intimately know this experience in order to grasp the full validity of it, nor to be a useful support system. Next time you see them, put your hand on their shoulder and say, “I’m sorry that you’re not wearing tattered capris and a bandana right now”, or, if they are wearing that, say, “I’m glad to see you’re wearing tattered capris and a bandana right now.” This is the work.
Say, ‘Avest ye, cacklefruit, how are ye? No, matey, how are ye really?’
You know all about the importance of honoring how someone should be referred to, so now it’s time to use some very specific affirming language that your friend never asked for. They might say this is “confusing” and “unnecessary” but this is more about the fact that you’re trying. Don’t stop!
Do not tell them to dress like an 18th-century pirate
If you think that your friend is automatically a self-assured maverick just because they happen to be non-binary, you need to refer back to tip number one. What non-binary people really want is to exist in a world where 18th-century pirate fashion is readily accessible and also what everyone else is wearing so that they can wear it without it being, like, a thing. This is about listening and commiserating, not advice.
Your salty dog may never get to organically sport their dream swashbuckling attire, but this will be a bit more manageable with you by their side. You can also take them to get another piercing. Yarr!